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“This is the house Hollywood Wives built,” Jackie Collins declares as she settles in to answer questions about her latest novel (available now) from St. Martin’s Press, The Santangelos, from the living room inside her spacious spread located in the Beverly Hills flats neighborhood.
She’s referring to her 1983 novel, one of many best-sellers she’s had during her storied career, which according to her publisher, includes more than 400 million books sold — enough to buy many houses in Los Angeles. But not so fast. “I don’t want to be up in the hills. People say, ‘Why didn’t you build your house in the hills?’ I say, ‘Because I hate the hills. I don’t like Bel Air. It’s so pretentious. Huge gates and you’re going to have 8,000 housekeepers and all that shit. I’m not into that,’” Collins explains. “This is a very peaceful house. I’m right on a busy street and it’s got a nice calm aura about it. And I like to be able to walk. I’m from London originally and we walk.”
And if you didn’t already know, the 77-year-old scribe also likes to speak her mind, dish on Hollywood and have a good laugh along the way. THR caught up with Collins to chat about the new epic novel, her favorite TV shows and why she’s single.
Congratulations on the new book. You’ve been writing about this family for so many years.
Since the ‘80s, when I wrote Chances. I’ve written nine books about them. This character, Lucky Santangelo, goes on forever. I did two miniseries with her, which I wrote and produced for NBC, Lady Boss and Lucky Chances. And in Lucky Chances, her mum was played be Sandra Bullock, one of her first TV shows. She [Lucky] was played by Nicolette Sheridan in a dark wig, who looked fabulous. And in the second one, Kim Delaney played her, from Army Wives. She was great. She’s been a character that, you know, people come to me on Twitter all the time — I’m very big on social media, love it — and they go, “Lucky’s gotta come back! More books about Lucky!” And I’m like, I’ve written nine books about her! So this is kind of an epic story about the Santangelos. It’s about drug dealers. It’s about Max, becoming the it girl, like a Cara Delevingne in Europe. It’s about Bobby, her incredibly Kennedy-esque son who owns nightclubs, gets set up for a murder he didn’t commit. And of course, Lucky has to solve all these problems. Meanwhile, someone very close to her gets assassinated.
How long did it take you to write?
It took me about nine months, because I still write in longhand, do all my research on Google, which is great, because you can just go there, “Oh, I need a Russian swearword for ‘f—-head.’ Oh yeah, here we are.” Which is fantastic. It was just a fun book to write. I loved writing it.
Tell me about your process, because nine months for a writer can either be a short time or it can be a long time. But I imagine you’re efficient when you write?
Yes. I’m up at 8. I read the papers, check the computer, see what’s going on and then I take my coffee and I go into the back of the house and I’ve got a beautiful room back there which is just for writing. And I’ll write. I’ll stay from about 9:30 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. It’s a long day, but then I will come back to the main house and do my favorite thing, which is watch TV.
You are a self-described TV addict.
I’m a TV addict. I really should go to a meeting because some days I wake up and think, ‘F— it! I just want to sit here and watch TV all day. I don’t want to write.’ I have to say to myself, ‘No. You cannot watch TV until 4 o’clock.’ And then I’m writing and looking at my watch, because there’s so many programs. There’s so many good programs. Are you watching Outlander? Oh my god. Ask me about the last episode and the male rape scene. And the full-frontal male nudity! Now you’re going to be watching it.
What else are you watching?
Ray Donovan is my favorite show. I love Shameless. Great show. Younger, which is kind of good. I like that. Unreal, have you started to watch that?
No, but I read that you’ve been watching it.
I love it. I think it’s really interesting because it’s behind the scenes of these Bachelorette and Bachelor shows, and I’m sure it’s absolutely the truth.
What have you tried watching that you couldn’t get through?
I couldn’t watch Botched because I don’t want to watch all these people doing terrible things to themselves. I couldn’t watch Honey Boo Boo because why would I want to watch a bunch of hillbillies? I couldn’t watch Dance Moms because I didn’t want to see a woman screaming at a bunch of children.
What about the Duggars?
No. I would never watch that. That doesn’t appeal to me. I love the Millionaire house thing, you know, the guys in New York and the guys in LA. They’re hilarious. I watch it for them, and then you see great houses and apartments and things. That’s good reality.
