JOAN COLLINS on how Hollywood's a cruel town for actresses

Diary of a devilish diva: JOAN COLLINS on how Hollywood’s a cruel town for actresses, and if you’re over 40… forget it!

Yesterday, in the second extract from her brilliantly barbed memoirs, DAME JOAN COLLINS recalled a boorish personal attack by Donald Trump. Today she turns the tables on a star-studded list of celebrities… 

January 20, 1995

Los Angeles

Sit next to [TV producer] George Schlatter at a party in honour of a well-known actor. 

Ninety-nine per cent of the women are wearing black, with the exception of Shakira Caine in red, and me in white.

Then a flurry of excitement as the latest widow in town arrives looking like the cat that’s just swallowed the canary. 

She has Jack Nicholson in tow, a coup indeed. An immediate hum of excited conversation begins in various corners as everyone discusses the ramifications of this latest pairing.

Actress Dame Joan Collins in her West Hollywood, California penthouse apartment in March 2015

We drink some wine and watch Tony Curtis — wearing a fake-looking grey curly wig — go to the bathroom for the third time. ‘What is he doing?’ I ask ingenuously.

‘What do you think?’ says George laconically. ‘You’ve obviously not been in Hollywood for a while.’

October 6 1996

Off I go to Paramount for the Star Trek 30-year celebrations. As I face a phalanx of photographers for the de rigueur posing and pouting, the sun is so intense that I can feel my make-up sliding down my face. 

Usual banal questions asked: What did you think of Star Trek? What was your favourite moment?

How the hell should I know? I’ve never watched the damn thing. 

However, since I was in one of the favourite episodes, City On The Edge Of Forever, I try to reply intelligently. 

I ‘network’ with a few people then greet Bill Shatner, Cap’n Kirk himself. He is shorter than I remember, his round pink face is sweating profusely and he is wearing a nice curly wig.

I ask Bill a few questions — for example, is he introducing me?

He seems not to know the answer to any questions. In fact, he seems not to know why he’s here at all.

October 10

Stay in, eat salad, read junk magazines and watch junk TV. There is so much bad stuff on the air it is terrifying. 

Watch Friends, a hugely popular series with six or eight 30-somethings in it. David Schwimmer seems to have the most talent, but the girls are pretty. Frankly I don’t even smile.

October 12

Party time again. [Dynasty costume designer] Nolan Miller and I arrive at [billionaire] Marvin Davis’s lavish mansion, one of the most glamorous in Beverly Hills. 

I am wearing my new red Chanel jacket. Caviar is served and everybody makes really nice and tells everyone how wonderful we all are.

Then we drive to Century City to [actress] Dani Jannsen’s glamorous penthouse apartment, where she is giving a party for Clint Eastwood and his new wife, Dina. As usual at Dani’s it’s wall-to-wall stars and celebrities.

She always pulls out some of Hollywood’s finest. She has the knack. Among the above-the-title names, other than Clint, are Pierce Brosnan, Shirley MacLaine, Jim Carrey, James Woods and James Coburn. 

Clint Eastwood and Dina come over. She’s very good-looking and sexy and several months pregnant. A woman who knows what she’s doing. She’s about 30-something and has got her man. Clint is adorable.

I apparently have one of the best seats between Frank Sinatra and Gregory Peck and opposite Roger, who is seated next to Barbara Sinatra

October 14

Tart myself up as well as I can and am picked up by David Niven Jr and we whisk ourselves to Le Dome for Roger Moore’s 69th birthday, being given to him by Kristina [Tholstrup, later his wife]. She is a nervous wreck, clutching my hand and whispering this is the first party she’s given for tout Hollywood. There are 26 people at a rather beautiful table.

The flower arrangements are stunning. Huge displays of different coloured red roses and the whole table scattered with thousands of rose leaves.

I apparently have one of the best seats between Frank Sinatra and Gregory Peck and opposite Roger, who is seated next to Barbara Sinatra. 

Mine is not an easy draw because Frank Sinatra is not and never has been interested in talking about anything other than himself, and now that he is, to be kind, getting on a bit, his mind wanders a lot. 

Luckily, Veronique Peck is on his right and they know each other extremely well so she bails me out many times. Barbara Sinatra keeps a watchful eye on him from across the table, occasionally barking: ‘Did you take your pills, Frank?’

It’s frightfully sad to see this golden icon now a befuddled old man. I prefer talking to Greg Peck who, although a little dull, is adorable and regales me with stories about his one-man show and says I should do one.

The caviar and baked potato arrive and Kristina gets up to make an emotionally charged speech about how much she and Roger have enriched each other’s lives, etc. 

