Frankly Speaking With Jackie Collins (Marie Claire)
She was a high-school dropout, but today the bestselling novelist has notched up more than 500 million sales of her legenary “bonkbusters”. Here Jackie Frank speaks to Jackie Collins, 76, about everything from her teen affair with “beautiful” Marlon Brando to the secret to a hot sex life.
Jackie F: Why do you think your books resonate so strongly with woman?
Jackie C: They know that I’m writing the real truth. I do live in Hollywood. I’m disguising the people’s identities, but [readers] love to play the guessing game. They also love the strong women that I write about. And I write incredibly sexy, strong men, too; usually a bad boy who’s waiting to be reformed by the right woman.
Jackie F: Do you think women really can reform a bad boy?
Jackie C: Not really. I’ve had a few in my time. You have to just go along with it and be prepared for bad-boy behaviour, which is kind of exciting. When I met my first husband, on our second date he said, “Bring your toothbrush.” And I said, “I’m not sleeping with you on the second date.” He said, “No, you’re not, but we’re going on a plane.” He flew me to the south of France, put me up in a wonderful suite – next to his, of course – and we went gambling all night, had a fabulous dinner and then flew back to London.
Jackie F: And you had sex with him?
Jackie C: No.
Jackie F: Was that part of the game?
Jackie C: It’s all a game. Everyone says, “Oh, I’m not going to play any games.” Totally wrong. Men love games. They don’t think they do, but they do – don’t you think?
Jackie F: Yes, but I think women aren’t wired to play games like that.
Jackie C: They don’t want to. They get [emotionally] invested too quickly. All of a sudden they’re falling in love. Wait, see what he’s like and get to know him a bit.
My goddaughters dragged me to a club in Los Angeles one night and there were all these girls. They’ve got on eight-inch heels, they’re staggering around drunk in packs and the first guy that winks at them, they’re off to bed with him. And I’m thinking, “No! No! This is not the way to get respect from a guy. This is not the way to start a relationship. You have to have respect for yourself.”
Jackie F: What would you say to them?
Jackie C: I’d say, read “Confessions of a Wild Child” and find out how Lucky [Santangelo – a gangster’s daughter and recurring character in her novels] did it.
She has this fun think in the book, which she calls “almost”: never going all the way unless you’re going to be completely in a relationship. There are so many other things you can do, sexually, you know, as long as you’re careful.
But my advice to girls is to do everything you ever wanted to do before you get married and then you’re never stuck in a marriage looking out and saying, “ooh, I wish I’d done that.”
Jackie F: Do relationships have a time frame?
Jackie C: It’s interesting because 100 years ago, people used to die at 30, and now they’re living for like 60, 70 years. It’s difficult to maintain a marriage for that length of time.
I was married most of my life. My first husband was a drug addict; my second husband was 20 years older than me, which was fantastic and we had a wonderful marriage [lasting 26 years, until his death from prostate cancer]. And then I was engaged [her fiancé died from a brain tumour in 2000]. Now I’m finally free and I love it. I had the best, and now I have a man for every occasion. Friends with benefits, and other friends who like to go to the movies and the theatre, dancing. Gay friends. I don’t feel I’m losing out on anything.
Jackie F: You’re also financially independent. That makes a big difference.
Jackie C: Yes. I’ve been with men who’ve said, “The woman who has the money is always the one that’s in charge,” and they’ve resented it. It’s a shame because I’m very generous, although I don’t want to be with a man I have to give an allowance to. You see movie stars with these toy boys, and they’re giving him an allowance so he can pick up the [bill] in the restaurant, when everybody knows she’s really paying for it.
Jackie F: You’ve been asked many times about Fifty Shades of Grey and your response is always, “My women kick arse; they don’t get their arses kicked.” But do you think women sometimes want a man to take control?
Jackie C: There’s a taking control and taking control. A lot of men like women to take control in the bedroom sometimes. To have a virgin submissive heroine is not my kind of heroine. It’s great [EL James] has got people reading, but hate the phrase “mummy porn”. It’s kind of disgusting, ridiculous. And what kind of woman want to depend on handcuffs and spanking to get her rocks off?
Jackie F: Who, for you, are some of the women in the world who are kicking arse?
Jackie C: I would say Hillary Clinton if -if- she hadn’t let Bill get away with what he got away with.
Jackie F: But wasn’t that playing the game? She has an agenda?
Jackie C: Yeah, but you know what? If your husband cheated on you, what would you do with him?
Jackie F: Chuck him out of the house.
Jackie C: Exactly. That’s what I would do. Plus, cut his balls off and use them for earrings. I’m trying to think of strong women that I do admire. Angelina Jolie. She was a wild child and now she’s in this great [relationship with] Brad Pitt with all these wonderful kids, and she does it her way. They want to assimilate their children into the world not as movie stars’ kids, but as people, you know?
Jackie F: But she stole Brad, didn’t she?
Jackie C: Didn’t Jennifer Aniston just steal one who was with his girlfriend for 15 years? Nobody is saying anything about that. And you can’t steal a man unless he’s prepared to be stolen. If Jennifer Aniston was smarter, she would have been on that set every single day. If your husband went to work…
Jackie F: Oh come on! That’s not trusting. How do you have a relationship if you have to go and watch them at work every single day?
