Friday 20 April 2018

Long before Fifty Shades: Jackie Collins thrilled millions with her steamy Hollywood stories

In this July 19, 1984 file photo, author Jackie Collins poses with her books at her home in Beverly Hills, Calif. Collins, died in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, of breast cancer. She was 77. (AP Photo, File)
In this July 19, 1984 file photo, author Jackie Collins poses with her books at her home in Beverly Hills, Calif. Collins, died in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, of breast cancer. She was 77. (AP Photo, File)

Aine Fox

Long before Fifty Shades Of Grey, Jackie Collins had readers in thrall with her raunchy tales of glamour and fame.

She famously said her books' characters were toned down, claiming "the truth is much more bizarre".

Born in 1937, Jackie was raised in London, the daughter of theatrical agent Joseph and Elsa, who she described as "gentle and laid-back".

The would-be author, who later described herself as "a kick-ass writer", was five years younger than her actress sister Joan, who is best known for her starring role in American soap opera Dynasty.

Both women are immediately recognisable for being impeccably turned out, with voluminous dark hair, flawless make-up and usually in trademark tailored jackets.

It was often said the sisters did not get along, but Jackie rubbished the rumour, pointing out that she had given Joan a breakthrough role when her novel The Stud was made into a film, as well as 1979 sequel The Bitch.

Jackie's career, which had started out early when she wrote steamy stories as a teenager which her schoolmates paid to read, took her to America where she observed the love lives of her peers, basing many of her stories on real people.

She shocked some - and gained legions of fans - with the release of her first book, The World Is Full Of Married Men, telling the story of a woman with a penchant for affairs with other people's husbands.

Her Hollywood Wives series became a television hit, starring Farrah Fawcett as well as Anthony Hopkins and Candice Bergen.

Many of her stories gave an inside view of life in Hollywood - often full of sex and glamour but also deceit and ageism.

Some of her showbiz tales are set to be included in her autobiography, Reform School Or Hollywood, which was due to be published next year.

Just weeks before her death Collins, who was made an OBE in 2013, said things in that world had not changed much down through the years.

"The film industry is still run by men and a lot of them want to get laid," she said. "They just do these movies where they can coerce young girls into being in the movies. The casting couch is still alive and well in Hollywood."

A common theme to her writing was strong female characters, something she said she wanted to ensure having grown up in a "chauvinistic" household where she had noticed an imbalance between her parents.

"I felt that she (her mother) should have had more say in what was going on in the home," she said.

As for the modern take on so-called "mummy porn" which has seen EL James' Fifty Shades series become something of a phenomenon among female readers, Collins was not impressed.

Anastasia Steele, the subservient student sex slave to billionaire Christian Grey, is the antithesis of Collins' feisty heroine Lucky Santangelo - who Collins had hoped would one day be played by Angelina Jolie.

Calling sexy female fiction "mummy porn" when men's pornography does not attract the term "daddy porn" is derogatory, said Collins, who also once recounted how she used to read her father's Playboy magazines and admire the wealthy lifestyles of the men inside.

Behind the glamour of her life in Beverley Hills Jackie suffered a number of tragedies, often involving the disease which she would later be diagnosed with.

Her mother, second husband and fiance all died from cancer. Collins said she chose to celebrate their lives rather than mourn them because: "Everybody dies".

The 77-year-old had a short-lived marriage to her first husband (fashion impresario Wallace Austin, with whom she had a daughter, Tracy).

She was married to nightclub owner Oscar Lerman for 25 years and had two more daughters, Tiffany and Rory. Lerman died from prostate cancer in 1992.

She later became engaged to Italian businessman Frank Calcagnini but he also died from cancer in 1998 just three months after his diagnosis.

Jackie's six-and-a-half year battle with cancer was a well-kept secret - not even Joan knew until a fortnight before her death.

The glamorous socialite looked as preened as ever during a publicity tour in the weeks before she died.

She was active online, telling her 150,000-plus Twitter followers about her new book and asking them their winner predictions for this year's Emmy awards.

Collins sold more than 500 million copies of her books in more than 40 countries, and had 30 New York Times bestsellers to her name.

She died aged 77, leaving three daughters and six grandchildren.

Press Association

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