Monday, July 31, 2017


Joan Collins having the time of her life

Joan Collins in The Time of Their Lives
Simon Gage catches up at Claridges with Joan Collins and talks about movies, Dynasty, and being a gay icon
“You tell me and then I’ll tell you!” replied Dame Joan Collins from her chair in a sort of private tea parlour in Claridges.
 In my long interviewing career, I’ve done the A B C of celebs (that would be Adele, BeyoncĂ© and Celine) and I’ve never felt nervous like this.
And just before we get into it, I should say that, even close up, Dame Joan is a show-stopping beauty. The hair, the skin, the teeth, the big gold lion-head earrings, the immaculate smart-but-sexy suit… pristine and sparkling with glamour and mischief from head to toe.
Anyway, we’re talking about why Dame Joan Collins is a gay icon (the previous question was “Did you know you were a gay icon?” which was greeted with that tinkling movie-star laugh and a “Yes! How could I not be aware?”). 
“Strength,” I tell her. “If you look at gay icons, there’s no wishy-washy. It’s all women who know their own minds…”
“Streisand,” she says, starting a list. “Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland… but she wasn’t strong. Is Doris Day a gay icon? A little too girl-next-door, right?”
Another reason for her gay icon-dom might be Alexis Colby Carrington, Dame Joan’s character from Dynasty, the high-powered, high-budget soap that revived her flagging career in the 1980s after her previous come-back in movie versions of her sister Jackie’s books, The Stud and The Bitch, which I ask if she regrets, bearing in mind they were fairly racy, lingerie-in-most-scenes super-soft porn… “No!” she snips back. “I think I look pretty good. And I did Playboy when I was 49 and said, ‘Right, this is the last time I do semi-nude pics…’”
“I think Steven was the first gay character on mainstream TV,” she says of her on-screen son in the soap. “And I wanted to show that I loved my gay son equally to the other two. Blake Carrington [Stephen’s mogul father] did not approve at all of his son’s lifestyle and made it perfectly clear. He was a bit like that in real life…” she says, mischievously, of John Forsythe who played the character of Blake. “Sssssh, he’s dead now. Mustn’t speak ill of the dead.” And she does one of those mouth-pulled-to-the-side cheeky looks of hers.
“Anyway, I think it’s very nice that I’m a gay icon,” she says, matter-of-factly. “I think all of my male friends are gay, come to think of it. I don’t have any single male friends that aren’t gay.”
One of those friends is, of course, Ivan Massow, super-successful entrepreneur, journalist and now gay dad. He was originally a friend of Joan’s daughter Tara, and he actually credits Joan with saving his life.
“Well, it was outrageous,” says Joan. “He came to stay with me and I went into the kitchen the next day and there were like eight bottles of wine and two bottles of vodka and I said, ‘You’ve drunk most of this!’”
“We were in the swimming pool and I gave him a lecture: I said, ‘You’re going to kill yourself. You can’t go on like this, it’s the most destructive thing!’ My third husband died because of drugs and drink, drugs mostly, and basically I told Ivan what I thought. I was amazed that he listened. Tough love is good sometimes.”
We’re actually here to talk about Joan’s latest film, The Time of Their Lives, where she stars as a washed-up actress living in an old people’s home who escapes to go to a movie mogul’s funeral in the south of France, hoping to re-connect with Hollywood and so revive her career. Pauline Collins as a downtrodden suburban housewife somehow gets dragged along for the ride.
“I’m an actress!” she announces when I mention that it was brave to let us see behind the perfect make-up/hair we are so used to from red carpets. “I don’t think it’s brave.”
In fact, she liked the role so much when she first read the script four years ago, that she decided she would get involved on the production side, raising money, casting… Celia Imrie was mooted for the role but Joan had worked with Pauline Collins before so that was a perfect fit.
As executive producers, it meant working with Percy Gibson, her husband of 15 years, but then that’s everyday for Dame Joan. “We’re together 24/7,” she says of the relationship, “and it works very well for us. We have our spats but we basically care enough about each other to forgive each other’s irritations.”
As I get up to go, she shows starts scrolling through her phone to show me a picture of her with a drag queen doing Alexis from Dynasty. Oh, you’re much better looking than him, I say.
“Well, I hope so!” she snips.
But you look great in the picture, I tell her.
“That’s the main thing!” she says, doing the cheeky side smile. “Looking good is the best revenge.”
The Time of Their Lives is out on DVD on 31 July


Just a reminder that Joan's latest film 'The Time Of Their Lives' is out on DVD / Blu-Ray from today. You can order on the following!


