Tags: Famous actors. Celebrities. Joan Collins
My first fond memories as a teenager of the beautiful JOAN COLLINS go back to the early 1950s, when, with much excitement, I would open each latest issue of Photoplay Magazine, looking for Joan’s extraordinary fashion design sketches appearing regularly. Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she makes her stage debut aged nine, her first movie at 18 in 1951 and appears regularly in British theatre, films, TV, and in Hollywood movies after 1955.
But it’s not until 1981 that Joan is catapulted to global superstardom, with her role as the vengeful, manipulating ex-wife, Alexis Colby Carrington, in DYNASTY, the box office gold TV series. This phenomenal soap opera runs for 9 years, with Joan receiving the GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS 1982. And this life-changing success enables her now to do so much more with residences in London, Los Angeles, New York and Saint Tropez. But it’s just before the start of filming Dynasty that I’m invited for a photoshoot of Joan’s and third husband’s (Ron Kass) 18th-century house in Mayfair.
Joan’s bedroom is the most creative and spectacular I have ever seen: the walls covered impressively in elegant brocade; the ceiling in pleated satin; brocade covered sewerage pipes cut in half as the bed base; and the mirrored headboard originally designed especially for Joan in her movie THE BITCH. Joan loves speaking about her special room. “I knew exactly what I wanted long before it was built. I have always used dress fabrics for decorating and saw that bedroom in my mind months in advance.
I usually make instant decisions and my room was to look very much 1930’s and like a movie star’s bedroom. I’ve always had practical round bedside tables because I spend a lot of time in bed. When I’m not working, I go to bed at half-past nine. I read, I write my books, watch TV, do my letters and bills. “I like to have a lot of space around the bed, a huge area for trays of food, and so on. But it’s messy. So this time I thought I’d have all the junk in drawers, which we found in Italy and personally carted back to England instead of waiting for a two months delivery.
We have a vacuum cleaner attachment which hoovers the walls and ceiling. There is double glazing, so very little dust.” Different story when my photographer and I try to start shooting the distinctly masculine mirror-tiled bathroom and Katyana’s bedroom! We can’t do either before I vacuum the bedroom floor, full of dust devils under the bed and furniture. Nor can the bathroom be photographed until we remove the white soap scum, filling the brown ceramic vanity basin, showing up as a double image with the mirror behind the basin making it incredibly visible.
But it doesn’t take long and we don’t mind doing it, yet are a bit surprised and have a grin on our faces. And does Joan love renovating, both for friends and herself! “It gives me great pleasure to renovate a place like this Mayfair house, keeping the character of 260 years ago, yet bringing modernity and livability into it. None of the shelf units, cupboards, cocktail bar and bookshelves was here. I get much satisfaction from creating a large space where it doesn’t seem feasible and putting things together seeing they really do match. “It’s been Ron’s house since the ’60s when he was managing director of the Beatles, and there‘s really only one major room per floor. But Ron and I had all our children in this house, although on five floors.”
Where many a childhood dream fades into oblivion with growing up, Joan always remembered where hers lay. “I was interested in Art Deco from a very early age, although I didn’t know what it was called then. I used to go to the library at school and look up that short period between the two World Wars. But I was not interested in the furniture, only in the designs of the dresses, the hair and the makeup.” But this talented English girl from Paddington is more than an actress, author, columnist, mother of 5 children and house renovator.
And in 2002, Joan will become the wife of her 5th husband Percy Gibson, a marriage, unlike the other four, which will already have lasted 17 years by 2019. And in 2015 she will become Dame Collins, honoured by Queen Elizabeth II for services to charity. But let’s get back to 1980 when renovating is still a real passion. “I’ve never stayed longer than three years in any one house other than as a child – 10 different houses in the past 20 years. I decorated my first house in 1966 when I was married to Anthony Newley. I decorated a house in Hampstead and stayed for two years. Then back to California for 18 months with a pool and tennis court.
After that a beautiful marble and glass house in L.A, which freaked me out. I couldn’t stay there alone at night – I was too frightened, so sold it after 18 months and now bought another, which I really like and do so hope we will keep.” Joan pauses with a deep and nostalgic sigh. “I’m a sort of a gypsy and one of those people who can’t throw things away. I even have magazines and records going back to the 1950s. I like possessions. Unfortunately, they end up owning me.”