Peter Conrad’s interview with Joan Collins was presented as a meeting between low and high culture (‘Joan Collins and the Don from Oxford’, 29 April 1990), which rather sold Collins’s obvious intelligence and sense of humour some way short.
Having recently finished her decade-long stint as Alexis Carrington Colby in Dynasty, Collins was returning to England to be in two Coward plays, Easy Virtue on TV and Private Lives in the West End. ‘You don’t dare make jokes here,’ she said. ‘They all take everything so seriously. I’m too cynical, and too incendiary. That’s why I long to get back to the theatre, where everyone sends everyone up all the time.’
Conrad met Collins in her opulent LA home and highlighted the similarities with her Dynasty character: ‘My feet sank through white rugs, as if into sand dunes; when I sat on the sofa, its white, over-stuffed cushions closed over me like surf breakers. This was a lair for Alexis to stride through, chomping a celery stick and plotting devilment while she runs a lacquered fingernail down Dex’s pecs.’
‘This was my Dynasty house,’ agreed Collins. ‘I wanted to have a house like this, just once. It’s very important to me aesthetically to be surrounded by beauty.’ But the house was now for sale. ‘I’ve done this effect, now I need somewhere smaller.’
Despite Alexis’s vices, Collins defended her. ‘The people who attacked her were just frightened because she was powerful. Women are still such second-class citizens.’
‘As Alexis,’ wrote Conrad, ‘she seemed always to be slyly mocking the character, while her American colleagues toiled through their roles with grim earnestness… Collins loses no chance to tease the self-importance of Hollywood.’
Conrad manages to sneeze on Collins’s shoulder while sniffing her own perfume, Spectacular. ‘Having had all those glasses of water poured over her by Leonard Rossiter in their Cinzano commercials,’ he wrote, ‘she dried herself off like the uncomplaining trouper she is.’