She was ravished 10 times before lunch. Her fur-sleeved, purple velvet jacket was violently ripped open five times. Then her lips were kissed so forcefully that her bottom lip was left bitten and bruised.
The ravishing and ripping was staged for the cameras on the set of "Dynasty" (which wraps with the season's "cliffhanger" Wednesday). The lip bite was an accident.
It was just another normal day--for Joan Collins.
Later that same afternoon, she flirted with five male models who escorted her on stage during the "Merv Griffin" show, where she swapped one-liners with Merv about her favorite subjects--men and champagne.
The rest of the week was filled with other "normal" events. Among them:
She auditioned actors for a six-hour CBS miniseries, "Sins," to be filmed in Paris. (She co-produces with fiance Peter Holm and stars in this tale of revenge and a woman's desire to succeed.)
She posed and signed pictures for a trio of loyal fans who follow her everywhere. They begged for one picture and took 20. As her limo left, they cried, "We love you, Joan!"
She had an uncomfortable interview with columnist Marilyn Beck, because Beck asked questions about Collins' age and her abortion, rather than discussing "Past Imperfect," Collins' autobiography.
High in the Hollywood Hills, she posed for a McCall's magazine layout for a new line of "Dynasty" dress patterns.
Deep in the Hollywood flatlands, she posed as female outlaw Belle Starr for celebrated photographer Reid Miles. It was all for a Life magazine layout on the most scandalous women in history. (She also would be Queen Elizabeth I, Eve, Cleopatra, Catherine of Russia, Josephine Baker, Marilyn Monroe and the Duchess of Windsor.) "I like playing bad girls," she quipped.
She told a crew from "Entertainment Tonight" why she thought "Dynasty" was such a success: "People like to see opulence, beautiful clothes and rich people who are very unhappy"
Highlights of the next two weeks:
She attended the season's "Dynasty" wrap party at the Beverly Wilshire. She posed for ads for Scoundrel perfume and for her new line of eye wear. She did a cover for the English magazine Woman's Own. She attended to last-minute scheduling for an upcoming weekend trip to Europe.
In Paris, she would meet with costumers for "Sins." Then she'd be going on to England to meet Princess Di. . . .
In 1977, an astrologer told me, "You have the possibility of enormous fame and success." I said, "Oh yeah, that's this film I'm doing in England called 'The Stud."' And she said, "No, it's in America." I told her she was wrong, that I knew my career was definitely now based in Europe. She said, "When it comes, you'll know it." Well, of course, it was "Dynasty."
Supermarket tabloid perusers know the story. Three years ago, Joan Collins and "Dynasty," each in their own way, teetered on the edge of obscurity. Then Aaron Spelling cast Collins as a female J. R. Ewing on his floundering soap opera.
Collins used to make more news with her marriages and love affairs than with her undistinguished acting career. But, as scheming Alexis Carrington-Colby, she hitched a ride on a media skyrocket.
Such notoriety carries heavy penalties for error. Overexposure can kill a career--likewise underexposure. Collins is concerned about such pitfalls, but nevertheless has a goal and is risking overexposure to reach it.
"I've worked a very long time, and a lot of people have made a great deal of money from me," she explained in an interview. "I want security now. I'm not materialistic; I just don't ever want to be in the situation--or close to it--where I have to work to put bread on the table. I've been there practically all my life."
Thus, Collins' Gemini-Star Productions is immersed in the following: The "Sins" series; a bio-miniseries about opera megastar Maria Callas, who was Aristotle Onassis' mistress; the Joan Collins jewelry collection; Joan Collins eye wear; sales of the paperback edition of "Past Imperfect" (now No. 1 on the New York Times paperback best-seller list); Revlon's "Scoundrel" perfume, and marketing/publicity on the above.
Gemini-Star has rejected proposals tying its star to lingerie, fortune cookies and beer.
And then, of course, there's "Dynasty."
Everything comes back to "Dynasty," but it's secondary to me right now. Unfortunately, I can delegate errands, fan mail and housekeeping, but I cannot delegate the role of Alexis. I must read the script, think about the dialogue and work with the writers if there are changes. I have to work with the clothes, which is a big part of my character. It isn't the yellow brick road ... but it beats working in a factory.