Saturday, July 29, 2017


Check out the sensational cover of this weekend's edition of Spectrum Magazine from The Sydney Morning Herald, featuring a most fabulous portrait of Joan taken by the always superb Fadil Barisha. The magazine features an interview with Joan to coincide with the Autralian release of 'The Time Of Their Lives'.. I featured the interview a few days ago, you can read on the following link!!


I survived the Blitz so this was nothing, darling! An indomitable DAME JOAN COLLINS on her London home being wrecked by flooding just weeks before her French villa was engulfed by fire

  • Dame Joan Collins saw her London flat become a 'disaster zone' when it flooded 
  • She and her husband escaped to their villa in the forest above Saint Tropez
  • But here they were faced with wind, fire and an unbearably hot Saharan aridity 
Feeling sorry for myself — as anyone who knows me will attest — is quite simply something I never do. That’s why those who suggest that 2017 is becoming my very own ‘annus horribilis’ could not be more wide of the mark.
I would never dream of comparing my past seven months to the catalogue of misery endured by the Queen in 1992 in which she saw three of her children’s marriages collapse and her beloved Windsor Castle go up in flames.
Although, after a series of varying domestic disasters, I am beginning to wonder what the rest of the year will bring.
As living arrangements go, I didn’t think mine could get much worse. But the past few days have proved me wrong.
The year started badly enough when, while in LA this January, my brother Bill called to say there had been a massive flood in a neighbour’s apartment and the ceiling had collapsed in our London flat.
Returning two days later, my husband Percy and I were faced with a scene of utter devastation. Our sitting room, dining room and hallway — plus all the carpets, curtains and the great deal of furniture these rooms contained — had been completely ruined. The place was a disaster zone.
Our builder Andy broke the news that restoration was impossible while we were living there, so we were forced to move into an empty rented flat with most of our worldly possessions. Suffice to say, difficult days ensued.
And so it was with a sense of great anticipation that we decided to leave our London flood zone and take a quiet ten-day family holiday in the refuge of our villa in the forest above Saint Tropez.
Our party of nine — Percy and I invited my daughter Tara, her husband Nick, Tara’s 18-year-old daughter Miel and her boyfriend Ernie, Tara’s son Weston, his friend Theo and our close friend from New York, Jack Rich — thought we would enjoy some restful days away. How wrong we were.
Soon after arriving, a massive mistral, the strong north-westerly wind that blows from southern France, kicked off around us. The winds blew mercilessly, bringing with them an unbearably hot Saharan aridity.
In these parts, the mistral has such an effect on people it’s said that a man who murders his wife during one will not be charged on account of a fleeting mental state known as ‘mistral madness’.

