Entertainment Books

Monday 20 January 2020

The original wild child

Forget Miley Cyrus: Jackie Collins was one of the first women to create outrage with the racy antics in her novels – and she's back for more

Stephen Milton

Just your typical Friday afternoon talking hot sex with Jackie Collins – roleplay, sensual toys, erotic domination; it's all up for discussion with the undisputed queen of the bonkbuster. A Kinsey of the modern age, if you will.

"I get so many young women and men who tell me, 'I learned everything about sex from you'," she proffers, every syllable an exercise in bewitchment.

"They say, 'I read my mum's copies of your books under the covers when I was 12 and learned everything I know from them'. And I say, 'Well, was your boyfriend, or girlfriend, disappointed? And they reply, 'No, not at all'."

With somewhere in excess of 500 million copies sold, one could call Collins a carnal anthropologist, armed with an arsenal of euphemisms for male genitalia. It's a tried and tested formula that has led to 30 bestsellers, including 'The Stud', 'Hollywood Wives' and 'Poor Little Bitch Girl'.

It's this legacy as a sexual educator and innovator that fills her with pride. Offering advice on seductive desire is simply part of her make-up.

"For women, I always say, jumping into bed with a guy on the first date is never a good idea. Waiting makes it more exciting and getting to know someone is exciting. After all, sex is partly physical, partly mental... although you can go mental having great sex," she adds with a smile.

"And a lot of men let it go, even more so than women. After they've been married for three years, they come home, grab a beer, unbutton their pants and watch football. They need to keep it exciting, although they often need help in that area.

"I always say, 'Men are like little boys. You've gotta feed them, keep them warm and give them little toys'."

The lady is a soundbite machine gun, slaying one after another. Who am I to interrupt?

"And as far as a marriage," she continues, speaking from her home in Beverly Hills, "I would always say roleplay is key. You've got two little kids; he's working hard, she's working hard. Get the mother-in-law to look after the children, meet up in a hotel and live out a fantasy for a night.

"And roleplaying is much more exciting than having your ass kicked. In fact, my heroines kick ass, they don't get their asses kicked."

Ahh, yes, the S&M saga of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. I gather Collins isn't a fan of the EL James trilogy?

"She's sold a sh*t-load of books and got people reading, I say good luck to her," says Collins. "But I don't think women want to be submissive. They want to be strong. If you want fabulous sex, it's got to be equal. One night he might say he wants to do this, another night she might say she wants to do this. You're on a level-playing field."

Ever since her literary debut in 1968 with the controversial and internationally censored 'The World is Full of Married Men', fans were titillated with enticing dialogue, deliciously clichéd characters and hot sex, all framed against a moneyed, exotic backdrop.

Just like her latest effort, 'Confessions of a Wild Child', her books have always been wildly fantastical.

In her 30th title, Collins revisits favoured creation, Lucky Santangelo, the vivacious, deadly heroine, a mobster's daughter turned mastermind mogul whose exploits have formed the backbone for the Santangelo saga, previously bookended by classics 'Chances' and 'Goddess of Vengeance'.

'Confessions' shines a light on Lucky's formative teenage years, where, following the murder of her mother, the adolescent emerges from cocooned isolation before flourishing into a ball-breaking broad via a path of dashing suitors and sexual exploration. Fabulously formulaic, it's what Collins does best.

"I wanted to show how Lucky became the woman she is today: strong, ballsy and wildly beautiful. She's empowering, like a James Bond for women," she says.

Growing up the daughter of a literary agent in London, along with elder sister Joan – a future Hollywood icon of prestige and excess – the novelist enjoyed a rebellious youth.

Expulsion, carousing, a self-confessed, and technically illegal, affair with a much-older man, Marlon Brando – he was 29, she was only 15 – it seems young Lucky is a fictitious expression of a well-spent youth.

"There's so much of me in Lucky. I have an aunt who lived in Cannes and I would stay there on school holidays and live by the beach and meet boys," says Collins.

"I was a crazy teenager. At 13, I looked 18, so I pretended I was 18, freaking people out when I told them the truth."

She's been married twice – a short-lived union to Wallace Austin, producing daughter Tracy, and a 26-year marriage to late nightclub boss Oscar Lerman, father of Tiffany and Rory. Yet the public were more interested in her family ties than they were her marital knots. Much was once made of a bitter rivalry between Jackie and movie star Joan that allegedly tore them apart, bolstered by jealousy and resentment of the other's success.

According to the writer, there was never any truth to that rumour.

"People loved to pick up on two famous sisters who hate each other, but we've always had a close relationship and laughed at this nonsense," she says. "She's actually here in LA. We had a lovely dinner last night and I adore her husband, Percy, and they're all coming to me for Christmas. I shall be cooking dinner for 30 people, so I don't know where I'll fit in the time for a bitter rivalry."

In actuality, Jackie revived Joan's once-flagging career during the 1970s with big-screen treatments of hit novels 'The Stud' and 'The Bitch'.

Big sister played the delightfully titled Fontaine Khaled.

"Aaron Spelling saw the films and whisked her to Hollywood to be Alexis Carrington in 'Dynasty', which was really the same character as Fontaine. They're both rich, gorgeous, nympho jet-set maniacs, of which Joan provided a small amount of inspiration," Collins adds, sheepishly.

Fontaine Khaled; Madison Castelli; Lucky Santangelo; much of Collins' humour lies in the names of her larger-than-life characters, although probably no more so than 'Lethal Seduction's' Dick Cockranger.

"You can't read Dick Cockranger without laughing out loud and I love to create humour," she says. "Another was Jack Python in 'Hollywood Husbands'. It just came to me in a fit of inspiration.

"But with the names out there, it's possible. I mean when you've got [disgraced American politician] Anthony Weiner who gets caught photographing his junk and putting it on the internet. That's too perfect."

Her fiancé Frank Calcagnini passed away in 1998. These days, she's "a cool bachelor, with a man for all seasons". This allows her plenty of time to indulge her other love affair: social media. She has a steady presence on Twitter and a huge appetite for pop culture.

"Have you heard Britney's new song? 'Work Bitch', I think it's just fabulous," she enthuses.

The author even goes so far as to defend Miley Cyrus and her recent debutante display of twerked-out insanity.

"I can identify with her because I was a wild child, too," says Collins. "She's been very successful transitioning her image from Hannah Montana. She's like a wild, sexy little puppy and I like a woman who does what she wants."

Currently working on follow-up, 'The Santangelos', centering around a younger generation of jet-set bed-hoppers, she'll embark on a promo tour next year, anticipating a stop in Dublin on the first leg. "I love it there," she says. "It's like a never-ending party."

Odd, then, that she's never featured a dashing, garrulous Irish specimen in any of her work. "I was always concerned about the accent and getting that across but now I don't think it has to be a problem. They can be accentless," says Collins.

"I love Irish men. I think they're incredibly attractive. Pierce Brosnan's Irish, isn't he? He's fantastic, a much underrated actor. And you know, I write for all colours, all ages, all sexual orientations and nationalities; they can't always be American and English. I really, really like this idea."

Can we suggest the name Seamus O'Big Toole for the leading man?

'Confessions of a Wild Child' is out now

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