At 7:30 one sunny morning, the Warner Hollywood Studio already was buzzing. On Stages 3 and 4, the cast and crew of "Dynasty" prepared for the 112th episode of double-dealing and triple-crossing.
Through a window in the tiny lobby joining the two stages a gold Rolls-Royce could be seen pulling up to the door. The license plates were non-personalized--a change from the old days, when they used to read "Joan Who?" Out stepped Collins, not a minute late or early for her call. Dressed entirely in beige, with dark glasses and hair pulled back into a loose ponytail, she strode inside, greeting Gordon Thompson (who plays Adam) with a kiss.
She asked him, "Do you think we'll ever have another scene together?" then disappeared upstairs to make phone calls.
Then Judy Bryer arrived, fat appointment book in hand. Collins met the outgoing brunette while still married to entertainer Anthony Newley. The women became fast friends, and when Bryer moved to Los Angeles with her husband and family, she became Collins' inseparable confidante, organizer and stand-in. She, too, disappeared upstairs to Collins' dressing room.
At 9 a.m., "Dynasty" haute couturier Nolan Miller--tall, handsome and dapper in a pin-stripe suit--arrived with a creation that could only be destined for one person: The velvet jacket and floor-length skirt broke new ground, even for Alexis. The regal purple evening suit featured long fur sleeves, dyed to match.
The day's scene between Alexis and Dex (Michael Nader) would be tough--especially on the jacket, which would be repeatedly ripped open. For the rehearsals, Miller put in Velcro.
Inside Stage 4, Alexis would enter her pink-and-cream boudoir set to find Dex. They'd argue. Dex would angrily rip open her jacket. In fantasy-rape style, Alexis' sneer would melt into a sensuous come-on; they would kiss passionately; Dex would take her to bed for a good ravishing . . . as good as Standards and Practices would permit.
The episode's director, Irving Moore, struggled with the problems of this ravishing: ". . . but if he rips her clothes off and there's a blouse underneath, then he hasn't ripped her clothes off," he reiterated to the wardrobe supervisor.
Collins replied, "But if I'm naked to the waist, they can't film it anyway." She smiled lasciviously. "Darling, this is television."
The decision was made to go with a flimsy flesh-tone shell.
The morning dragged on. Nader, who earlier confessed to feeling flu-ish, had ongoing trouble with one line.
Collins uncomplainingly repeated the scene over and over, demonstrating a rare ability (among TV stars) to match prop movements with lines (making editing easier). Moore said after Take 10: "She's no ordinary TV actress; she never missed it in 10 times. She gets every prop perfect!"
The jacket rip was flawless and, after a pause, Alexis' eyes begged for a kiss. ("In some subtle way, like she usually does," Moore joked.)
As the two kissed . . . and kissed . . . the tension on the tiny set rose perceptibly. The actors' heavy breathing was the only sound. Moore, grin widening, let more than a few seconds pass before chortling, "Cut!" Collectively, the room exhaled.
Collins glanced around and, arching an eyebrow, teased the crew: "You ladies getting hot?"
Escaping the heat from the lights, she grabbed a cigarette, laughing. "They say we're the only two who kiss believably," she said. "Nobody else makes noise!"
After the bedroom scene, Collins exclaimed, "Ouch! He bit my lip." Nader's action was unintentional, and he apologized profusely. It was all in a day's work. For this work, Collins is reportedly paid $40,000 per episode (the same as co-star Linda Evans and $10,000 less than John Forsythe) or a total of $1.2 million a year.
Collins never discusses her salary but said during an interview: "I know it seems that we (stars) make a lot of money, but we're highly taxed and expenses are high. I have a glamorous image and can't really wear the same dress more than once, nor can I buy a little outfit off the rack at Macy's."
When it comes to interviews, I much prefer to do television. That way I can say what I feel and come across the way I am, rather than talking and then seeing it look different when it's written down in cold print. I suppose, sometimes, my mouth's my own worst enemy.
