Trump? A good looking guy who inspired my Alexis on Dynasty. British TV ? No thanks (unless it’s Poldark). My own-brand wigs? Yes, I wear them...they’re great! Back out on the road for one last time, Dame JoanCollinsletsrip
DonaldTrump needs all the friends he can get as he fights to win over American voters, but the outspoken candidate for president has an unlikely fan in Dame JoanCollins. ‘I based Alexis on ‘a businessman like DonaldTrump,’
she says, describing her most iconic character, the ice queen of the
Colbys in the gloriously over-the-top soap Dynasty. ‘She was tough and
uncompromising, using her sexuality to manipulate people. I met Donald with [his former wife] Ivana, who is still a very good friend of mine. And he was a very good-looking guy.’
controversial Republican candidate was a buccaneering businessman back
in the Eighties when Alexis was created, but now he is challenging for
the White House.
So how exactly was he an inspiration? ‘I used Donald
more in what he did, how he worked, and how he was building his empire,
than his sexuality. I didn’t know about that a lot, but I know that he
liked beautiful women, blondes.
was a mixture of him and one of my best girlfriends, who sadly died
shortly afterwards. Cappy Badrutt was a jet-setting... not a
nymphomaniac, exactly, but she liked the boys, always went for the ones
that were rich, which I had never done. She was very beautiful – all her
clothes were couture, she wore loads of furs and diamonds.’
This is just one of the many astonishing stories Collins has to share as she heads out on the road with a one-woman show, telling tales of her days as a Hollywood
star, one of the few remaining survivors of the golden age of the
movies, as well as her spectacular triumph in Dynasty. She’ll talk about
her extraordinary life – including five husbands and four divorces –
because Collins is getting ready to say goodbye.
‘This will be my last tour,’ the Legendary star reveals. ‘So if anyone wants to see me, they had better come now.’
Collins is Hollywood
royalty and looks positively regal as she glides across the lobby of a
luxury hotel in the South of France in white Chanel dress slashed with
black stripes, wearing huge sunglasses and a wide, floppy hat.
lovely to see you,’ she drawls in a voice halfway between Beverly Hills
and Buckingham Palace, and the lady owner of the hotel is so overcome
at the presence she almost curtsies.
fifth husband Percy, makes sure we are
settled on the terrace then disappears off as discreetly as a man can in
a bright Hawaiian shirt. She sets her phone to record, being wary of
the press, and does not respond well to the suggestion that she is
giving up one-woman shows because of her age. ‘Age is an over-rated
subject. I really do believe you are as old as you look, feel and act.’
is it the thought of having to endure all those dreary theatre dressing
rooms from Brighton up to Crewe? She has been synonymous with luxury
since Leonard Rossiter chucked his Cinzano Bianco all over her in
first-class airline seats in the classic advertisements of the
Seventies. ‘I don’t mind the dressing rooms. I could get my make-up and
hair done under that table over there,’ says this life-long performer,
who first appeared on stage as a child during wartime. ‘I just feel I
don’t want to do it again. This will be it.’
partly because she has become more keenly aware of her own mortality
since the loss of her younger sister Jackie, the novelist, to breast
cancer last year? ‘Yes. One would be stupid not to think about it. So
you prepare your will, you think about your children and your
she has a large pile of cash to leave them? ‘I don’t. All of my money
went into property. I don’t have any significant savings. I don’t need
to keep working – I can always sell a property, but I enjoy working if
it is the right thing.’
don’t necessarily need her money, she says. ‘Sacha is a very successful
painter. My daughter Tara [a TV presenter] is doing very well. They
also have a very good trust fund from their father Anthony Newley,
because he wrote 15 or 20 amazing songs.’ Oddly, it’s only later that I
realise that she doesn’t mention Katyana, her daughter by the record
company boss Ron Kass.
At this stage in her career Collins doesn’t need to worry about money, but she is clearly trying to take care of her legacy.