Do you think TLC should cancel the Duggars’ reality show?
I couldn’t care less. I’ve never even seen it. I never want to see it. Who cares, you know? You have all these children and you’re supposed to be a celebrity? Give me a break. A rabbit could have that.
Back to the book. It’s about drug dealers and you write a lot about drugs. You were married to a drug addict yourself.
My first husband, unfortunately, was. He got into the habit through his shrink, who said, ‘You suffer from depression, and I’m going to give you something that will fix that.’ He gave him methedrine, which was speed. It was so sad to see that. My second husband owned clubs, so I would sit in the clubs every night, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, they’d all be there, so I would see all of these goings-on, not from those particular people, but from other people, the periphery people who wanted to hang along with them. There were drugs everywhere. I never indulged myself. I experimented once with everything, because I think you should do that in life. My philosophy for women is this: if you’re going to get married and have a fabulous marriage, which I did have in my second marriage, if you’re going to do that, then you’re going to have to do everything you’ve ever wanted to do before you get married. Then you’re not looking out of your marriage and saying, What have I missed? Because you haven’t missed anything. That’s what I did. I was a wild child.
Do you think this town is full of enablers?
It’s full of enablers. My husband had a club here, Tramp, and it was in the Beverly Center. It was a fabulous club and very exclusive. A movie star would come in and would pay the price of being a member of the club but then would say, ‘You gotta have my friend join.’ And of course, the friend is a drug dealer. Before you know it, you’ve got major drug dealers supplying drugs for everybody who’s perfectly happy to get them. The things I’ve seen in that club were unbelievable — 15-year old girls giving blowjobs to movie stars in the screening room, and girls following movie stars into the men’s room. We had to put a guard outside of the men’s room so the girls couldn’t get into the men’s room. Because you know, you offer a guy a blow job, is he going to say no?
You have admirable career longevity, and that’s something that a lot of people can’t claim. How have you been able to sustain?
I’m very down to earth. I’ve written 32 books. I’m a school dropout. I was recently awarded an OBE by the Queen of England, and when I met the Queen, I shook her hand and she pinned the thing on me, and she said, “Oh, Ms. Collins, I understand you’ve written tons of books,” and I go, “Yeah, not bad for a school dropout.” That’s how I feel.
Do you have hopes for Santangelos as a movie?
Always. I had the two mini-series that I told you about, that I did for NBC, but yeah, so I have, six more Lucky books that I could do, and my readers demand all the time, they go, “please let us have a series about Lucky,” and I have had a lot of offers to do that, but it has to be the right offer, I can’t just give the character away because she’s my prime character.
Do you dream about her?
No, I don’t dream about her, but I’d like to be her in another life. She’s ballsy, she’s beautiful, she’s very, very smart. Nobody gets away with anything with Lucky, and she’s also a great mother and a great wife, and she’s also had a wild time in her life.
Do you think Hollywood is kind to women?
We know Hollywood is shit to women. Women over 35 now are playing grandmothers. That’s what it’s down to. It’s absolutely crazy. And then, 50-year old actresses are all going and getting their faces done and it’s doesn’t look good. It looks good on some people, but on a lot of them — men, too. Have you seen that man with the craggy face, and he’s just had his eyes done, so he’s got these little, puppy-fresh eyes on this craggy old face? And so I think, men and women should cut back on it a bit, because it doesn’t do them favor. Age is a number. What did Mark Twain say? He said, something about age is…I’ll think of it.
The transgender movement is an important moment in our culture and even more so now with Caitlyn Jenner. What do you think of the progress?
It’s great to bring it out in the open, because there were so many suicides for transgender people. They were the highest suicide rate of all people. I mean, it was horrible and as I said, when I went around all these cities, I would meet little young guys who would confide in me, because people like to confide in me, I bring out the stories in people, which is good.
Would you include a trans character in one of your books?
I definitely would. I haven’t at this point. I got a ton of gay characters. I have a whole gay, kind of fabulous network of characters that I bring back and out in the books. But I’ve never had a transgender character, and now I might. Definitely.
You have a lot of gay friends, right?