Later that day, Collins took a quick trip to the gym to exercise, then returned to her home in Coldwater Canyon to change clothes before the limo arrived to take her to see Merv Griffin.
Large and comfortable rather than palatial and ostentatious, the house is beautifully decorated in her favorite style, Art Deco, with silver wallpaper surrounding gray, black and cream living room furniture. A silver palm tree stands at the archway to the apricot-colored dining room. The bar/family room features a complete wall of Collins' face plastered on more than 100 magazine covers, spanning the globe and several decades. A wall unit opposite the covers is filled with photographs of other luminaries, such as one of John and Robert Kennedy, which is inscribed to her by Robert.
Statuettes and plaques commemorate various awards. Another shelf contains books written by or about Collins, nearly a dozen in all. A big collection of "Dynasty" videotapes lies stacked near the projection TV.
Bryer arrived and, shortly after, the limousine. Collins was dressed in a white sequined suit with a matching shell and diamond star-burst earrings.
When Collins entered the narrow backstage hall leading to Griffin's guest dressing rooms, crew members lined the walls, gawking. A buzz preceded her.
Gina Warwick, Griffin's head talent booker, greeted Bryer and Collins effusively--the three had been friends in England. She escorted them to the largest dressing room, which contained a huge gift basket tied with yellow balloons and filled with banana-related items (banana bread, banana liqueur, etc.) because on the last show Collins had made a remark about liking them. ("Yes," she joked, "but I like caviar, too.") Champagne was served.
The dressing room also contained a life-size cardboard stand-up of Collins that would be used to promote "Past Imperfect."
"I had it sitting in my office until this afternoon," Warwick said. "I never had so many visitors!" She added that Griffin decided against using it.
"Well," Bryer teased, "just tell him we'll give it to Johnny (Carson) then." Warwick said she'd see what she could do and left.
Collins, meanwhile, preened in the mirror: "I'm wearing the same makeup I had on this morning," she fretted. Assurances were quickly made that she looked perfect.
"I don't have anything to say," she confessed shortly before going on, but she maintained that she wasn't nervous.
As Collins went on stage, Bryer and Warwick settled back in the green room with other guests: actor Gil Gerard, comedian Robert Klein, Father Andrew Greeley--an author--and their respective entourages. As Collins appeared, Warwick shushed the others.
The first thing Griffin played with was the cutout of Collins.
Griffin and Collins bantered easily. When talking about some of her more controversial feature films, Griffin mentioned "The Stud." Collins interrupted, saying, "And you can't say the other one."
Griffin: "It begins with a B and ends with an H."
Collins: "And it's not 'slut.' "
Griffin (triumphantly): " 'The Butch!' "
Later, a clip from Collins' TV commercial for "Past Imperfect" brought down the house . . . out front and backstage.
Directed by Bryer's husband, Max, it features a close-up of Collins in a frilly white dress. She fingers a ring and says, "This was from Charles. He was a dear, but too demanding. Franco gave me this necklace. Gorgeous body; tiny mind." She looks coquettishly at the camera.
"If fact, all of the men in my past were almost perfect, and I'll tell you what was right and wrong with every single one."
In the green room, Father Greeley (author of "The Virgin and the Martyr"), who had been sitting quietly, burst out laughing, genuinely amused.
Later, as Collins sipped champagne with Bryer and Warwick, the three traded stories from the past and talked about the future. "Why don't we do an entire hour on 'Sins' when it's done?" Warwick proposed.
As Collins left the stage for the limo, two young men beseeched her for a picture: "Just one Joan, please? My name's Darryl, remember me? I saw you at Spago. You look wonderful tonight," he gushed as his friend shot a roll of film.
Collins moved toward the limo, but he asked another favor: "Can you please sign this? This is from Spago."
Collins asked for his name and signed the 11-by-14-inch glossy picture. A third friend suddenly materialized with another camera and began snapping pictures of his friends with Joan. She signed more photographs and thanked them .
She and Bryer giggled over the incident as the limo cruised back into the Hills. They talked about some of the other "regular" fans: "Eddie in New York sends cookies and scarfs and handbags," Collins said. "When I was there for the 'Night of a Hundred Stars,' we finally met." She laughed. "He wears more eye makeup than I do!"
