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The always engaging Joan Collins is headed to my neck of the woods for some hot diva action, and the gays have been duly alerted. The 80-year star—who flourished as the eyeball-flaring, epaulet-wearing Alexis Carrington on the 1980s’ prime-time soap hit Dynasty—is swinging into NYC for a Daniel Nardicio-produced event at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on November 5, turning Times Square into a glam wonderland.
En route, I stopped Joan to clink sparkling water glasses and have a spicy little phone chat about approbation and accessories.
Michael Musto: Hello, Joan. What will you do at B.B. King’s? It’s basically a soul club. Will you sing Aretha Franklin songs?
Joan Collins: Singing? I’m not singing.
I was kidding.
There will be clips of me singing with Bing Crosby and with Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds, and Anthony Newley. It’s mostly me talking about my life, with lots and lots of clips.
Why do you feel the gays love you so much?
Because I think gay people love glamorous women, and I think I’m glamorous. And I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but I’ve been told it often enough. Also, they know I’m a nice person, haha.
I think it’s more than just glamour. It’s the cult of personality.
It was also being one of the first people on television with a gay son, in Dynasty. Blake threw him out of his life. That had an effect on very young gay men. We received a lot of mail about it.
Dynasty was such delicious fun for years, but do you feel it went off the rails at some point?
Absolutely. The Moldavian massacre was one thing and The Colbys was another that put the nail in the coffin.
Agreed! But the public has always been fascinated with you vs. Linda Evans—a real yin and yang, if ever there was one.
That was one of the reasons the show was so popular—Linda and myself being at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. I also think, looking back on Dynasty, it was an incredibly glamorous show. Everybody in it was seriously good looking. And it appealed to the public because of that and because the people were mostly rich. They liked to see them having a lot of problems.
People got a vicarious thrill out of seeing rich people suffer.
I don’t know. You said that. Probably.
Moving up to date, is it true that you were you mad at Shirley Jones’s new memoir for saying you, Newley, Shirley, and Jack Cassidy once almost had a swinger’s foursome?
Mad at it?
Well, you wanted a correction, right?
I expect that if a person writes a biography, that they get their facts right. The incident she refers to, I was not there. Whoever this woman was, it wasn’t me.
Were you mad that it was implying you were maybe bisexual?
I don’t know what she was implying. All I know is I was not present. I have written autobiographies, and I’m pretty good at checking my facts.
Will she amend future printings?
On a more upbeat note, I just saw a movie on YouTube called Decadence, and it really showed your range and talent. You were great.
I loved that movie. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done.
Were you generally typecast by movies?
That’s the problem—you get into a rut you’re basically put in by casting directors and producers. I was pigeonholed in the 1950s in Britain. I made my first film at 17. I played a juvenile delinquent. I made about five films—in each I played a young girl gone wrong or a baby prostitute. If you look dark and sultry, they pigeonhole you into that type of person. Although in The Virgin Queen—my first Hollywood film—I played a very virtuous lady in waiting. And I did a Star Trek in which I was a very virtuous missionary worker. So there’s been variety.
Were you typed all over again after Dynasty, this time as a snappy grand dame?
Henry Winkler told me, “After you get out of a successful series, it will take a good five or six years before people can accept you as something else.” In my case, because I don’t look dissimilar to the way I looked as Alexis, it’s taken longer.
So it took 20 years for people’s perception to change?
I don’t think people’s perception has changed.
But you carry on. What’s your secret for longevity in the biz?
Good genes, luck, and never being carried away by the huge amount of approbation I’ve received. “Biggest female TV star in the world,” blah blah, “most glamorous” and all that. It never went to my head.
Any regrets? Like “Why did I agree to play Polyester Poontang in [then-hubby] Newley’s Felliniesque and racy Can Heironymus Merkin…?
That is nothing compared to what they show today on television. Every single show we watch has a hardcore sex scene. I don’t regret Polyester Poontang. That was toward the end of my marriage.
Did it further the end of your marriage, by any chance?
Yeah, it did.
What’s the part that got away for you?
Obviously, it was Cleopatra. Everybody knows about that. [I did know that. Liz Taylor got the part. Just checking.]
I saw an interesting 1970 movie you did called Up in the Cellar.
I never saw it. Why did you find it interesting?
It was a followup to a movie I love called Three in the Attic, and it was anti-establishment and very of its time. I also enjoyed a fun and trashy 1975 film where you had a satanic spawn, called The Devil Within Her.
It’s a very good horror film. What do you mean by “trashy”?
Well, um, it’s just fun. “Trashy” is a good word to me, don’t worry.
What do you think of movies today?
There are a lot of serious films about slavery and other historical topics coming out now. Important stuff. But I love a good musical!
I love musicals too!
Fab. See you at B.B. King’s.
MUSTO'S COLUMN CONTINUES ON THE FOLLOWING PAGE
A FISH CALLED WONDER
As I just mentioned, this year’s big Oscar movies are mostly about the stirring fight for survival (12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Gravity), but since I also love musicals, let me report that on Broadway, it’s all about getting by via imagination, pretense, and some production numbers. Big Fish is based on the novel and film about the tall-tale-spinning man who’s allegedly friends with a mermaid, a giant, and a witch, but who can’t seem to get close to his very real son. At times, the result seems like a throwback to all those ‘80s and ‘90s musicals that flattened out quirky movies via Broadway-ization (Smile, Big), though this one has smart staging by Susan Stroman and a winning performance by two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz, whose talent for “quirking” could outdo Miley Cyrus’s twerking skills. The visual effects—from three elephants’ backsides to the title creature’s triumphant leap—are well pulled off and there’s slick professionalism at work here. But by Act Two, the merely serviceable score becomes a bit wearying and one wonders if this fish was better off left uncooked.
Coming up is another ode to ingenuity and wild storytelling, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder, based on the book that led to the classic film Kind Hearts and Coronets. The plot has a British guy who’s ninth in line for a vast family fortune deciding to knock off the eight relatives standing in his way so he can grab the loot. All of those relations are played by Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife), who’s clearly angling for eight more Tonys. At a meet-and-greet, two clever numbers were performed, one of them a male duet called “It’s Better With a Man,” suggestively enough. Afterwards, the director, Darko Tresnjak, told me I was right to catch whatever meanings were implied in that number. “Especially since the song ends with, ‘Bottoms up!’ ” I cracked.
Tresnjak told me that Mays plays two women (out of the eight characters), one an actress doing Hedda Gabler and the other a lady with a superficial compulsion for social causes. “The show’s too witty to make it,” I cracked. (A joke; I think it’ll be big.) “I was wondering the same thing,” he smiled. “I’ve been compiling a list of people this will offend: Priests, clergymen…” “After the success of Book of Mormon, no need to worry,” I assured. For Broadway, thankfully, “offensive” has become a really good word.