That’s why she published her autobiography a few years ago and is going out on tour.
can ask me about anything,’ she says. But what if audience members ask
her more personal questions, about things like drugs, for example?
hate drugs! I am vehement against drugs! All kinds of drugs. What are
they going to ask me? “Have you ever tried heroin?” No.’ How about
cocaine? ‘Once.’ She was forced to take it at a nightclub opening in St
Tropez, only a few miles from here, in the Sixties, but insists she
never did so again.
willingly talk about her five husbands: the actor Maxwell Reed, who she
says raped her before they were married (they lasted four years); the
actor and songwriter Anthony Newley (seven years); Ron Kass (11 years,
although they remained close until his early death); the Swedish singer
Peter Holm (less than two years); and film producer Percy Gibson, who
will be the master of ceremonies for the stage show and who has lasted
the longest at 14 years.
are best friends. We argue of course, bickering and banter. What do we
argue about? You’re driving too fast. You’ve got to stop smoking. Why
are you still on the phone? Nothing things, that husbands and wives
go everywhere together and today we’re going to get a rare glimpse of
the life they lead away from the cameras, whether it’s sitting in the
garden of their villa near St Tropez with a glass of something chilled
watching a meteorite shower, as they did last night, or lounging on the
sofa like a couple from Gogglebox with a good box set.
‘I don’t watch a lot of British
TV because I don’t really like what’s on offer, but first thing in the
morning I watch the news. Then, when it gets on to Jeremy Kyle I put on
MTV, music. I’ll exercise to it. I don’t watch TV during the day, and at
night we’ll go back to the news then watch a box set. Ray Donovan, or
the Jennifer Lopez thing Shades Of Blue – it’s very good. And I love Poldark.’
always turns the television on first thing in the morning – it’s a
compulsion. ‘I don’t like that empty screen staring at me.
With Sacha & Tara in 1966
‘I woke up
today at 10am. I had a bath, I washed my hair. I had some coffee and got
here at 11.30. I put on my make-up because I have my own cosmetics
She also sells JoanCollins
wigs, which are surprisingly cheap at just £39 for the ‘St Tropez
edition’, with its headband, tumbling black curls and the promise ‘to
give you a new way of presenting yourself to the world’.
are numerous other variations with glitzy names like the Emerald, the
Katyana and the Alexis. Does she really wear those wigs? ‘I’m not
wearing one now,’ she says icily, as I get a flash of the withering
put-downs that made her so formidable on screen. On second glance, the
shoulder-length hair under that huge hat is dyed black, but definitely
real, as I tell her awkwardly before trying to save face by
complimenting the hair she does have. ‘Yeah, but I’m very lazy about my
hair. And I think that a woman has to make a decision: she either works
on her face or her hair. All my girlfriends, they all work on the hair.
They blow-dry it. I don’t even know how to use a blow-dryer,’ she says
still a stigma about wigs though, isn’t there? ‘This is what’s so weird
to me. I mean, look at 80 per cent of actresses and models. You think
all that long cascading hair is real? They all wear extensions. All of
them. So I don’t understand why there isn’t a stigma about extensions
when there is about wigs. It’s so much easier – you just put them on.
Mine are great.’
Anthony Newley & Joan in 1963
many has she got in real life? ‘Four or five. But I don’t use them in
real life, which is like now. If I’m going out to dinner I will either
go to the hairdresser’s, which takes two hours, or I will wear a hat or I
will wear a wig. I like the way it looks.’
she does wear them, although it is probably too hot today in St Tropez.
She asks for water, which arrives in a carafe with ice, but Collins is not satisfied. ‘Is it from the bottle? Evian?’ The waiter replaces the water without a word. Collins looks from the bottle to the glass and then to me. ‘Pour me some,’ she purrs, and it is an order.
wonders why I’m so fascinated by her off-duty life and I say it’s
reassuring to people to hear that even she looks a state sometimes.
‘Well then, they will be very reassured to go and see my new film The
Time Of Their Lives and see how ghastly I look. Did you see the
photograph of me in the Co-op in front of the lettuces?’
it. She’s seen walking down the aisle in her new film in flat shoes,
thick socks, a dowdy mac and a headscarf, using a walking stick. She has
just finished an exhausting six-week shoot with Pauline Collins (no relation, of Shirley Valentine fame). Collins plays an elderly former Hollywood star now stuck in a retirement home who escapes to the funeral of the man she loved half a century before.
wanted to play her with no make-up, but the director wanted her with a
bit of make-up, badly done. I wear a tacky old wig, which is terribly
old and much too harsh. I look terrible.’ That’s daring for someone who
has worked so hard to personify Hollywood glamour.