Needless to say, I kept a close eye on Percy — and he kept a close eye on me!
Dreams of relaxation quickly disappeared. It was impossible to sit by the pool because you would not only roast from the sun but the wind would suck up whatever moisture remained on your body.
The pool furniture and umbrellas were being buffeted about — often ending up in the water — and the doors and windows kept slamming, frightening the living daylights out of all of us.
Everyone pretty much stayed inside and the images we had of lazy days frolicking about the pool were dashed like cases of rosé wine falling off a truck.
Determined to make the best of it — after all, I was surrounded by my loved ones and the ceiling hadn’t fallen in — we took to indoor life with gusto.
On Monday, we had just had an afternoon game of charades and celebrated with pink champagne and delicious lasagne prepared by our villa staff, 21-year-olds Hannah and Annelies, when we noticed several helicopters and planes circling overhead.
‘Those look like fire planes,’ said Percy. ‘I’ll drive up the hill and take a look.’ No sooner had he left than Tara, pointing at a plume just over our hill, said: ‘Isn’t that smoke?’ Grabbing the binoculars, I ran outside and saw, to my horror, huge columns of smoke and flashes of fire.
I immediately thought of the recent fires in Portugal where fleeing cars had been trapped and consumed by flames.
We stood rooted to the spot, watching the smoke stack become bigger and wider, like the cloud from an atom bomb.
Then the phone rang. It was Percy. ‘I don’t want you to panic,’ he said. ‘But tell everyone to grab their passports and valuables, put on sensible clothes and get in the cars NOW. I’m on my way back.’
One doesn’t expect to require Blitz spirit on the French Riveria, but my Blitz baby mentality kicked in. Although I was too young to be fully aware of how much danger we were in back then, I recalled the nights of being woken up, jumping feverishly into my siren suit and going down into the air raid shelters during the bombings.
Not having a siren suit to hand, I hastily donned combat gear — tracksuit bottoms, baseball cap, an old cardigan the moths had dined on for several years, and threw a few ‘essentials’ into a bag. Only later when I unpacked did I realise that, other than a T-shirt, my ‘essentials’ consisted of three pairs of sunglasses, two paperback books and a fan.
A fan! Like I needed one to fan even more flames!
Steve McQueen’s quote from Towering Inferno flashed into my consciousness: ‘It’s outta control and it’s coming our way.’
I’d never seen so many people move so quickly with utterly grim fixed expressions, which thinly veiled sheer panic. I felt particularly keenly for my daughter Tara, who has been trapped in bad fires twice already in her life.
Eleven terrified people — family, friends and our villa staff — mobilised to cram themselves into two small cars and escape. As we drove up the hill, wHannah and Annelies, along with the two youngest boys and our friend Jack, had taken off practically the moment I had hung up the phone from Percy, so we’d lost touch with them.
Thirteen-year-old Theo, in the back of the car, suggested he call his mother, whereupon Jack, with customary New York composure, retorted: ‘And say what? That you are in the back of a car running from a raging fire? Call her after you’re safe.’
Spectators lined the narrow road taking pictures, making navigation on the two-way street difficult, but we persevered, determined to meet up.
Driving out away from the flames, we stopped at a small petrol station and decided to fill up the car. I went into the shop to buy some water for everyone and met a Dutch man from Gigaro, the town where the fire had started. He was in shorts and a shirt and said that the fire had been so close to their house they didn’t even have time to grab anything.
‘It is very bad and it’s spreading,’ he said. The shop-owner gave a Gallic shrug and said in French that everything would be OK and it would not be a big problem.
I looked askance at him as we both detected the pungent odour of smoke emanating from the I just hope my own little Book of Revelations ends hereDutch man’s hair. The shop-owner attempted another Gallic shrug, but it stalled halfway.
After some frantic phone calls, both parties were finally reunited in the coastal town of Sainte-Maxime, a 25-minute drive north of Saint Tropez, outside another bleak petrol station, watching the flames leaping up across the bay.
I sat in the back of the car quaffing a much-needed bottle of water while everyone got out and huddled together to make onward plans. I attempted to join them but when I reached for the door handles they wouldn’t open. I remembered they were child-proofed so couldn’t be opened from the inside.
I had given my phone to Percy, so I banged on the windows with my empty water bottle and yelled at the top of my lungs, but the group outside was oblivious to my plight for what seemed like ages.
It’s truly astonishing how long six minutes can feel like if you’re trapped in the darkness of a boiling hot car.
Finally, my grandson Weston noticed my exertions and came to my rescue with a wry smile. ‘What are you doing back there?’ he asked with a twinkle. Indeed, the youngsters were impressive in their composure.
Granddaughter Miel walked around the group sweetly dispensing hugs and reassuring everyone that, ‘It will be all right’. Boyfriend Ernie kept hugging her, while Theo, on his first trip abroad, finally got to call his mother.
Percy and Tara were on their phones trying to find a place to stay but — owing to the fact that so many other people were also escaping the inferno and it was the high season — their efforts were initially in vain.
I called my friends Susie and Warren Todd, who had a villa nearby. They immediately offered us three guest rooms.
By this time Tara had also managed to find two rooms in a local hotel. She and her family were whisked away and we headed to our billet.
The fire continued to rage on, as efforts to contain it were hampered by darkness. Percy drove through various checkpoints where police and firemen remained vigilant and helpful through the night, herding terrified evacuees through chaos to safety.
The organisation of the French forces was extraordinary. In all, 12,000 people were relocated safely without one loss of life, while more than 4,000 brave firemen and gendarmes, dozens of whom were injured, fought several wildfires over a vast area.
I don’t think there is anything scarier than being trapped in a fire. Like a herd of bison careering down a hill, it’s unpredictable, spreads with terrifying alacrity and consumes everything in its wake.
Tara texted later to say that they were the last people to get a room because there were several homeless families sleeping in the hotel lobby.
Many were far less lucky and had fewer resources than I do, so I feel incredibly grateful.
We made it back to our villa the following day to find the fires hadn’t caused any damage. It was a miracle, really, as the flames were so close that any change in wind direction would have brought them charging up to us within minutes. Again, I thanked my lucky stars.
But my deepest gratitude goes to the brave French heroes who, like our own wonderful firefighters and policemen, plunge headlong daily into danger to keep us safe.
Even as I write, there are still several small fires burning and the winds are picking up. The fire-fighters, exhausted from having been at it in searing temperatures for four days straight, have yet to unburden themselves of their heavy gear. Courage, mes amis!
For if there’s anything to take from my year of flood and fire, it’s surely the exhortation to be found within that old and trusted proverb: ‘Fortune favours the brave.’
I just hope my own little Book of Revelations ends here!

