Joan Collins has no intention of slowing down and is doing what she does best.. Performing..
She defiantly opens a new tour of her one-woman show tomorrow while ignoring all advice to slow down.

“If I hear the word ‘retire’ it makes me want to throw up,” she says, forcibly. “And then do what? Sit around all day watching television? I still love life so I live it.”

Audiences will be treated to similar sharp wit. “I joke about everything – my men, my marriages, my life. Nothing is off limits.”

It will be much like my interview with Joan herself. She talks frankly of her five husbands and delivers her own simple guide to surviving with typical aplomb.

“Lots of laughter, hard work, never get too thin or too fat and my husband!” she declares with a smile.

She was a star in her teens, having attended Britain’s most prestigious acting college the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art, and was then signed up by the country’s biggest film company Rank.

She reached the heights of a successful film and television career in the Eighties playing the scheming Alexis Carrington in the TV series Dynasty.

But she’s also not afraid to reflect on the bad times too, when faced with financial problems or dealing with her youngest daughter Katy now 39, who was brain-damaged from a childhood accident.

“I knew very little about the world in general, having left school and gone to RADA. I went to 11 different schools because a lot of my education was during the war.

“All I knew was a little world of Ealing Studios, Pinewood Studios and being home with my mother, father and sister [novelist Jackie Collins], who was four years younger.

“It was a much more innocent time. I was still playing with dolls at the age of 15. When a boy asked me out on a date I was utterly shocked. I did have boyfriends at drama college but my biggest mistake was to marry an actor called Maxwell Reed, who was the first man I ever slept with.

“Good girls didn’t lose their virginity in those days and if you did you got married… that was the understanding in the early Fifties. So I married on the day after my 19th birthday.”

THE marriage, which survived long enough for Joan to move to Hollywood at 22 and establish a fi lm career, was a disaster. But despite four divorces she points to the fact she’s been married for 36 of the past 60 years.

She celebrated her 11th wedding anniversary to fifth husband Percy Gibson – he produces her show – in February.

“I am a fan of marriage and a fan of being committed to the right person.

“I got it right for a few years with Anthony Newley [the late actor, singer and songwriter] but his penchant for other ladies was something I could not live with.

“But I had two fabulous children with him, singer Tara and artist son Sacha. I had Katy with my third husband Ron Kass. He went down the dreaded path of addiction and I never believed that anyone should ruin their lives with drugs. I have never been a fan of drugs because I like to keep a clear head.

“My fourth marriage to Peter Holm was an absolute disaster. My life was so screwed up at the time. I did not look screwed up because I was riding so high.

“I was on Dynasty at the time, which had become the biggest TV show across the world and my character Alexis was the most powerful woman. But I was having a tough time with Katy, who had been in a car accident aged just nine and was recovering from brain damage.

“I was seriously screwed by business managers and lawyers. One of my accountants failed to file my tax return for one of the years I made the most money.

“It came to light a couple of years later which meant paying over all the money I made in that particularly year to the taxman. I wish I had known just how incompetent some of these people could be. But I don’t like talking about the bad things. Life is tough for everyone. I prefer to see the good side of everything and know how lucky I am in so many ways.

“I have a wonderful family, wonderful children and a career which has gone on for all these years, which is amazing in this ephemeral age of reality stars.”

Joan predicts a short career for most such instant stars.

“What is so weird is that young people who want to be ‘celebrities’ do not want to put in the hard work. They don’t want to do the training, go to drama school, read Shakespeare, try different accents and study technique. They just want to be famous. It is not just in England, it’s the same in America and all over Europe.”

Joan was in Hollywood at a time when it was still packed with big-time, old-fashioned stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and Gene Kelly – she knew them all – and still admires the style shown by strong women of the day such as Joan Crawford and Lana Turner.

“I would be invited to parties where everyone dressed up beautifully and wore dazzling jewels,” she says.

“I never thought I was particularly good looking. But when I see old photographs I realise that I was. I do wish I had known that at the time because beauty is power.

“I didn’t realise how lucky I was to be young, beautiful and in Hollywood. It didn’t hit me. Every day I woke up, went to the film studio and just got on with it.”

When I mention that actress Thandie Newton had been complaining recently about being sexually exploited in her late teens Joan gives it short shrift.

“Sexually exploited?” she says.

“Do me a favour. Exploited is being a child sex slave, not being whistled at or chatted up or hassled. It is part of growing up, something that your parents don’t tell you about.”
Joan Collins, Dynasty, 80th birthday, Linda Evans
I refuse to be defined by my age
Joan Collins
SHE adds: “When my sister was 13 and I was 17 we were followed in Cannes all over the streets by a very famous film star trying to chat us up. Just remember, girls, that you have the power. Not the men.”

Joan’s own powers have led to her enjoying a a fabulous lifestyle with homes in London, Los Angeles, New York and the South of France and a reputation for demanding the best.

There is a new autobiography to be published this year, fittingly called Passion For Life. “I still live a gypsy life in the way I travel,” she says. “I refuse to be defined by my age.”

One Night With Joan opens a nine-city tour in Northampton tomorrow and runs from April 12-28 at London’s Leicester Square Theatre with all dates on