As jaded Hollywoodians, nobody wants to listen. All they want to do is eat their caviar and get the hell out of there in time to watch the ten o’clock news.

After the entrée [billionaire’s wife] Barbara Davis announces gleefully, ‘Why don’t we all go around the table and everyone say how we feel about Roger.’ 

An audible sigh of horror escapes from everybody. ‘I don’t want to perform,’ mutters Greg Peck, but around the table we go.

Everybody brings out the platitudes. When it comes to me I say — which I think is quite witty but doesn’t get even a titter except from Roger — ‘Darling Roger, I’ve known you through thick and through thin, and through Tony Curtis.’ (They disliked each other.)

During everybody’s speeches, Sinatra keeps saying in a loud voice like a five-year-old: ‘What’s going on — why is everybody talking — is it time to leave yet?’

Veronique Peck tries to soothe the savage beast’s brow. Marvin Davis speaks, then Niven Jr, who is very witty, and we finally finish. 

I’m quite enjoying myself as Niven and I keep making silly faces at each other across the table. 

After the birthday cake and the obligatory singing, there is a stampede to the exit, but I can’t get out as Kristina grabs my arm in terror. ‘Why is everybody leaving?’ she whispers. ‘It’s only just turned 11 o’clock.’

‘That’s Hollywood,’ I say, and whisper to Niven, ‘We must stay for a bit longer.’ I still don’t understand this desperation to get away from any social event, but everyone does it.

Joan Collins meets Princess Diana in London, circa 1987

October 20

[Publicist] Jeffrey Lane picks me up and we go to Alana’s [Rod Stewart’s ex-wife] for a small, very fun dinner. 

Sit around the dinner table until half-past ten telling stories and really enjoying ourselves. 

It’s practically unheard of in Hollywood to do this, as everyone wants to escape and nobody really has that much to say to each other.

October 21

[Producer] Gary Pudney picks me up and we go to Mortons for dinner — the fashionable Monday nightspot. 

It’s full of bigwigs and studio heads, but I don’t understand how people recognise each other since everybody looks so alike. 

Gary says: ‘Get all the money you can and sock it away so you can go and live where the real people are — the other side of the Atlantic.’ He’s right — there’s a barrenness to life out here. True friendships are rare.

October 25

Arrive at the Carousel Ball with [Dynasty clothes designer] Nolan Miller. 

We fight, yes literally fight, our way through several rooms packed with gawpers and smartly dressed, facelifted, toupee’d, overly tanned, skin-stretched Beverly Hills matrons and their partners.

Shirley MacLaine is chatting to Kevin Costner, who is really cute, if a bit thin on top. 

We go in and get a vodka and Rod Stewart comes up — he is very funny, charming and witty, more than you can say for most here. 

Within 20 seconds of him and me talking, [billionaire’s wife] Barbara Davis has zoomed in like an eagle to its prey and almost elbows me aside to get her photo opportunity with Rod.

What is so amazing at these occasions is that it’s flashing the molars at the camera and saying: ‘Darling, you look wonderful,’ and frankly my dear, nobody gives a damn. 

On the way to my table, I stop to greet Sophia Loren with her son Eduardo. She’s looking very good in a tight-fitting copper-laced Nolan [Miller] but she has very odd teeth. They look like they’ve been carved out of ivory and are very big!

Raquel (Welch) is wearing the most awful rhinestone necklace, bracelet and earrings and she is not exactly svelte, although her skin is good.

Nolan and I dash to the bar and have a cigarette and a vodka and talk about how ghastly the ball is so far. In the loo I see Melanie Griffith in a fabulous strapless black-and-white dress.

‘Didn’t you just have a baby?’ I ask in amazement. ‘Yes,’ she smiles; she has nice teeth. ‘You look fabulous,’ I say. 

I must stop telling everybody they look fabulous. But I don’t want them to stop saying it to me. It’s the buzzword — ‘You look great — you look fabulous. How are you?’ ‘I’m good.’

[Talk-show host] Jay Leno comes on. I happen to think he is one of the unfunniest men in America as well as one of the most unattractive. He is also wearing more make-up than me and Raquel put together.

It is so cold in the ballroom you could hang meat. Raquel has borrowed a dinner jacket from her boyfriend, who looks like Pierce Brosnan. 

When I ask her where she met him, she’s snappy and doesn’t want to answer. [Author] Dominick Dunne tells us about his new book.

