Saturday, December 10, 2016


Fake the tree, ditch the tinsel - and ban bores from your Christmas party! Dame Joan's exquisitely arch guide to going stress-free this festive season

She’s the most glamorous grandmother on the planet — and when it comes to Christmas, Dame Joan Collins certainly knows how to do it in style.
The award-winning actress and author is spending the festive season with her husband Percy in Los Angeles, where the couple are hosting a traditional British Christmas for their friends and family. But at a time of year when most of us are feeling frazzled by last-minute shopping, food orders and endless party invitations, Dame Joan has the festive season all wrapped up.
With her trademark wit and amusing anecdotes from family Christmases over the years, she’s given us an exclusive peek into how she does it — so you, too, can make it through the next few weeks stress-free!
From not getting tipsy at the office drinks party to why you should never put tinsel on your tree, we present Dame Joan’s Glamorous Guide to Christmas . . .
The best part for me is the run-up to Christmas, and therefore it can’t start too early. I put my tree up on November 27 this year; almost exactly a month before the big day. I long ago gave up the idea of a real Christmas tree and now I have a magnificent fake fir (however naff that sounds).
I’ve adopted this tradition because by Boxing Day my tree is still standing proud and tall in all its glory and hasn’t shed its dead bits all over the Christmas presents, which in turn invariably get stuck to your slippers, which then get carted all around your house and show up in the most unlikely of places: your pillow, your make-up, your morning coffee. Anyway, I’ve found people can’t tell the difference between real and fake as long as the tree is loaded with baubles and ornaments

I’ve been making and collecting my own decorations since my children were little. My tree is totally dripping with them — you can barely see any green.
I’m not a fan of tinsel. I prefer plenty of twinkling white lights, sparkling balls and stars on my tree.
As for colours, I tend to go for white and silver when we’re in Los Angeles and a more traditional red and gold in London, but it all depends on what I feel like doing in any given year.
I love getting into the spirit of Christmas, so I fill our house to the hilt with all manner of ornaments, fir garlands and ribbons.
My favourite floral decorations are white azaleas adorned with silver balls. They’re far chicer than poinsettias.
Christmas parties are never as much fun as the anticipation. There are office parties, boss’s parties, friends’ parties, product-launching parties . . . the pit is bottomless.
All of these coalesce to make December into a blur of self-indulgence, which is why you sorely need those New Year’s resolutions . . . just to stay alive through January and February. I like parties where I know most people and not ones that are filled with people you never want to see again.
I am very picky about which invitations I choose. I bin the ones that celebrate the opening of an envelope, and I don’t attend events that are full of people I don't know.
I save my strength for those intimate gatherings where I am sure to see plenty of friends.

If it’s a drinks party, I make unbreakable dinner plans with friends at a fixed time. Stay too long and everybody’s bound to get plastered, which turns holiday cheer into a Grinch-like nightmare.
If it’s a dinner party, I make sure to arrive 45 minutes into the ‘cocktail hour’, because it regularly turns into a ‘cocktail hour-and-a-half’ and that can be fatal.
One of the most over-the-top parties I ever attended was a ‘Christmas Extravaganza’ hosted by the late TV producer Aaron Spelling at his £120 million mega-mansion — called The Manor — now owned by Petra Stunt, one of the Ecclestone heiresses.
He had shipped in mountains of fake snow that covered the five acres of grounds and at night it glistened and glittered like the real thing. That’s Hollywood for you!
I love throwing a party when I’m in London for the Christmas season. I’ll invite a core group of my closest friends and family along with a sprinkling of new friends, as no one wants to see the same faces every year.
Boring or dull people can cast a bad vibe over any gathering, so I’m ruthless about who I invite.
Never invite work colleagues who aren’t also your friends — they might be fun in the boardroom but nothing kills the holiday spirit faster than to be reminded about the marketing plan for 2017.
One of my most memorable Christmas parties was in 2001, the year Percy and I announced our engagement. We hadn’t set a date and the plans were still in a state of flux, so the party I hosted that December was meant to be a holiday party — and nothing more.
However, as the guests arrived — Andrew Lloyd Webber and his wife Madeleine, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, the fashion designer Valentino — each wished us congratulations.
It turned out that rumours had been circulating that we would officially announce our engagement that evening. At one point, Percy went out on to the balcony for a cigarette only to discover a large crowd of paparazzi, reporters and well-wishers.
We had no choice but to go outside and pose for photographs. We decided to set a date that very evening — the following February at Claridge’s Hotel in London. Talk about a ‘shotgun wedding’!
I start plotting our family Christmas card every October