Yes. My gay friends are my best friends. The other day I went to a restaurant with one of my friends and a woman from New York. I asked him if he was on Grindr? He said, ‘No.’ So I get his phone and I put him on Grindr and it comes up with this gorgeous looking guy who was 200 yards away! The woman who was with us, says, ‘I need to see the picture!’ So I pass her the picture and she goes, ‘Holy shit, that’s my driver. He’s outside!’ I mean, I can’t make these stories up.
It’s nice of you to try to hook up one of your friends with a romantic mate. What about yourself?
When I was a kid, my father would read Playboy, and I’d see these bachelors and they would have a fabulous apartment and incredible TV and sound system and a gorgeous car and they would do whatever they want. That’s what I do. I do whatever I want, whatever I feel like. I have a man for every occasion. Do I want to go do karaoke tonight? Do I want to go to the movies? Do I want to go out dancing? I just call one of them up and say, ‘What are you doing? What’s up?’ I love the freedom. I would not have chosen it this way, but I love the freedom of being by myself and doing whatever I want to do. I mean, if we finish this interview now, and I feel like going to the airport and getting on a plane to Paris and spending the weekend, I’ll do it.
What have you’ve learned about sex, or men, in your 70s?
All men are dogs, you just have to find one that you can control.
It’s amazing to think you’ve gone from being a dropout to have amassed everything that you have. Are you particularly good with your money?
I’m grateful everyday for what I have, yeah, but I worked hard to get it. When my first book came out, everybody was shocked by it because I was the first woman to write about blow jobs. Women were writing about breakdowns at Bloomingdales and men and marriage and divorce and all of that, but I just got right to the nitty gritty.
How many more books do you have left in you?
Let’s see, I’ve written 32. Another 32. I love what I do. I’m passionate about what I do. I’m a storyteller. I’m a literary writer, I’ve never wanted to be a literary writer. I wanted to tell stories, I wanted to grab my readers, I wanted to have fun with my books. And I want them to get a little message.
Would you ever get married again?
No. Marriage is to have children, and I’ve raised my three daughters, who are great. They’re my best friends, they’re fantastic — three fantastic women. There’s no necessity to get married.
You said best friends. I was going to ask who your best friends are. I saw you were with Shirley MacLaine the other day.
Shirley is a very good friend. I was with her yesterday. We went to a graduation of my business manager’s son. She’s one of the best business managers in Hollywood, and she’s a very great friend of mine. And Joanna, Sidney Poitier’s wife. She’s one of my very close friends.
What about your sister, Joan Collins?
And yes, my sister, but she’s not here at the moment. She’s in Europe. She goes to Europe for the summer, but she was just here. We always have a great time together because I love her husband, Percy. She’s had like six husbands, and he’s the best, the best of the bunch. He’s fantastic. We go out, we go out to the movies on a Sunday, go out to lunch and we really have a great time when she’s here. I love it when they’re here. She never quits. She’s unbelievable.
Where are your favorite restaurants in LA?
I love Craig’s. I was there last night with a whole group, including Clive Davis, who’s just amazing. Talk about his discoveries and what he’s going to do now — he’s incredible. I love Craig’s, because it’s almost like a club. You always see people you know. And then I love Mr. Chow. The Palm is fun. You always see people you know there.
I’ve read a lot of interviews you’ve done recently and everybody asks you about 50 Shades of Grey. Did you see the movie?
It’s great that she’s sold so many books and sold so many movie tickets. I did see the movie, yeah. I thought the movie was very beautiful and beautifully shot, but not sexual. It wasn’t sexy the movie. … I had a big drink and a pizza while I was watching it, and I was like, ‘Are we going to see his dick or what?’ No.
What music are you listening to right now?
I love Drake. I’m really into Drake. I love Usher. I love Lil Wayne. My favorite at the moment is Snoop Dogg’s “California Roll.” I’m very into music. I love hip hop. I loved Empire. Empire was fantastic. I would watch every episode and then run straight to my computer and buy all the music on iTunes.
I was looking at your lawn as I walked up. The talk in Beverly Hills is all about lawns these days. Are your neighbors switching over to drought-resistant lawns?
I hope so. I don’t know. We’re not a very neighborly-neighborhood. You know, people don’t pop around for a cup of coffee.
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