Joan Collins relives her rollercoaster stardom (in 90 minute show)

by Kevin Scott Hall

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 10, 2010


At 77 Joan Collins remains a show business dynamo. With guest tv appearances in the works, she is returning to the stage next week for a show at Feinstein's in New York. EDGE spoke to the superstar via phone from London about her career.

She has starred in over sixty films with some of Hollywood's greatest legends, including Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Richard Burton, Gregory Peck, Paul Newman, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Also on film, she battled giant ants (Empire of the Ants, 1977), starred in two film adaptations of her sister Jackie's novels, The Stud (1978) and The Bitch (1979), which became blockbusters in her native England, and sang and danced alongside icons Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine and Debbie Reynolds in the 2001 telefilm These Old Broads.

She made memorable guest appearances in classic television episodes, including Batman, Star Trek, Tales from the Crypt, Police Woman, Roseanne and Will & Grace.

She posed for Playboy at the age of 49.

She wrote several bestsellers, both fictions and non-fiction, including two autobiographies, Past Imperfect (1978) and Second Act (1996).

A rollercoaster life

She was granted the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997 by Queen Elizabeth, for her contributions to the arts and her ongoing charity work.

And, of course, she played Alexis Carrington in the top-ten nighttime soap Dynasty (1981-89). That role (reportedly turned down by Sophia Loren) brought her a Golden Globe, an Emmy nomination, and worldwide fame as one of the most memorable characters in television history.

Now, the legendary Joan Collins attempts to cover that rollercoaster life in 90-minutes or so with One Night With Joan Collins, the one-woman show she brings to Feinstein's ballroom from November 16 - 27, 2010.

Directed by Percy Gibson, her fifth husband (they married in 2001) and 32 years her junior, Collins promises that the show will cover both her career and personal life.

"Absolutely," she told EDGE in a phone interview from London. "I don't hold anything back. Percy distilled a lot of the material from my autobiographies. It's the story of my survival in a business that does not promote longevity."

Asked about how her off-screen persona is often identified with Alexis Carrington, Collins said, "I see myself as a pretty good actress who made Alexis so good. I made her quite likeable. Later, I'd watch the shows and there were some things about Alexis that I wanted to be myself."

The fame that came with the role had its drawbacks. "At the time, if something was happening in my life that was controversial, like getting a divorce, the helicopters would be hovering over the backyard.

"Luckily for me, that kind of massive fame doesn't last, it can't last. Even then, I was very aware that it was not a question of if it would end, but when."

A working actor

Collins described herself as more of a working actor. "I go on tour, do different things. It's not like I sit around thinking I'm a big star and wait for the next project. I've never been like that."

In fact, although her appearances in the United States have been rare in recent years (although this month she appeared in an episode of CBS's Rules of Engagement this past week), she has busied herself with work on several British television series, a German soap opera, and occasional film and stage work. A few years back, she toured for thirty weeks in the U.S. with Linda Evans in Legends!, the James Kirkwood campfest that infamously toured in the 1980s with Mary Martin and Carol Channing.

Her turn in Dynasty cemented her status as a gay icon and her later appearances in gay-friendly sitcoms seemed to acknowledge that fan base.

"I've always liked the gay icons myself," she said. "Judy Garland, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner. I grew up watching these people. I admire Madonna as well."

At age 77, Collins' beauty still startles.

"I'm not under this relentless pressure to look young," Collins insisted. "I want to look good and healthy, but I won't be defined by my age." She laughed. "Everybody knows how old we are anyway, it's rather silly for us to fight to look 20 years younger. A hundred years ago, life expectancy was 50; now it's the mid-80s."

Asked about the possible longevity of today's stars, Collins said, "It's very difficult now because the business is now built for big movies like Shrek. Up through the mid-'50s, the studio system built up their stars. Today, even with a team of publicists, you go through the jungle on your own." After a pause, she added, "Today, the business seems to be more building up the male stars."

As for retirement, it is not in the cards. The icon dismissed such a thought. "I don't even know what that word means!"

Those in New York City can catch Joan Collins' One Night With Joan Collins at the ballroom at Feinstein's at the Regency from November 16 -27, 2010. Go to Feinstein's at the Regency for exact times and pricing.

Kevin Scott Hall is the author of Off the Charts! (2010, iUniverse) and the memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart (2014, Wisdom Moon).