Thursday, 4 October 2007

God bless her and all who sail in her

I never thought that I would want to quote extensively from anything published in the Daily Telegraph, but Jan Moir’s review of a book by Graham Lord about Joan Collins, The Biography of an Icon, contained a few memorable observations, some by Moir and some lifted from the biography:

Some nitpickers might argue with the use of the word 'icon' in the title, but Joan Collins does remain eternal and utterly incredible in much the same way as, say, Bamburgh Castle… Both are famous English landmarks, renowned for their brooding beauty and timeless appeal, and both have withstood attack and the abrasion of salt wind for centuries. Neither has been extensively restored… still, from certain angles, it is clear that at least one of them is an old ruin… No one knows for sure if the actress, like the castle, ever sat on a basalt outcrop, but if Mr Outcrop was a bigshot producer offering a plum role in a 1960s B-movie, there's no knowing what our Joanie wouldn't have done back then.

During her first assault on Hollywood, Collins slept with so many men that she was known as the British Open. In later years, she would grandly claim that she was a proto-feminist exploring her sexuality and using her power to bewitch as leverage to get ahead in a man's world. Others saw it differently. 'Joan's had more hands up her than the Muppets', was how one actress deftly put it…

For many of us, Collins did not really appear on the entertainment radar until she swaggered into Dynasty in 1981, eating spoonfuls of beluga caviar and wearing improbably large shoulder pads… The thing was, five times married Joan never looked innocent. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when she was living in Los Angeles and trying to make it in films, she was at her sexual peak, thirsting for young men like a vampire thirsts for blood… Driving a pink Thunderbird—no, that's not a euphemism—she roared around Hollywood in chinchilla stoles and emerald bracelets and was rarely without a lover. 'It doesn't count on location', she remarked, of various saucy infidelities.

On top of the early husbands, the lovers included Charlie Chaplin Jnr, Dennis Hopper, Robert Quarry, Robert Wagner, Buddy Bergman, Nicky Hilton, Gordon White (later Lord White), Harry Belafonte, Warren Beatty and even Taki Theodoracopulos… Husbands, lovers, collaborators, friends; here is a woman with no use for the corpse once she has extracted the marrow… Yet somehow she endures over the decades; green eyed St Joan presiding above a bonfire of dried sticks and husks of husbands. It is hard not to admire her for that, however awful she might be.

This is the kind of review that makes one want to rush out and buy the book, until one reflects that it is unlikely to contain anything of interest that hasn’t been quoted.

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