This week in the Mail Dame Joan Collins has been entertaining readers with her brilliantly indiscreet memoirs. Today, in this final extract, she tells of a thrilling encounter with a notorious U.S. president.
August 19, 1997
South of France
[Fashion designer] Valentino and [his partner] Giancarlo love Sharon Stone who, Va Va tells me, took 72 pieces from a Beverly Hills boutique saying, ‘I must have them [free] for my forthcoming tour.’ Well, I’ve got a forthcoming tour — but chance would be a fine thing! A discount is about the best I can hope for.
The last American President of the 20th century warmly greeted his guests, speaking to each of us as if we were the one and only people he’d been longing to see. Nice touch: Joan with Bill Clinton
Gained six pounds, which is enough to make me want to slit my wrists, but I’m working on losing it.
Walked across to Ivana Trump’s apartment on Madison with [billionaire] Anthony Bamford and his wife Carole. I’ve rarely seen anything so badly decorated in faux everything in my life. Velvet on the walls! And cornices painted glittering gold!! Ivana has a new boyfriend — a quite good-looking Italian who she whispered to me was wonderful in bed! Too much information.
Pictured, Joan Collins and her husband Percy Gibson in their home in St Tropez, France
June 6, 1999
David Niven Jr invited me to a special dinner given by Liza Minnelli and Burt Reynolds at Chasen’s on Beverly Boulevard. Liza, with her usual puppy-dog charm, hugged me hard and called me ‘my baby’.
As I’ve known her since she was 16 and I’m a decade older, this seemed a bit odd, but she’s adorable, which is more than I can say for the saturnine Mr Reynolds, who thinks he’s hot stuff. I’ve always thought him overrated in the movie star department, and I gather he’s not a very nice person.
A very intellectual lunch at the Spectator offices. Boris Johnson, the editor, has a deep, booming voice and looks like he brushes his hair with an eggbeater. Sitting next to him was Petronella Wyatt, who is rumoured to be his girlfriend, although he’s married.
Andrew Lloyd Webber hosted a screening of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I thought I was good as Mrs Potiphar. My enthusiasm was slightly dampened by Donny Osmond saying: ‘Joan Collins really loved running her hands up and down my body — she was really into it!’
Oh puh-leeze! In your dreams, Donny — it’s called acting.
Just met President Clinton for the first time. As we waited for him in the Oval Office, an intern divulged, without a trace of irony, that ‘the President uses the Oval Office mostly for business, but also for private matters’.
Suppressing a smile, I was suitably impressed when he strolled in moments later, smiling affably and clutching a can of Diet Coke. The last American President of the 20th century warmly greeted his guests, speaking to each of us as if we were the one and only people he’d been longing to see. This is an admirable quality, and a gift that precious few public figures possess.
He grasped my hands firmly; he has beautiful and expressive hands, by the way, and enormous feet. In his gentle Arkansas drawl, he asked all the appropriate questions. I must admit I was spellbound. The man has palpable sex appeal and is much taller and slimmer than I’d expected. He also has wonderful breath, but not from a surfeit of mints or mouthwash.
The White House photographer clicked away as the President pointed out a chunk of black rock that some astronaut or other had brought back from the moon. ‘It’s three-and-a-half billion years old! Amazing, isn’t it?’ I surprised myself by answering: ‘Almost as old as me’ — and he laughed.
After a further tour of the President’s working offices, we were next introduced to Buddy, the ‘First Dog’. He turned out to be a frisky character, who instantly developed an uncontrollable passion for my right leg. Maybe it’s something in the water there, or perhaps he just likes high heels.
February 2, 2000
At tonight’s Costume Designers Guild event at the Beverly Wilshire, I bumped into Sophia Loren (cool), Jane Seymour (friendly) and Harvey Keitel (‘Joan who?’)!
[Joan now embarked on a U.S. tour of Love Letters, a two-hander with actor George Hamilton. The company manager, Percy Gibson, quickly impressed her with his kindness and professionalism.]
In San Francisco, George was dating the novelist Danielle Steel, so Percy and I usually went out to dinner together after the show.
There were more than 30 years between us, but that didn’t matter one whit as our camaraderie flourished. I felt a great wave of warmth for this handsome young man.
I realised I’d run out of eyeliner. ‘I’ll get you some,’ offered Percy. When he returned, I opened the package to find a mascara wand. ‘Isn’t that it?’ he asked, a bit confused.
