“Retire? Never,” says Joanie flashing me a look that could have come from Alexis Carrington, her iconic role in Dynasty.
“Working keeps me young,” she twinkles coyly when we meet at the launch party for her new autobiography at Mayfair’s Westbury hotel.
Greeting her glittering guests (Lynda La Plante, Gloria Hunniford (pictured below left), Graham Norton, William Boyd, Elaine Paige …) Miss Collins still looks every inch the film star.
She is wearing a black satin top and fish-net tights. Only Joanie could carry off fish nets and knowing her they were probably stockings.
Her book Passion for Life is the reason why she remains a national treasure. In it she documents the highs and lows with touching honesty; her boyfriends, husbands (her current one, Percy Gibson, is her fifth and hopefully last), amazing theatrical career, court cases (there have been a few), friends, family, children and grandchildren – and the fact that she can still do the splits!
Anyone who knows Joan says the secret of her success is that she has always managed to combine a girlish charm with a steely ‘don’t mess with me’ bravura.
“Why can’t I come on your show?” I hear her purr to Graham Norton playing with the lapel of his jacket. Even he melts, posing with her while she flashes her impossibly long lashes at the posse of paparazzi she has also been clever enough to befriend; she even mentions the names of her favourites in her book.
“This is Joan’s night, I am just an accessory,” shrugs another man she has in her thrall. I refer to American theatre manager Percy who has been at her side since they married at Claridges Hotel 11 years and is the chap who shares her duvet at her four homes in Los Angeles, New York, London and St Tropez.
Joanie has dedicated her book to her family and also to Percy: “For Percy – for always,” she writes. “I have kissed a lot of frogs but finally found my prince,” she adds. “We can spend 24 hours a day together and he is unutterably considerate and caring to me always … And when people say to me ‘What about the age difference? (Percy is 48) I blithely reply, ‘Well if he dies, he dies!’”
Joan Collins Passion for Life is published by Constable and is priced at £25