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Script of her life


Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Script of her life

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It might have seemed like a stroll down memory lane for 80-year-old British actress Joan Collins, but for many in attendance at the opening of Holder’s Season, it read like a steamy Hollywood script consisting of intrigue, sex, failed marriages, rivalry and bristling fights among women and an eventual crescendo to the heights of the Hollywood scene.
      But this was no fictional tale – it was Collin’s life in full effect. Not only did the actress discuss the many twists and turns that brought her to Hollywood, but her very candid anecdotes were accompanied by visual snippets of her film career that made her famous.
   Sometimes it seemed as though her life did read like some page-turning novel especially when she waxed poetic on her first marriage.
     “My first husband had some very interesting views on marriage,” she said of Irish actor Maxwell Reid. “He tried to sell me to an Arab sheik so that led to divorce Number One.”
     After arriving on the Hollywood at what she dubbed ‘the end of the golden age” she admitted her naivety made things difficult for her particularly coming from Britain. She quickly had to learn how to put on an American accent to acquire most roles.
     Her interaction with Hollywood starlets was equally as unsettling. She quickly had a rude awakening when she met her namesake, actress Joan Crawford.
      “Her eyes under those thick Groucho Marx eyebrows swept over me as my friend Lawrence Harvey introduced me as Britain’s newest and brightest young star, she blanked me,” Collins told the crowd. “Although she had been offering her hands to everybody she pointedly refused to offer it to me or even look at me. I was so totally embarrassed that I didn’t know what to say so I just said ‘My mother has always admired you, she even named me after you.’
       Collins often jumped from subject to subject during her one woman show, and was very honest about the problems movie studios had with her weight.
       “I realized that my studio Twentieth Century Fox was going to put me out if I didn’t lose some weight,” she said. “As soon as they saw me and dubbed me too solid, they immediately put me on a diet, told to exercise every day and told to lose eight pounds off my 125. The exercise failed so they put me on pills and I lost eight pounds in two weeks, but I also lost sleep. I later found out those little pills were speed. Weight, weight  weight, it dogged me like a hound in Hollywood.
       Though she battled with her weight it didn’t stop her from attaining roles, especially opposite some of Hollywood’s biggest leading men. She worked with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Richard Burton.
     While her work with those men proved successful, the men in her private life did not fare as well. Collins who was married five times said that Elizabeth Taylor once sent her a card and written inside were the words “I’m still ahead.” Collins is currently married to 48-year-old Percy Gibson.
      In all Collins made 11 films in Hollywood and worked with some great stars, but it was her role as Alexis Carrington in Dynasty, which she affectionately called “Battle of the shoulder pads” that made her a household name.
        “I was the flavor of the month for almost a decade,” she said proudly. “I won a Golden Globe, a People’s Choice award and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. My career was at an all-time high.”
       Collins also knew that her Dynasty run would only last for a time and she needed something else to turn her talents to. She turned to writing a number of bestselling novels, like her sister Jackie Collins. She also returned to what she called her first love, the theatre.
    “I have a philosophy,” she said. “Life is like a predator and you’ve got to eat it before it eats you.”   

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