‘No,’ I said with a smile. ‘I wanted eyeliner. I guess you’re not gay!’ ‘Afraid not,’ he said, smiling back.
Received the script of [the movie] These Old Broads, which is not bad. The part of Addie, which supposedly they are offering to me, is a sort of sexpot who has to ‘bonk’ her Mafioso lover to death. Better get in some practice!
[Filming These Old Broads, with Debbie Reynolds, Liz Taylor and Shirley MacLaine.] It’s pushing 90f (32c) so even I am sweating. Debbie insists on wearing her wig all day. Shirley and I just tie our hair back, and tell her to do the same, but she says, ‘I only have three hairs left on my head, dear — I don’t want anybody to see me like that.’
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
The assistant director asks Liz Taylor what she wants to be called. ‘’Daaaaaame Elizabeth,’ she trills gaily. ‘I want eeeeverybody to call me Daaaaaame Elizabeth.’
‘Even on the call sheet?’ asks the AD. ‘And on my chair,’ she beams back.
Shirley, Debbie and I giggle. Only Dame Liz can get away with this, but everyone loves her. She looks quite frail and can’t walk very well. She’s also put the weight back on. When she was dating George Hamilton in the late 1980s, he put her on a diet, encouraged her to get a deep tan and put her in [Dynasty designer] Nolan Miller outfits. She looked utterly divine.
Joan Collins meets Princess Diana in London, circa 1987
First day of shooting. We all have individual trailers in a car park on Wilshire Boulevard. Debbie and ‘Dame Liz’ haven’t spoken for about 30 years, since Liz stole Eddie Fisher from Debbie. Debbie decides to bury the hatchet, so dashes across the car park to Liz’s trailer — in her robe and wigless!
A burst of flashbulbs ensues as the paparazzi, camped around the car park, record this historic moment. Three weeks on the closed set of rehearsals she has refused to take off her wig and this day she chooses not to wear it.
We shoot the first number in the movie when we’re all supposed to look young. Shirley turns to me as we’re sitting in the back of a 1960s convertible. ‘So tell me, what was my Warren really like?’
‘Well, you should know — you’re his sister!’
‘C’mon,’ she says, ‘what was he like in — you know?’
‘Overrated!’ I said succinctly. End of conversation!
Shirley keeps following me around, pushing an ice-cream cone into my face which I say I don’t want. ‘Go on, have some — you’re much too skinny,’ she says. I want to say, ‘. . . and you’re much too plump’, but I hold my tongue.
[Costume designer] Mark Zunino comes into my dressing room looking worried. ‘I was just watching rushes with the director and producers and Shirley — she’s not happy with your costumes.’
‘Why? Aren’t they in character?’ I asked.
‘Apparently, you look too good, especially in the white jacket slung over your shoulders in the strapless top. She said she and Deb look drab.’
‘That’s ridiculous. Shirley is supposed to be this oh-so-serious actress, Deb is a Las Vegas hotel owner, I’m the Goldie Hawn-type floozy. We’re all totally dressed in character.’
‘I know,’ he shrugged. ‘I guess we gotta tone you down.’
Maybe a touch of green eye here?
I had already appeared in one episode of Will & Grace and now they wanted me to do another.
Eventually, the script arrived and it was dire. To play a woman who insists on having an operation to get her shoulders extended by eight inches was, frankly, ludicrous.
I wailed to [my agent], ‘I can’t do this — a woman who gets a shoulder transplant, for God’s sake. Do you think they’ll rewrite it?’
Next day he spent a morning of fevered talks with the Will & Grace producers. The gist of the conversations was: ‘Who does Joan Collins think she is? She’s not doing Dynasty any more and we’re a hit show. We’re hot and she’s not. Tell her we won’t rewrite and she’s gotta do it the way it is.’
When my agent told me on the phone, I broke down in tears. Mercifully, Percy was there with a tender shoulder to cry on.
Before we knew it, we were in each other’s arms, and what we had both been thinking about for the past seven months finally happened. It was the moment I always felt would occur one day and it was just wonderful.
So now I was having a fully-fledged passionate affair with Percy, who was quite honestly sweeping me off my feet. It was giddy, it was fantastic, but I was not a young girl. I was a woman in her 60s in love with a man in his 30s.
