Jackie Collins, Hollywood’s Buoyant Cheerleader, Beloved, Dies at 77
What can I say? I loved Jackie Collins. Everyone did. She was so much fun, a great friend, happy happy happy, a cheerleader for Hollywood. She loved it. She loved her sister, Joan, and was so proud of her. The news that she has died after six years of breast cancer is just devastating.
I knew Jackie at least 30 years. I told her how, when her masterwork “Hollywood Wives,” came out in paperback, we had dramatic readings of it on the beach in the summer of 1983. That was some book and TV movie. It crystallized everything about Tinsel Town. Everyone wanted to know who shoplifting, klepto Elaine Conti was based on. The rumor was it Farrah Fawcett, but Jackie never confirmed it. Probably not since years later Farrah starred in one of Jackie’s movies.
Jackie was a regular at Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy dinner, and a habitue in the last couple of years at Craig’s on Melrose, the hot restaurant in town. She held court there and was always a delight to see. At Clive’s she sat at what I always thought of as the royal table — sister Joan, Quincy Jones, Carole Bayer Sager and Bob Daly, Dick Clark (when he was alive), Merv Griffin. She was the queen. She knew everything and everyone. She was so gracious and glibly fun at the same time.
Years ago– well, 1990 I think– I walked into Spago on Horn Avenue and saw Jackie sitting at the window (best seat in the house) with a bunch of stars. She said to me, “Do you know Gene Kelly?” I plotzed. The real Gene Kelly. She sat me down next to him. I have no idea what I said or what he said. I was awestruck.
Jackie wasn’t a literary writer, but she was a savvy one and knew her audience. She also knew her subject, whether it was Hollywood or the mob. She said she dreamt it all up but she did a lot of research and had met all the people upon whom she based her characters. In the real heyday of her bestsellers, her career was guided by her irrepressible second husband, Oscar Lerman, who knew the ins and outs.
Most of her books were published by Simon & Schuster, and edited by the legendary Michael Korda. Her agent of course was Swifty Lazar. These were the cool kids of the time. Around the time Korda finally left S&S, Jackie’s books finally took a dip in sales. (They came back.) I think she moved to Warner Books for a while. But S&S made a ton of money off of her. They better take out a big ad this week in the New York Times. She was their stalwart and made a lot of people there rich.
Jackie had the big teased hair, and the leopard print pants, and she was just a sensation. I went to a party a few years ago given by Sandy Gallin with a lot of A list movie stars and celebrities of the 60s, 70s, 80s– the real A list– sister Joan, Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Streisand, etc. It was winter and cold out. All the fur coats were piled up on a sofa. At the end of the night it was Jackie sorting them out like a fabulous coat check girl.
The party was a buffet and indoor picnic– and the most fun people were the Collins sisters. With that English accent you thought of they’d be stuffy, but they were passing the rolls, giving up seats, gossiping like crazy. My condolences to Joan, who is bereft, and to Jackie’s kids, and to all her friends and extended family. A real light has gone out in this world.