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Joan Collins in The Time of Their Lives:

 A star's return to the screen

A diva reputation, a devoted young husband and a juicy new role. Dame Joan Collins is having the time of her life.
By Richard Jinman

"I'm a bit nervous," I tell the woman who is standing by to check Dame Joan Collins' make-up. We are awaiting the actress' arrival in a room overlooking the River Thames and my shirt collar seems to be getting tighter by the second. The make-up artist smiles reassuringly. "She's really quite lovely. You'll see."
Collins, the English doyenne of screen and stage, enjoys a reputation as a diva not to be trifled with. Even when she is promoting her work – in this case the feel-good movie The Time of Their Lives – she makes it clear that "fools" will not be tolerated.

She is, after all, a proper movie star: a peer of Elizabeth Taylor. Moving to Hollywood in the 1950's, she rubbed shoulders with giants including Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. More than two decades later she became even more famous as Dynasty's Alexis Carrington, television's shoulder-padded super-bitch. Even today, many people assume that Joan is Alexis and vice versa.
They are wrong, of course – "you can't be a bitch and play a bitch," she'll tell me later – but it pays to be prepared.

The door swings open and Collins stands in front of me. She's smaller than I imagined – 1.68 metres tall and delicate. Her bright orange jacket – a Carla Zampatti we discover after she forgets the Australian designer's name and asks me to rummage in her collar for the label – is twinned with a white blouse, white skirt and black strappy heels. She is lightly tanned and her coiffed raven hair makes a frame for diamond earrings and lips painted vivid red with a lipstick I'm reliably informed is called Cupid's Bow Metamorphoses.
She fixes me with striking grey eyes and says hello in an English accent inflected by the West Coast. The deep, rather posh drawl is catnip for men of a certain age. "Dame Joan," I say, using her preferred appellation and resisting the urge to drop to one knee. We place ourselves at either end of a sofa and I carefully edge towards her, anxious to get closer without breaching the exclusion zone
It seems prudent to ask about her new film, a bittersweet comedy of which she is justifiably proud. She plays Helen Shelley, a washed-up movie star living in a grim English retirement home. When Shelly learns that the director of her best-known film has died she sets off to France to gatecrash the funeral and land herself a part in a movie that will resuscitate her long-dead career. The funeral will be like the Oscars, she tells Priscilla, the abused wife played by Pauline Collins (no relation) she coerces into accompanying her. "A bit sadder, but not much …"
Helen is a monstrous figure in most respects: delusional, manipulative and utterly selfish. Collins doesn't try to make her sympathetic, but does imbue her with genuine pathos, deploying what Variety's critic called her "still lascivious on-screen charisma".

The part fits so well, in fact, I ask if it was written for her. Her answer is characteristically direct. "You'd have to ask [director] Roger Goldby," she says, "but I doubt it. I expect they imagined someone like Helen Mirren or Susan Sarandon, but luckily it came to me."
Lucky indeed. Both for Collins, who considers it the best part she's played since her dual role opposite Steven Berkoff in the 1994 British film Decadence, and for audiences who get to see a performance that's funny, brave and occasionally unhinged.

In one of the film's defining moments, Helen stands alone on a beach, stripped of make-up and most of her dignity. She peels off her wig and tosses it into the waves; a gesture of defiance and surrender. It's powerful and genuinely shocking, given the perfectly groomed image Collins presents to the world.
She acknowledges the scene was difficult, but stripping herself physically and emotionally is part of being an actress. "I've done it before," she says. "But perhaps not in such a mainstream production."
You can't be a bitch and play a bitch.
Dame Joan Collins
The Time of Their Lives was released in Britain in March and attracted mixed reviews. More than one critic applauded Collins' performance, but compared the film unfavourably to Shirley Valentine, the 1989 British hit also starring Pauline Collins as a dissatisfied middle-aged housewife who finds romance on the continent.
Collins says she tries to avoid reviews, but she's a voracious reader, of newspapers in particular, so it's hard to avoid them. "The thing is people have enjoyed it [the film] and the word-of-mouth has been fantastic. It's actually gone back into cinemas in the UK because there's so much interest."

