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'I've never taken handouts from a man. I've done this all myself': Inside the head of... Joan Collins...

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'I've worked very hard and I've achieved the lifestyle I wanted,' said Joan Collins

What is your earliest memory?

Watching my mother doing housework in our home in Maida Vale. I was about two, and I distinctly remember bandleader Henry Hall on the radio and Here’s To The Next Time playing  –  I was jigging about, dancing and feeling warm and happy.

What sort of child were you?

My mother called me Miss Perpetual Motion. I was always dancing, running, playing… I was also very acrobatic. We moved about an awful lot because we were evacuated. My sister and I stayed with our mother, and my father [theatrical agent Joe Collins] stayed at home keeping the showbiz fires burning.
I was a happy little girl, but I wasn’t very good at school. When I was 12, I was sent to a boarding school in Tring, which was awful. They washed my hair with Vim, sent me to bed with it wet, and every night they ladled out hot chocolate from a huge milk churn; at the bottom was an old wet sock we thought belonged to the headmaster. I called my dad and got him to bring me home.

Who do you most admire?

Mrs Thatcher. I like someone who sticks to their opinions even if they’re not popular. She did a great deal for this country and showed how women in the workplace can outdo men. I met her several times through my friend, Tim Bell. She was never exactly warm and fuzzy, but I always had such enormous respect for her. I went to her 80th birthday and to her funeral. She was a remarkable woman.

When did you last cry?

I rarely cry, but I did a few days ago while watching the latest Tom Hanks film, Captain Phillips. It’s incredibly emotional and terribly moving, and the tears came.

How do you relax?

I lie on my bed, surrounded by magazines and newspapers, and I put on an old movie like Casablanca or The Fabulous Baker Boys.

On husband Percy Gibson: 'He is my accomplice, my best friend and my perfect partner'

What has been your biggest achievement?

I’m very proud that I’ve had a career that has lasted 60 years, that I live in a house I’ve always wanted to live in and that I’ve done this all myself. I’ve never taken handouts from a man; I’ve worked very hard and I’ve achieved the lifestyle I wanted.

… and your biggest disappointment?

My previous [four] marriages failing. I don’t really count my first one [to Irish actor Maxwell Reed], as even on my wedding night I told my father I was making a big mistake. I was young and naive. 

What are you best at?

Decorating and designing clothes. I love designing – most of my evening dresses are my own designs. I have a lady who makes them up for me and I absolutely love the process. I know what fits, what works and what suits a mature woman. I would love my own range. I have a wig range, but not a clothes range.

What would you like to be better at?

Cooking. I can scramble an egg but I can’t poach one and boiling one can be tricky. I do a great roast chicken and spaghetti bolognese but I’d like to be better.

What is your best character trait?

Optimism. Life is a lot easier if your glass is always half full.

… and your worst?

Impatience and intolerance. I’ve given up driving in London because there are so many bad, rude drivers and it makes me so furious. I’ll drive in LA, but I’ve stopped driving my Mini here.

Who would your dream dinner date be?

John F Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Bernhardt. That would be enough for one great night.
'I'm very proud that I've had a career that has lasted 60 years,' said Joan
'I'm very proud that I've had a career that has lasted 60 years,' said Joan (pictured in 1961)

Who are you closest to?

My husband, Percy [Gibson]. He is my accomplice, my best friend and my perfect partner.

What is your biggest fear?

Apart from the fear of losing a family member, it has to be snakes. They terrify me. We all have something we fear. My friend Natalie Wood always told me she hated water, that she would never even swim in a pool because she was so scared of it [Wood was to drown in an accident in 1981].

What or who do you dream about?

I have a recurring dream that involves an infant or a baby. Last night I dreamt I was handed a giant baby and I had to look after it. I have no idea what this means.

What is your most treasured possession?

My charm necklace. It started off with me buying a chain and a lucky horseshoe, and over the years people have bought me charms. I’ve got little Eiffel Towers, American flags, palm trees in gold and silver, little mementos from various stages of my life and presents from friends and people like Warren [Beatty]. Whenever I go on a plane I take it with me.

What is your favourite word and why?

Fabulous. That needs no explanation.

What was the best night of your life?

The night I was presented with an OBE by the Queen. I had a party at my home in London with close friends and family, and we had a wonderful dinner and good wine and champagne.  I never in all my life expected to be honoured by the Queen.

What is your motto?

I have many. ‘You get the face you deserve’; ‘Eat life or it will eat you’; and ‘Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving’.

‘Passion For Life’ is published by Constable in hardback, £25

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