Daughter Katy (who Collins and ex-husband Ron Kass nursed out of a coma after she was hit by a car) was waiting at the front door of the house, and the next hour or so would be the only time that Collins could spend with her that day.
Later that week she would have a brief interview with "Entertainment Tonight" and then with Marilyn Beck, for Beck's entertainment segment on "PM Magazine."
Collins didn't say much about the Beck interview, but according to Bryer and others, it got uncomfortably personal. "It was a mistake to do the interview," said one Collins' confidant, who asked that no name be used. "Marilyn went into real personal things, like Joan's abortion and about older women going out with younger men.
"Marilyn was just doing her job--she's a good interviewer," the confidant added. "It's just that Joan doesn't have to do things like that at this point in her career."
But Collins may have had the last laugh. When Beck, 56, asked how old she was (52 this month), Collins retorted, "How old are you?"
Beck's producer instantly stopped the filming. When it resumed, the question was omitted.
In "Sins," I'll have 87 costumes -- created by Valentino and Michel le Frene.
Collins spent most weekends in March in front of some of the top photographers in the country, if not the world. She'd spent a day being photographed by Mario Casilli (who gave Playboy centerfolds their "look") for a McCall's layout, four days with Reid Miles (best known for his Saturday Evening Post covers) for Life magazine and one with fashion photographer Harry Langdon for a Scoundrel perfume ad, an ad for her new fashion eyeglasses and a Women's Own cover.
It was a study in contrasts--in the photographers and in Collins, who does not work with women "because she needs to flirt with the camera," explained Bryer.
While gracious with the low-key Casilli, she hurried him on when time ran late. She had promised to meet her daughter.
Langdon seemed more flirtatious, wanting to bring out her "tigress" look. She was cooperative, but tense and harried in his Beverly Boulevard studio, largely because she was leaving that night to fly to England and Paris.
With the temperamental Miles, Collins was alternately defiant and highly amused.
On a Sunday shoot at his studio on Las Palmas Avenue, Collins, dressed in a suede gaucho skirt, boots and a crisscrossed ersatz ammunition belt, watched as Miles carefully arranged her backdrop--16 outlaw-garbed character actors with faces straight out of the Wild West. Collins looked 20 years younger without the thick pancake makeup required for television.
After Miles "dusted" down the extras with a paintbrush and a bucket of soot, it was time for the portrait.
In a flash, the photographer turned maniacal. As he fussed with details, an assistant offered a suggestion and Miles bellowed at him. Suppressed giggles came from Collins and the crew.
Later, as he was trying to teach Collins how to clench a cigar in her teeth, he snapped, "You know, you're a killer--you're supposed to be nasty!"
"Well," Collins asked sweetly, "have I had them all?"
Momentarily diffused, Miles grumbled, "Well . . . a few."
Finally, yelling "Ah! Ah! Ah!" as he shot, Miles got the picture he wanted. After a two-hour break, Collins would return as Queen Elizabeth I.
Wearing Dame Judith Anderson's original costume from "Elizabeth the Queen" and at least two pounds of white face powder, she commented: "If you had to walk around with a face like this, you'd eat chocolate, too."
When Collins got back from Paris and London, she was due on the "Dynasty" set the next morning at 7. About noon, she left for a Culver City photography studio to shoot three more magazine covers for European publications.
Although she planned to take a week off between the end of "Dynasty" and the beginning of "Sins," filming problems during the "cliffhanger" episode at the Harold Lloyd estate intervened. Ultimately, she caught her plane to Paris--one hour after she "wrapped."
Since then, she's checked into the Ritz Hotel (now nick-named Camp Ritz for the half floor of the elegant hotel Collins and "people" occupy; she traveled quickly to Italy to meet with Valentino; she was mobbed by paparazzi in Rome; she attended a party at Regine's where all guests came dressed as Etre creations (the Russian-born artist is considered to be the father of Art Deco) in a black and silver gown; she talked again with a crew from "Entertainment Tonight"; she agreed to shoot a Canada Dry commercial during one of her few days off in June and. . . .