Sydney’s gays and a smattering of the ladies who love them flocked to the State Theatre last night for an audience with the incomparable Joan Collins, who spent an hour and a half offering up juicy morsels from her life in a camp, lovably cheesy, tightly scripted show.
Collins’ infamous recent interview with boorish 60 Minutes presenter Liam Bartlett went south when Bartlett spent much of the interview fixated on her advanced age, but seeing the TV diva on stage in stilettos, skin-tight pants and an off-the-shoulder top, it was hard not to focus on the fact she seemed decades younger than her 78 years.
When Collins knelt down at one stage to reminisce about the time she had to tie Bette Davis’ shoelaces on set, one couldn’t help but marvel: a 78-year-old kneeling on stage in front of an audience, confident in the fact she’d be able to get back up again!
Impossibly camp and a shameless name-dropper, Collins regaled the audience with stories about both her career and her love life — the two often closely intertwined.
She kept it light and frothy — her 18-month affair with Warren Beatty, which lead to a broken engagement and an abortion, was brushed off in barely a sentence, as Collins preferred to focus on gossip about other vintage celebs (Richard Burton’s insatiable appetite for women, Bing Crosby’s eye-watering nicotine breath and Joan Crawford’s ‘Groucho Marx eyebrows’ among them).
And Collins had no qualms about detailing the pre-Dynasty years — those lean times before Alexis Carrington finally made her a household name at age 48. We watched video projections of ropey scenes from some of her little-remembered shlocky ’70s films (Empire of the Ants, anyone?), as Collins gleefully cackled about the strange turns her career had taken.
It was interesting to hear how much the iconic role of Alexis in Dynasty had influenced Collins’ own life — it even helped win her a massive court case against Random House in the early ’90s. The publishing house was suing her for the return of a multi-million dollar advance and, as she showed via actual video footage from inside the courtroom, the intense, aggressive questioning she’d been subjected to in the witness stand had reduced her to a very un-Joan Collins blubbering mess.
She said that before going to court the next day a friend had advised her to “just act like Alexis”. Cut to Collins, back in court resplendent in an Alexis-esque power suit and shoulder pads, playfully challenging the lawyer questioning her.
A 20-minute Q&A session at the end of the show was a welcome chance for Collins to stray from her script, and she proved just as charming — and fantastically cutting — off the cuff.
One hapless fan stood up to ask his ‘question’ — “Will you please sign my book?” — only to be met with a withering, “Yes, I can do that later, but right now we’re having a Q&A session, so sit back down unless you have a proper question”.
You can take the girl out of Dynasty…