Joan Collins, 88, (pictured) dishes tales from her new memoir My Unapologetic Diaries as she documents dinners and events with her celebrity friends in London and Hollywood in the 90s

‘What’s it about?’ smiles Raquel, flashing the molars. ‘The O.J. trial,’ says Nick. ‘Ooh, is there a part for me?’ asks Raquel eagerly.

Nolan and I raise eyebrows. We go back to my apartment and have another stiff vodka and Nolan tells me various secrets which, dear diary, I repeat only to you. 

Ha Ha. ‘Elizabeth [Taylor] is such a mess,’ he says sadly. ‘She has nothing to live for. She doesn’t care about anything — she’s so fat that I want to cry. All her beauty has completely gone and she just lies around and does nothing.’

‘What about her grandchildren and children?’ I ask.

‘Oh, they’re around,’ he says. ‘But she’s just not interested. She’s not interested in anything.’

‘What about her 65th birthday celebration coming up?’ I ask.

‘She doesn’t want to do that,’ he says. ‘She’s just doing it, I guess, for something to do.’

‘Well, Sophia seems in good shape,’ I volunteer.

‘Yes, she is,’ he says. ‘But she is always being told what to do by her sons. For example, they’ll say you can’t wear that, you can’t look sexy, you’re 60-something years old, you can’t do that.’

‘Wow, if my kids said that they’d get an earful.’

November 13

Flying British Airways to New York in ‘the coffin’. These recliners are fine when you go straight to sleep, which I did after four glasses of wine and a large port and watching Demi Moore’s fabulous thighs and Burt Reynolds’s ridiculous toupee in Striptease. I was awakened by a stewardess shaking me, which threw me.

‘Don’t touch me,’ I snapped, alienating everybody around me. ‘I don’t like to be pushed awake.’

It reminds me of the Blitz when it happened every night.

November 19

Back in LA again. Spent yesterday in a complete depression — jet lag, out of work, and what the hell am I doing here?

November 20

Gary Pudney still obsessed with Elizabeth Taylor’s forthcoming 65th birthday celebration, which he is producing. ‘How am I going to do all of this on February 16 without a husband?’ Liz wailed to him. ‘Oh, don’t worry,’ Gary replied. ‘It’s three months away. By that time, you’ll have one.’

November 21

Whisked through the rain to the Raffallo Club to meet Anne Archer and Terry Jastrow. The place was filled with cackling single women, behaving utterly appallingly and staring at Anne and me and making catty remarks. It’s basically an upmarket knocking shop.

Anne is very intelligent and we’re on the same wavelength, particularly about women’s issues and the difficulty of work for actresses.

‘I haven’t worked for over a year. All the older girl parts are going to Rene Russo,’ Anne said without bitterness.

She said it like it was, but the way it is is not good. Hollywood

is a cruel, hard town for actresses, any way you slice it. And if you’re over 40, fergeddaboutit!

November 22

Lunched at Le Dome with David Niven Jr. One of those great English-type lunches. We all smoked and drank without feeling like pariahs, as usually happens.

Sitting in a corner was a woman with the most terrible face job I’ve ever seen. She shall be nameless, but she was married to a very famous actor and is a real estate agent. She had silicone implants in her cheeks some two decades ago.

These slipped down her face and she has since had 30 plastic surgeries to try to correct this. 

She looks like Dracula’s grandmother, and is the epitome of Hollywood’s quest for beauty gone wrong.

Got a call from Betty Miller at my fabulous agency. NOT. She informed me that although she had been in talks with CBS, they were not prepared to go forward with me ‘on anything particularly right now’ even though they ‘loved me’ and thought I was ‘part of the family’.

What a load of utter crap, but one must accept this if one is going to live in Tinseltown. ‘The trouble is,’ said my agent, ‘I think CBS still visualises you too strongly as Alexis.’

Robin Hurlstone and Joan Collins at the Serpentine Gallery Kensington Gardens for the Serpentine Gallery 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Charity Auction

November 28

I’ve just talked to Robert Wagner on the telephone, and he couldn’t believe I have not worked, acting-wise, for 14 months. 

The studios only want some 20-year-old that hasn’t done anything. What am I doing knocking my head against a brick wall with producers, few of whom even remember me in any case?

When I see the utter s*** that is on television and the dull performers that are on the screen, I just feel what is the point? If it wasn’t for the money, I’d get the hell out.

Extracted from My Unapologetic Diaries by Joan Collins, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on October 14 at £20. © Joan Collins 2021. 

To order a copy for £17 (offer valid until October 17, 2021; UK P&P free on orders over £20), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. 

Dame Joan Collins is on tour in London, Bath and Salford from October 11 to 17. For tickets and further information, go to fane.co.uk/joan-collins.

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