Jackie C: I wouldn’t trust a man as far as I could throw him.
Jackie F: What’s the secret to a great sex life?
Jackie C: Role -playing.
Jackie F: Oh, really?
Jackie C: Well, you have two kids and you’ve probably got in-laws. So you have to leave the kids with them for a weekend or a night, and just go off with your husband, wear a blonde wig, pretend to be somebody else, never come out of character and you’ll have a fantastic night.
Jackie F: So what’s my scenario?
Jackie C: Let’s see. Shall we have you as a blonde? Yes. First of all you have to meet him in a hotel bar – that’s always the best because then you’re complete strangers – and you’ll ask him what he’s doing here. He’s here on business. You’ll say you’re travelling, you’re a scout for models, and he’ll say, “Oh. Well, I’ve got a great bottle of champagne that the hotel sent me, I’d love it if, you know…” and the next thing you’re up in the hotel room, but you’re a completely different character and so is he, and you’ve got to stay in your roles. I wrote about it in Hollywood Divorces…I did that all the time.
Jackie F: When you wrote The World Is Full Of Married Men [published in 1968, and banned in Australia], there was an outcry about its explicit nature. Today, anyone can access hardcore porn instantly. What effect has that had?
Jackie C: Really bad. I fell particularly sorry for young men today because they think that what they see on the internet is what women are all about.
A friend of mine’s son had this experience – he told her friend about it – where he went with a girl for the first time and did something at the end that absolutely shocked her and she said, “I never want to see you again.” I don’t know what I did wrong, because I’ve seen it on the internet, that’s how they do it, and I thought that’s how sex was.” This is a true story. So sad.
Jackie F: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about sex?
Jackie C: Never have sex on the first date (laughs).
Jackie F: When you were 15, you had an affair with Marlon Brando. How do you think it affected you? He was twice your age.
Jackie C: He was twice my age, he was my favourite movie star and all I can say is he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen to this day. I stayed friends with him over the years…He was a big womaniser.
Jackie F: What is it about women who are attracted to men like that?
Jackie C: Well, say you were single and I said, “There are two guys I’d like you to meet. One is an executive for a bank, very well off, never been married but he’s really great, got a sense of humor, a really nice guy. Or there’s this other one, he’s sort of a bad boy, he was in a rock band and now he’s the manager and stuff, and he’s difficult – great-looking, but difficult.” Which one would you pick?
Jackie F: Number two.
Jackie C: Yeah, of course.
Jackie F: Actually, you know what? It depends when you were talking to me. If you were talking to me in my 20s, definitely number two. But I got married when I was 34, and I’d never have married him if I’d met him at 20.
Jackie C: Well, see, you’re a clever girl because you did everything you wanted to do before you got married.
Jackie F: You’ve been married twice and engaged for years, but your characters are constantly having affairs and cheating. Do you think men and women are meant to be monogamous?
Jackie C: If you’re married it’s very important to be monogamous. Otherwise, why be married?
Jackie F: Why marry? Is it something society expects?
Jackie C: Marriage is important for children [Collins has three daughter]. If you have them, you’re much better off giving them a father figure and a mother figure – children are much more balanced when they have that in their life. The late Louis Malle, the French film director who was married to [actor] Candice Bergen, came up to me on the set of my movie Hollywood Wives one day and said, “Miss Collins, you are a raunchy moralist.” I love that description, because my characters are very raunchy and they do all kinds of wild and wonderful things, but if they’re married…
Jackie F: You’ve said, “I live my life like a cool bachelor.” What can woman learn from the way men lead their lives?
Jackie C: [When I was] a kid, my father used to get Playboy and the guys [in the magazine] would always have fabulous apartments, a great music system, the Ferrari downstairs, and I thought, “Hmm…why not!” And a million girl friends, or a girl for every occasion. So, now, after being married or engaged my whole life, I just enjoy the freedom of it. If I want to go and buy a Ferrari tomorrow, I’m not going to be arguing with somebody – “Oh, that’s not the right car to get,” or, “Oh, you shouldn’t get yellow”. Because we do listen to the man in our life, whether we want to or not.
Jackie F: Your sister, Joan, is very famous, too, of course. People like to speculate about your relationship.
Jackie C: We’re the best of friends! We laughed about this. I mean, we were on the cover of Vanity Fair together. Last year, we were interviewed by Piers Morgan together…If we were deadly enemies, we wouldn’t do those things. When she’s in LA, we see each other three or four times a week. When she’s in Europe, we talk maybe once a month.
Jackie F: What’s your biggest regret?
Jackie C: My mother not living to see my success. She died before I published my first book. She died young. Breast cancer.
Jackie F: Well, she certainly created very strong women…
Jackie C: Yet she was a very gentle woman herself. My father was a chauvinist. He was tall, dark and extremely handsome. My mother was extremely beautiful, blonde – and she was under his thumb. I’m Jackie F: How much of you is there in Lucky Santangelo?
Jackie C: There’s quite a bit of me in her. But she’s the woman I’d like to be in another life. I’m not as strong as Lucky. Nobody is.
Jackie F: You’re free to do whatever you want! You’ve got the emotional freedom, the financial freedom…
Jackie C: You’re right. I’m going to think about this on the plane tomorrow. I think I’ll buy a red Ferrari the moment I hit the ground!