We always pick a photograph to be printed on hundreds of cards to send our nearest and dearest. It’s always a picture from a special family occasion.
In the past we’ve had some fabulous photos: one of my youngest daughter, Katy, posing in a pink tutu; me wearing a Christmas jumper; and one year we had all the children sitting in their swimwear by a pool in the Californian sun.
This year it’s just Percy and me on the card: he’s looking handsome in his dinner jacket and bow tie, and I’m in a white evening gown.
I know some people dread writing and sending Christmas cards, but I enjoy it — and I love receiving cards from friends.
It’s regretful that many people just send emails these days. That’s not the Christmas spirit at all.
Christmas cards are a tangible memento that you can keep as a reminder, and also a great resource for the next year to help you cut out whoever you haven’t received a card from!
Though I love to dress up, when I’m around my family I’m quite casual.
On Christmas Day, I always wear something red and comfortable.
It might not be my usual style, but you can get some really chic sweaters with Christmassy patterns such as stars and snowflakes on them.
When you’re going out to parties, don’t over-think what you’re going to wear: a pretty necklace or earrings and some red lipstick can make even the plainest outfit look festive.

As a baby of the Blitz and a teenager of Austerity Britain, I grew up with the tradition of one present at Christmas, with an orange or a tangerine in my stocking. So the mass consumerism of today never fails to amaze me.
Hundreds, sometimes thousands are spent on children’s presents these days — far more than in the past. I know of one cleaning lady who spent £2,000 on a computer for her daughter and she only makes £12,000 a year.
I’m guilty, too. Every year I make a resolution not to buy masses of presents, but about a month before our Saviour’s birthday I start thinking about what to buy for whom. Have they been naughty? Have they been nice? More importantly, does it matter?
The young ones all seem to want electronics these days, so I am a stranger in a foreign land when it comes to asking my grandchildren what they want for Christmas.
One recent conversation went as follows: ‘A Surface Pro with one terabyte drive and eight megs of RAM . . .anything less and there’s game lag . . . with Photoshop Illustrator pre-installed . . . and don’t forget the stylus.’
‘Um, OK . . . how about I send you a cheque?’ I stammered back.
But Christmas is a time for giving, after all, and I do like to be generous.
I buy presents for all my family and for people who work for me, and I give money to tradespeople.
I never vary from turkey with its traditional accompaniments such as Brussels sprouts (which I love), roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and bread sauce.
I normally cook, but Percy has taken over at times. The first time he made Christmas dinner, he misjudged the oven and it was ready too soon, causing me to tell everyone to come over right away.
They arrived in various states of confusion and undress! The second time he over-compensated and we didn’t eat until 8pm, when the family fell upon it like ravenous hordes.
One memorable family Christmas dinner involved my then-fiance Anthony Newley and a couple of close friends. One of them told a particularly funny story and all of us literally doubled over in laughter, causing Tony’s party hat to catch fire on one of the candles.
The problem was that it made us laugh even harder, and we were unable to voice our warnings to Tony, who in turn was in absolute paroxysms over our strange contortions. The smell of singeing hair sobered him up quick!

Nothing beats a classic Christmas in London: a wintery chill in the air while the fire crackles inside and we all huddle around it with glasses of mulled wine. But quite often Percy and I decide to go abroad for a change.
Last year, my beloved sister Jackie and I had planned to go to Hawaii with both our families, but when she prematurely passed away, understandably we all wanted to be together at home. We went to my sister-in-law Hazel’s house in London: Jackie’s three children, six grandchildren, my three children, three grandchildren, and all their partners and boyfriends. There were dozens of us.
This year, Percy and I are in our apartment in Los Angeles.
It’s warmer than London, up to 20c some days, and the flat will be full of fun, laughter and Christmas cheer.