We tried to keep it a secret but a few of my friends started to suspect, as we both had that heady glow that comes from being in love. He was the best lover I had ever had.
Nolan Miller had a screening of an early print of These Old Broads for 20 of our friends at his LA apartment. [My then partner] Robin Hurlstone came, as did Percy. It was an interesting evening, to say the least, particularly when the two first met and sized each other up. I sensed that male feeling of two stags at bay.
I could never do what a famous actor-friend of mine did when he wanted to end his long-term relationship: he instructed his agent to tell her: ‘It’s over — give back my keys’
Robin Hurlstone and Joan Collins at the Serpentine Gallery Kensington Gardens for the Serpentine Gallery 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Charity Auction
Robin fixed me with a beady, accusing eye. ‘This Percy fellow, you seem to talk about him a lot. Have you got a crush on him?’
‘A crush? Don’t be ridiculous,’ I spluttered, but I literally felt my face flame. I don’t think I have blushed since I was a teenager.
Later that night, I confessed everything to Robin. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. For someone who hates confrontation and hates even more hurting people close to me, it was intensely traumatic.
I could never do what a famous actor-friend of mine did when he wanted to end his long-term relationship: he instructed his agent to tell her: ‘It’s over — give back my keys.’
But it was clear to me that the Hurlstone relationship had been frozen in a not very mutually rewarding rut for several years, and that Percy and I had fallen madly in love. I didn’t know what the future held, but I felt so strongly about him that nothing else mattered.
February to March
Met with Robin again, in my flat, to reiterate that I wanted to end our relationship. He did not take it well, becoming upset and insulting about Percy and calling me ghastly.
Decided to go to Forest Mere, a health farm, and retreat for the weekend to make the final decision about what to do. After three days of staring zombie-like at the ceiling, thinking back over my years with Robin and what kind of future I had with a man who not only couldn’t stand most of my friends, my family and my children, but who also made me feel insecure, I made my decision.
Robin packed his toothbrush (which is all he ever kept at my flat), and shortly afterwards Percy and I left to begin our new life in New York City.
At a charity event at the Savoy, [London Mayor] Ken Livingstone gleefully informed me: ‘I’m determined to get all private cars off London roads.’
‘So how would I have travelled to this event?’ I inquired, dressed as I was in full evening drag.
‘You’d take the bus or Tube,’ he gloated, ‘or go by bike.’
Thanks, Red Ken, and how on earth am I supposed to pedal a bike in Jimmy Choo stilettos and white chiffon?
Premiere of Moulin Rouge!. When we arrived at our aisle seats, they were occupied by a very large man and his date. Even though Percy showed him our tickets, he refused to move.
He sat hunched over in his seat, staring blankly at the blank screen, totally ignoring the pleas of the usher to move ‘because you’re in the wrong seat’. What a putz. Eventually the usher had to show us to another pair of seats. I was surprised that the very large man was Donald Trump, who I’ve known since he and Ivana gave me a fabulous launch party at Trump Tower for my perfume Spectacular in the mid-1980s. Well, I was very popular then, not so much now. Nevertheless, to pretend he didn’t know me was rude.
The party after Moulin was quite good, even though we were seated at Harvey Weinstein’s table and seeing Harvey eat was not a pretty sight: he literally slobbers!
Actress Dame Joan Collins in her West Hollywood, California penthouse apartment in March 2015
Robin has taken to encouraging our mutual friends not to see me any more. It seems to have worked with [artist] Hugo Guinness and the Bamfords. It’s sad, after 12 years [together], that Robin is so spiteful. He also refers to me as ‘that ghastly woman’. Charming!
December 9, 2002
Bumped into Mr Trump again, coming out of the Minskoff Theatre, after the opening of Dance Of The Vampires. Mr T. had obviously heard that Percy and I are house-hunting in NY. He patted Percy on the shoulder and boomed: ‘You gotta come and see my new apartments opposite the UN buildings — they’re great.’
One week later, we went to have a look. The huge building is unbelievably windy. The apartment was small, badly designed and altogether nothing special, but over-priced. There was no closet space to speak of, which is no good for me. It’s really just a pied-à-terre for UN ambassadors.
‘Mr Trump will give you a special price,’ trilled the realtor. ‘Mr Trump would really love for you to live here. Do you watch his show?’
‘No,’ we said, and scurried off. Who does Mr Trump think he is?
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.