Miss Collins invites
From Liz Taylor to Andy Warhol, Joan Collins has partied with the best of them. The ultimate hostess shares her tips on how to throw the soiree of the seasonFirst-night party at the Waldorf, London, 2001 (Richard Young)
The guest list
The first and most crucial element of a great party is the guest list. I invite a core group of my closest friends and family along with a sprinkling of new friends, as one doesn’t want to see the same faces every year. Boring or dull people can cast a bad vibe over any gathering, so I’m ruthless about whom I invite.
I make sure I have the most delicious food possible, and I’m lucky enough to know a terrific chef who comes in to cook mouthwatering fare. For buffets I like to have three or four simple things so that everyone has a choice. I want everyone to be able to sit down comfortably, even if they are balancing their plates on their laps, so I always have food that doesn't require a knife, such as salmon en croute, shepherd's pie or beef stroganoff.
The Décor And Ambience
This is terribly important to me, especially at Christmas, when I spend days dressing the flat in festive mode. The tree is a focal point. Ideally it should be a real fir about 14ft high, though I confess when I've had a family Christmas in Florida or California, I substitute it with a fake one. People often can't tell the difference as long as the tree is loaded with all the baubles and ornaments I've been collecting and making since my children were little. I decorate the flat to the hilt with white or red plants, but never mix the two - that's bad luck.
Most people at my Christmas party know each other, so the atmosphere is convivial (and crowded). If the invitation says 8pm, I try to have the buffet on the table by 9.15pm, although some of my friends are notoriously tardy. For a seated dinner, I don't believe in waiting longer than an hour for latecomers.
Elizabeth Taylor was so late one evening, that when she arrived we had finished dinner. In came the fabled star, abjectly apologetic and insisting she wasn't going to eat.
I love all types of music, so Percy and I carefully choose what we are going to play for the cocktail hour. I like nostalgia , 1940's classics like Frank Sinatra and the old standards, which are all mellow and romantic and don't distract from the conversation.
After dinner, some people love to dance, so we amp up the mood with contemporary tunes. I'm besotted with Pharrell William's 'Happy', which is guaranteed to get people up and giggling away. This summer I was at a party in St Tropez and as soon as that song started, I stood up and gave it my all. A photographer snapped me dancing and the picture ended up everywhere. A cautionary word in this world of YouTube and Instagram ... Iphones are everywhere!
Last of all, don't worry. If you've made sure you have enough food and drink, and that your staff or servers have been properly instructed, just relax and enjoy the show.
My final word on entertaining comes from my dear, departed friend Sue Mengers. She believed that if they don't invite you back, after you've invited them, don't ask them again - a school of thought I wholly embrace. However, there are certain allowances I make for friends who perhaps can't afford to entertain, but who at least make the effort to keep in touch.