She’s teasing her own carefully constructed image with this film, but doesn’t she mind looking awful given that she is, well, JoanCollins? ‘Why would I mind? I’m an actress,’ she snaps back.
That is something we may have forgotten over the years, with all the glamour and the gossip-column inches. Dame JoanCollins,
honoured with the title last year for her services to charity, is now
setting out to remind us of her skills in films and on stage.
daughter of a dance teacher and a theatrical agent, she trained at the
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and signed to Rank Studios at the age of
just 17. Five years later the legendary Hollywood director Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep) chose her for Land Of The Pharaohs, a big-budget epic.
She fled England for Hollywood
in the middle of a divorce from her first husband, Maxwell Reed. ‘My
first nasty divorce,’ she calls it now, although she’s had plenty of
other bad marriages, from the womanising Anthony Newley to Ron Kass, who
allegedly siphoned off her earnings, and Peter Holm, whom she called ‘a
appeared on television shows like Batman and Star Trek and made a
couple of movies called The Stud and The Bitch,
based on her sister’s books, while married to Kass, but her big comeback
was playing Alexis the super-schemer in Dynasty from 1981-89. ‘I was
forgotten. They didn’t know who I was. ABC wanted Sophia Loren or
Elizabeth Taylor.’ She joined in the second series and rescued Dynasty.
‘The show went from almost being cancelled to the top of the ratings and
everybody said, “It’s because of you!”’
So given she based Alexis on Trump,
will she be supporting him for the presidency, as Saga magazine
recently reported? ‘I’m absolutely neutral, I will not say who I
support, Hillary or Trump. I want a strong leader of the free world. But that could be Hillary. She’s very strong.’
what of her politics? Does she regret coming out so strongly in favour
of Brexit before the referendum? ‘Well, what do you mean by strongly?’
she snaps again. I wasn’t going around with badges on, if that’s what
you mean. Or baseball caps. How did I support it?’
for example, by posting a tweet with union flags and thumbs-up emojis
saying: ‘The journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.’ Or by
saying ‘this tiny island’ is ‘going to sink into the sea’ because of
frowns. ‘Did I say that? I didn’t say the word immigration. I said,
“with too many people”. You’re getting me on a subject now that I said I
wasn’t going to discuss.’
Yes I am, because a lot of people feel misled by those who campaigned for Brexit and I wonder if she is one of them.
I don’t. Nothing’s really happened has it? Since Brexit I have been
completely dedicated to this movie. It’s not that easy to work for 12
hours a day and learn between two and six pages of dialogue at night, so
I haven’t really thought a lot about what has happened. We have a new
Prime Minister, who seems OK, but why would we regret something that
hasn’t happened yet?’
may not be a good time to mention a previous controversy in her career,
The Stud. The movie she made as a comeback in 1978 was astonishingly
daring for its time, an erotic story in which she has sex in a
lift then on a swing over a swimming pool. The Stud looks tame now,
which only goes to show how much more explicitly sex is shown on the
movie screen these days, because of what else is available online.
don’t watch porn, but I’ve heard that it is so vile, and the things
they do are so abhorrent. The movies today have to compete.’ She is
scathing about modern movies and the damage they do. ‘Guns, blood,
explosions, noise. That’s why we have so many knife and gun crimes
because of these movies and computer games. These young men who commit
crimes are always hooked on computer games.’
she then rounds on another sensation of our age. ‘Look at this Pokémon
thing. Already three people have been killed, going over the edge of a
cliff or something. I talked to my young grandchild in New York. Her
face lit up. ‘You know about Pokémon Go?’ I said, “Yes Ava, and can you
believe we had one outside our house?”’
she has made a living from acting for nearly 70 years now, even if the
most compelling character she has created has been that of the public JoanCollins
herself. And as she departs I am reminded of something Alexis once said
in Dynasty: ‘I’m what I am, and that’s why I’m where I am. Don’t you
ever forget that.’
If Collins has her way, with the tour, the book and the film, we never will.