By Duane Wells
Originally published on Advocate.com October 15 2009 2:05 PM ET
Actress, author, and television icon Joan Collins, has never been a
shrinking violet. And after over 50 years in show business she
apparently has no intention of becoming one.
Whether playing sex
kittens, historical heroines, or the villainous ex-wife of a certain
Denver-based oil baron, Joan Collins has developed a reputation in
Hollywood for portraying the kind of brassy characters who
refuse to fade into the background. Collins has throughout her career
enjoyed a considerable gay following, which was only boosted by her
iconic role as vengeful Alexis Carrington Colby on the ’80s television
phenomenon Dynasty. And now, just like those strong-willed,
irrepressible characters, Collins will once again take center stage and
boldly draw back the curtain on both her career and storied personal
life in An Evening With Joan Collins, which makes its West Coast
debut on Friday, October 16, at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in
Long Beach, Calif. It is the first of what Collins hopes will be
many nights on this side of the pond for her one-woman show, which has
already toured the United Kingdom to rave reviews.
Filled with anecdotes, photos, and video clips that trace the path of her eventful life, An Evening With Joan Collins
promises audiences an irreverent firsthand trip down the memory lane of
Collin’s roller-coaster past — from her early pinup model days to
working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Collins promises to hold back very few of the dishiest moments from
her whirlwind, multifaceted show business journey, which began before
she even hit puberty.
“I first appeared on the stage when I was 9 years old. In fact, I
missed my cue and was soundly told off by the director,” Collins
recalls with a laugh.
Despite that somewhat inauspicious
beginning to her career, Collins obviously went on to become a
Hollywood leading lady, and it is this period of her life along with the
years that ensued that Collins opens up about in her one-woman show.
goes through my life as a young actress in England playing juvenile
delinquent parts and runaway girls and girls who get pregnant by
mistake,” Collins says of her show.
“Then it goes into my life
in Hollywood when I did movies with Paul Newman, Richard Burton, Bette
Davis, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Gregory Peck and then my personal life
and marriages a bit. And then, of course, it goes into a lot — a lot — of Dynasty. [Laughs] And it is all illustrated with
photographs and home movies and clips from movies I did. It’s about an
hour and 15 minutes of sheer entertainment. [Laughs] I think anyone who likes this business is going to like this a lot.” Not
surprisingly, Collins doesn’t hold back when it comes to dissing on
Tinseltown A-listers, some of whom impressed her and many of whom
turned out to be major disappointments. Collins reveals that she had a
frosty relationship with Bette Davis.
“When I did The Virgin Queen
with her, I and five other girls between the ages of 18 and 21 played
her ladies-in-waiting and she didn’t like any of us, so she stomped
around the set being quite angry,” Collins says of her experience
working with Davis.
“I had a scene with her and I was trying to
lace up her shoe ... and she kept wriggling her foot so I couldn’t do the
shoe up and finally she kicked me clear across the set! That really
annoyed our director, who said to me, ‘You’re thirty years younger than
her! Do up the old bag’s shoes, for God’s sake.’” So I did and I gripped
her foot ... and she didn’t mess with me much after that. But she wasn’t
much of a fan of young ladies. She was irascible. That’s hardly news to
It was the late actor Gregory Peck who inspired Collins to
open up about her life in such vivid detail onstage. “About 10 years
ago I was sitting next to him at a dinner. I worked with him and he was
a very good friend, and he told me he had been going around doing this,”
Collins recounts. “So many people always asked me about my life, and I
have had a quite fascinating life, I guess. I mean, I’ve been so busy
living it that I haven’t really concentrated on thinking about how
fascinating it was. So I just sort of thought I’d like to do [this
show]. And I love doing it.”
Though she is forthright and candid
about much of her life in her new show, including her five marriages
and her drawn-out legal battle over a manuscript with Random House —
an experience that she says nearly gave her an ulcer — Collins still
believes that some things should remain private.
“I think that,
particularly in England, one of the reasons why people like me is that
they don’t know everything about me,” Collins says.
instance, I wouldn’t dream of going on Facebook or Twitter. I have a
website that says a lot about my life and my career, but I don’t do
‘Dear friends, I’m going to the supermarket today because I need a dozen
At age 76, with 13 books, a library of film and
television appearances, and a string of awards and honors to her credit,
Collins says she has no intention of slowing down on her work or
cutting back on her jet-set life with her fifth husband, Percy Gibson,
to whom she has been married since 2002.
“I believe that, as
Auntie Mame said, ‘Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving
to death,’ Collins responds when asked why she continues to work so
hard at this point in her career, when many of her contemporaries have
bowed out of the game altogether.
“I really believe in living
life to the fullest,, and as much as I love lying around on the sofa and
watching TV, I’m not so keen on doing that all the time. I love acting,
I love writing, I love performing, and I’ll just be doing that until a
cruel reality decides it’s time for me to stop.”
For more information visit CarpenterArts.org.