Can it really be three decades since I first met Joan Collins? It was back in the late 1980s at the very posh Mayfair hair salon Michaeljohn.
My hairdresser, Derek, introduced us as she sashayed in, wreathed in fur and Hollywood glamour, heading towards the private celebrity salon downstairs. Joan and I had three things in common back then — Derek, big hair and gigantic shoulder pads.
She was at the height of her Dynasty fame — Alexis Carrington had made her a global star — yet she stopped to talk. When I told her I was a struggling journalist, she quipped: ‘Keep at it darling. When all else fades, a woman can still keep writing.’
Having met the dame many times since, I now know that was characteristic of both her kindness and her razor-sharp wit. She is never cruel, just enormously funny and quick; a walking one-liner.
As she turns 90 today, Dame Joan has more energy than most decades younger.
Hers is a career that includes more than 50 films, dozens of performances in the West End and on Broadway, including in her own one-woman show, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Joan, pictured aged four, was born on May 23, 1933, in West London. As she turns 90 today, she has more energy than most decades younger
Dame Joan’s (pictured in 1950s) is a career that includes more than 50 films, dozens of performances in the West End and on Broadway, including in her own one-woman show, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Dame Joan is never cruel, just enormously funny and quick; a walking one-liner. Pictured: Joan Collins in a Scene from the film ‘The Stud’ (1978)
She is still writing, too — her oeuvre includes columns for the Spectator magazine, a few best-selling novels and several autobiographies (and I do hope another volume is on the way) — but she is a star that’s very far from fading. A regular on the party circuit, still a style icon, her status as National Treasure remains secure.
How does a woman who began her Hollywood career in the heyday of the casting couch aged 22 survive intact?
Perhaps it’s her eternal optimism, captured brilliantly in her now infamous comment when asked about her four failed marriages: ‘If life throws you a lemon, make lemonade.’
As a truly beautiful woman, she is even more beguiling in real life than on screen. She is more petite than you would imagine, curvaceous, with the legs of a chorus dancer. She has a fabulous mouth, chiselled cheekbones and those captivating emerald eyes.
She once commented of her earlier career: ‘I had dark hair and green eyes and I suppose they said I smouldered.’
At 90 she still does. A friend of mine who holidays with her at her villa in St Tropez (she also has homes in London and LA) said she’s just as lovely looking in the morning over breakfast. Without make-up, her porcelain skin is as delicate as Wedgwood.
One of the things I’ve loved most about Joan is she’s a woman’s woman, which is more than I can say of her sister Jackie. I went off Jackie when, at one of her book signings, she tried to hook up with my then fiance right in front of me, even giving him the key to her hotel room! No, Joan loves women, and I love her for it.
In a world where women are often horribly competitive with each other, especially on social media, sisterly solidarity is a trait worth celebrating. She’s the first to admit that if there were a black belt in shopping, she’d have it, that she doesn’t believe in dieting, or abstinence of any kind, for that matter. And yes, she drinks!
In 1958, Joan was cast opposite Paul Newman in the comedy Rally Round The Flag, Boys!, which also featured Joanne Woodward who would marry Newman
Joan met womaniser Warren Beatty (pictured) at 26 and they later got engaged. She said in her memoir ‘he liked to have sex several times a day, which often wore me out’
One of the things I’ve loved most about Joan (pictured in 1960) is she’s a woman’s woman, writes Amanda Platell
Joan Collins with Warren Beatty at the premiere of the film Pepe in London in February 1961
In 1981, Joan was cast in the role that made her a TV sensation, that of man-eating Alexis Carrington in Dynasty
How does a woman who began her Hollywood career in the heyday of the casting couch aged 22 survive intact? Pictured: Dame Joan with her children Sacha and Tara
1964: Dame Joan Collins pictured above with ex-husband Anthony Newley and her daughter Tara Newley
Dame Joan pictured with husband at the time Anthony Newley and two children Tara and Sacha
It’s a tribute to Joan that she was introduced into the TV series with a script that basically read: ‘Be a complete b**ch, have cat fights with your nemesis Krystle [Linda Evans], fall into the swimming pool, keep fighting, and emerge looking beautiful.’
Don’t be fooled by her legendary she-wolf character in Dynasty. It’s a tribute to Joan that she was introduced into the TV series with a script that basically read: ‘Be a complete b**ch, have cat fights with your nemesis Krystle [Linda Evans], fall into the swimming pool, keep fighting, and emerge looking beautiful.’
Yet she turned that flimsy, stereotypical role into a sensation — the ultimate icon of empowered 1980s alpha woman. Lord how we loved her! She deserved a medal for the weight of sequins she could carry on her shoulder pads.
As the ensuing decades have proved, however, it’s not just Joan Collins’s beauty, nor even her huge brain that have made her so enduring. There’s some magic in that woman and I’ve seen it first-hand.
In all of our encounters — at the theatre, at supper, at parties — she is never the stereotypical Hollywood diva. She’s not a diva at all, despite the fact that, wherever she goes heads turn. Women gape in admiration, grown men melt.
She’s not just polite to everyone, she’s genuinely interested in them. Nor does she walk or strut like today’s crop of here-today-gone-tomorrow celebrities; she glides, elegantly, like she’s on wheels, as though the world is one long red carpet.
Pictured: Dame Joan with Bill Wiggins in 2002 – one of her former partners
Joan Collins (in 2013) on the patio of her St Tropez villa in the South of France beside husband Percy Gibson
Having met the dame (in 2004 left, 2017 right) many times since, I now know that was characteristic of both her kindness and her razor-sharp wit
Joan was made a dame in 2015. At the Palace it was the now King Charles who presented the honour, saying ‘why has it taken so long?’
In all of our encounters — at the theatre, at supper, at parties — she is never the stereotypical Hollywood diva. Pictured: Sarah Paulson (left) and Joan Collins attend the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
She’s not just polite to everyone, she’s genuinely interested in them. Dame Joan with Sir Michael Caine in December 2021
Dame Joan Collins is pictured leaving home today before her 90th Birthday tomorrow
We were in a private room backstage for the return of Mamma Mia! to the West End and the first thing she said was she loved my column in this newspaper.
It wasn’t a throwaway comment to be polite: she quoted one item I’d written the week before, smiled and reminded me of what she’d told me all those years ago, to ‘keep writing’.
When it came to having our pictures taken, she stopped the photographer and took me aside: ‘Darling you look washed out. You need some lipstick, every woman needs colour!’ She dipped a perfectly manicured hand into her bag and brought out her own lippy, shoving it in my hand with a small mirror.
I still have that lipstick. I wore it until it ran out. It’s called Too Hot To Handle.