My favorite thing about “Lady Boss,” the documentary about Jackie Collins, is that all her friends think they were her “best friend.” And they were, all of them, even her friends like me who were really just great acquaintances over the decades.
My key memory of Jackie is at the original Spago in February 1990, on Horn Avenue over Sunset Boulevard. I walked in for dinner late and there was Jackie, sitting at the best table, one along the front windows. I’d only known her then maybe a couple of years. She pulled me over and said, “Do you want to meet Gene Kelly? We’ve just come from the People’s Choice Awards.”
Jackie literally plopped me down next to one of the greatest Hollywood stars of all time. I do not remember what I said or he said. I just remember being dazzled. And there was Jackie, beaming, doing something nice just because that’s who she was. And it would be like that between us until her death in 2015. Wherever we were, whatever the occasion, she was always glowing, always making connections, smiling her devilish smile. Like everyone who knew her, I adored her.
I hadn’t even heard of Jackie until 1983 when “Hollywood Wives” became a massive hit. Everyone in publishing knew the story of Jackie and her husband, Oscar Lerman, who was guiding her the way Irving Mansfield had done for Jacqueline Susann. I remember being on the beach on Martha’s Vineyard reading the paperback aloud, it was so much fun! The characters were delicious and everyone wanted to know who was who. The whole idea of Farrah Fawcett as a kleptomaniac was the best. It was a lot more fun that reading “Sophie’s Choice,” I’ll say. Perfect beach book.
Over the years I got to know Jackie and sometime around 1995 I wound up in Jack Romanos’s office at Simon & Schuster doing her a favor. The result was the article at the left. I think Michael Korda was having trouble getting her a new contract, and Jackie was adrift at S&S. She needed a boost to get the publisher to re-up with her. So I volunteered to go on over there and write a piece about her stock being on the rise again. Well, it worked. And that cemented our friendship for the next 20 years.
“Lady Boss” covers her whole life pretty ably. Her daughters, whom I never knew, are terrific. Joan, her sister whom she loved, I do know, and she is disarming as usual. Joan and Jackie really loved each other and were/are great ladies of their generation in Hollywood who I listened to very carefully. They really knew what they were talking about. I was with them together at least twice. Once in 2010 at a swell indoor picnic given by Sandy Gallin, and another time at a Clive Davis dinner. They were Hollywood royalty of my lifetime. Joan remains a friend, and a great lady.
Barbara Davis, looking like an actual Queen, is the best observer of this documentary. She ‘got’ Jackie. Ironically, it’s Barbara’s story with husband Marvin that inspired “Dynasty,” the show that made Joan a living legend. There was never an Alexis in Barbara’s real life. And indeed, Jackie is more like Krystal Carrington, the heroine of the piece. But when Barbara says, “Jackie Collins was here, and then she was gone,” I nodded in agreement. Jackie told no one she was dying, and her death was a shock. A bright light went out everywhere. But at least with “Lady Boss,” the world gets to learn about her legacy of love.
“Lady Boss” plays tomorrow at the Tribeca (Film) Festival and debuts on CNN June 27th. Don’t miss it. And do yourself a favor, read “Hollywood Wives” this summer. It’s still a killer.