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Jackie's still wild at heart ; As her latest sexy novel is published, Hollywood blockbuster queen Jackie Collins has a good gossip with HANNAH...

September 28, 2013

YellowBrix

Jackie's still wild at heart ; As her latest sexy novel is published, Hollywood blockbuster queen Jackie Collins has a good gossip with HANNAH STEPHENSON about her life - which is just as glamorous as her books

CONFESSIONS Of A Wild Child might be a fitting title for Jackie Collins' autobiography, if it wasn't for the fact that it's actually the title of her latest novel.

The queen of glamour, who lives in the Hollywood Hills next door to Al Pacino, must have an address book that reads like a Who's Who of A-listers. But she seems to take it all in her stride, never taking La La Land and all its eccentricities too seriously.

She talks about researching her books on billionaires' yachts, partying with the likes of Tom Cruise and Sir Michael Caine and living life to the full at her sumptuous home.

Collins, 75, is entertaining but without any air of superiority, and can have a good gossip like the rest of us. Only her gossip is seriously five-star. This summer she had her family over to stay but she prefers to put her celebrity friends into hotels.

They're too demanding, she confides. I can't be doing breakfast, lunch and tea. When you come to my house, you've got to look after yourself. I have a housekeeper but she has her routine.

What does she miss most about the UK? The English sense of humour, she says, without hesitation.

We have a sense of irony that they don't quite have in America. They have a different humour in America. Maybe it's a bit ruder. The English have something a little more clever. The tour buses constantly passing her Hollywood mansion are the price you pay for being rich and famous, she reflects.

If I'm just running out to get the mail and I'm in my writing clothes - black sweats and ponytail - I'll pretend I'm the maid. If I've just come back from a TV show and I'm all glammed up I'll wave to them and say hello.

Critics may say that sexy writing has moved on with Fifty Shades and that Collins might be out of touch, but her book sales indicate otherwise.

More than 500 million copies of her novels have been sold in more than 40 countries around the globe, while her 29 best-selling books have never been out of print.

She's so successful that she's been awarded an OBE for services to fiction and charity - and she'll be visiting the UK in November to receive it.

I'm so excited about that. It's a great honour. I'll have to think about what I'm going to wear. Probably Chanel, darling, she says, laughing.

Her debut novel, The World Is Full Of Married Men, published in 1968, became a best-seller and was followed by a string of racy reads, including The Stud, The Bitch (both of which were adapted into films starring her sister Joan) and Chances, which introduced her feisty heroine Lucky Santangelo, who has appeared in eight books.

Collins has turned back time for her 30th novel, Confessions Of A Wild Child, to tell the story of Lucky's coming of age.

Navigating her teen years - boys, drugs, family dramas and adventures from Greek islands to Vegas penthouses - Lucky does everything except have sex, but then her creator insists you can have an awful lot of fun without going the whole way.

There's a lot of me in Lucky as a teenager. She's a street-smart teenager and I like to think that I was a street-smart teenager. Her father keeps her locked up in a Bel Air mansion.

Well my father didn't keep me locked up at all. I got out the window every day and went to clubs in Soho.

But the thing we do have in common is sex. Lucky says, 'OK, I'm going to do everything except...' I guess I saved myself too. I didn't want to get pregnant and you can have so much fun without going all the way.

Her parents, theatrical agent Joseph Collins and his wife Elsa, had no ambitions for their daughters, but Joan became an actress while Jackie half-heartedly followed in her sister's footsteps before becoming a writer.

Collins has been married twice, firstly in 1955 to fashion impresario Wallace Austin, with whom she had a daughter, Tracy.

The marriage was short-lived and Tracy was later adopted by Collins' second husband, gallery and nightclub owner Oscar Lerman, with whom she had another two daughters, Tiffany and Rory. They were married for 26 years until his death from prostate cancer in 1992.

After Lerman died, she fell in love with Italian businessman Frank Calcagnini. They were together for six years and engaged when he, too, died of cancer, this time a brain tumour.

Collins remains single, although she's never short of male company. I still have a nice rota of men who I can use for all occasions. I have my gay friends who are fantastic and I have men I can go to the movies or theatre with.

I'm like a bachelor. I do what I want to do. I've been married or engaged all my life, but now I'm free so I can do what I like.

Reflecting on her own teenage years, she says that adolescents today may seem more forward but they're still kids.

I was watching Miley Cyrus [twerking] on the Video Music Awards and everyone was saying, 'Oh, she went too far', but then the way I saw it, she was like a big excitable puppy, not a sexy woman. I don't think it's a great message to send out to young 12-year-old fans, but I should think that Lady Ga Ga was gnashing her teeth at all the attention Miley was getting.

Collins is still a social butterfly and loves sitting back and watching the rich and famous do their thing, unwittingly giving her plenty of material for her racy novels, but these days she picks and chooses her parties carefully. Her favourite evenings are spent at home catching up with all the TV shows she's missed, with a bar of Marks & Spencer chocolate and Bassett's Jelly Babies.

It's so glamorous, isn't it? she exclaims, laughing. I don't want a bottle of champagne, I just want Jelly Babies! The last party she hosted was for her sister Joan, who was celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary to Percy Gibson, she recalls.

Sidney Poitier was coming but had to go to this black tie event beforehand, so Joanna (his wife) asked me if it was all right if he brought a couple of friends.

So Sidney walks through my front door and on one side he had Harry Belafonte and on the other side he had Blair Underwood. That was a great moment. Three handsome black men. They looked incredible.

And that sums up the calibre of story from the queen of the racy read.

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