What's the film's main message? "I'm not sure if there is one because it's primarily a feelgood film. But it is saying 'it's never too late'."
Fiction and real life intersect in The Time of Their Lives when Helen walks into a bar and persuades the band to let her sing Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me). It was written by Anthony Newley, the English actor and singer, who became Collins' second husband in 1963. She suggested the ballad after the film's producers – one of whom is the Oscar-winning lyricist Tim Rice – rejected My Way as too familiar. "As soon as they agreed to use it I thought, 'Oh no, people are going to ask me about this in interviews.'"
She was right, of course. Collins' colourful love life has always been a source of fascination. As well as dating actors including Warren Beatty and Terence Stamp, and rebuffing a who's-who of Hollywood stars including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Richard Burton, she has been married five times (three times less than her friend Elizabeth Taylor, as she likes to say).
She has said her first husband, the Northern Irish actor Maxwell Reed, drugged and raped her when she was 17. She had two children with Newley but the charming Londoner was a serial cheat. Next up was Ron Kass, a "tall, handsome American" who was head of Apple, the Beatles' production company. They had a daughter, Katy, but after moving to Los Angles, he became heavily addicted to cocaine and squandered the couple's money.
The last of this bad bunch was Peter Holm, a tall, blond Swede and renowned playboy. Collins describes him as "the smoothest of smooth con-men". She eventually discovered the blue-eyed former pop star was "screwing everyone in a skirt".
"I believe that when life gives you lemons you make lemonade," she says. "And believe me I've been given plenty of lemons, even if people aren't aware of it."
Her marital history took a sharp turn for the better when she married Percy Gibson, a theatre company manager. She famously dismissed the age gap with the quip: "If he dies, he dies." Married since 2002 they remain inseparable; partners as well as best friends.
Of her first four marriages she says simply, "I was abused. Either physically, financially or because they were unfaithful to me."
Is that why she developed a tough shell? Maybe, she says, but points out she has always been self-reliant and never wanted to be a victim.
That resolve was evident in the early stage of her career. Having made her stage debut at age nine in Ibsen's A Doll's House, she joined the roster of actresses at the British entertainment group The Rank Organisation. In 1955, at the age of 22, she headed to Los Angeles after being put under contract by 20th Century Fox.
"I didn't want to go," she says. "I was happy living with my family in London [her father, a talent agent, was her manager at the time] and the Hollywood studio was offering about $350 a week. I knew that they would have a large roster of young actresses on the same money and I wouldn't stand out." Collins held out for a better deal and got it – the first example of a gutsy determination that has defined her career.
I suggest two other examples when she dug her stilettos in when it might have been easier to walk away. In the mid-'90s she refused to return a $1.2 million advance for two novels after the publisher Random declared her manuscripts "unreadable" and sued. Collins stood firm, the judge found in her favour and she walked away with $1 million.
She showed similar resolve in the heyday of Dynasty after learning that the show's male star, John Forsythe, was being paid considerably more than her. Collins marched into producer Aaron Spelling's office and demanded parity. He refused saying, "I can't do that: you're an actress and he's an actor." She went on strike and the producers buckled. "I stuck to my guns and got a raise. But I never got as much as John."
I tell her that the American actress Robin Wright is investigating whether Kevin Spacey, her House of Cards co-star, is paid more than her. Is she surprised actresses are still fighting this battle? "Yes," she says quietly. "Yes I am."
We're running out of time: an enormous black limousine is waiting downstairs to whisk her back to her house in Belgravia. Her admiration for Margaret Thatcher is well known, so I ask her opinion of Theresa May, Britain's embattled Prime Minister. "Oh, I think she's great," she says without hesitation. "And I really like the way she dresses."
She realises she has strayed into politics, a topic that has got her into hot water in the past. "Stand by for the hate mail," she says theatrically. But her smile suggests a bit of controversy doesn't worry her in the least.
The Time of Their Lives screens from August 10.