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The time Sky’s Mark Austin called that Dynasty dame the ‘Queen of Hollywood’: The trouble with Joan Collins

And finally, to reflect on the first day of the not at all media-obsessed celebrations celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, a clearly inebriated Mark Austin introduced reactionary right-wing snob Joan Collins as “the Queen of Hollywood”.

Hyper hyperbole much? I tell you what, let’s all hang on to that bunting because — huzzah! — fake news is alive and well. As if Britain wasn’t confused enough already.

I used to quite like Austin when he was anchoring at ITV. His flak jacket reports from Kiev after he switched sides to the thankfully Murdoch-free satellite TV were pretty gripping too, but now, is he Sky or just plain high?

Who’s suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s here, him or me? Because, lo and behold, I can’t think of a single great Hollywood movie Joan Collins starred in. Not a one, and certainly not this…

Perhaps I imagined that this tepid Tory was a two-bit talent in a succession of B movies like the utterly-hysterical-for-all-the-wrong-reasons schlock-horror flick Empire Of The Ants, and she only bagged that role because insect warrior Adam was too busy making an album… probably.

With no particular claim to great acting or great beauty, Saint Joan was largely forgotten about until she appeared in the budget film versions of sister Jackie Collins’ books The Stud and The Bitch.

Both movies featured eyebrow-raising nudity (it says here) — OK, she got fucked on a sex swing hanging over a swimming pool in the midst of an orgy — though that’s about the only things that were raised, as by then Joan was in her late forties and the baps were so saggy they were almost on first name terms with her ankles.

Though the pair were certainly risqué for their time, by today’s standards they’re more likely to provoke the spilling of drink, oooh, cinzano, say, than mucho man milk.

Still, the movies paid a few bills, and JC lived to crack open another bottle.

But the 1980s were enormously kind to our gracious subject and threw her a much needed lifeline. In fact, they saved her from complete and utter oblivion.

Lest we forget, Joan Collins was a washed up also-ran who suddenly hit the big time — just the once, dear — in a tacky OTT television programme called…. oh, what was its name again?

Ah yes, Dynasty! 

Back in 1985, I was such an avid watcher of the preposterous American soap that when it came to name our family’s brand new puppy (a beautifully pristine white West Highland terrier), I suggested Krystle, after Linda Evans’ character Krystle Carrington.

Camp? Whaddya mean?

“She’s got a face like a wet sponge,” my then college lecturer Alex Ward said about her (the actress, not the dog) but let’s face it, she was bland because the frequently ridiculous scripts demanded it. 

We named the pup Sacha, by the way. 

Still, where would Evans’s screen rival be without Dynasty?

But trash TV ain’t what it used to be. I did attempt to watch the recent Netflix remake but gave up after the opening episode. As throwaway as the original series was it just ain’t Dynasty without Joan and Linda trying to rip each other’s wigs off. 

Get out!

Then again, there ain’t no bigger fan of Joan Collins than Joan Collins, who, with a typical huge dollop of hubris, remarked in a recent interview that she’s been watching old episodes of the glitzy show while in lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic: “I was impressed by myself,” the Dynasty dame said. “Quite frankly, I think I should have got more [money].”

As the scheming empress of spite Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan, Collins was brilliantly bitchy, but that’s because she was merely playing an exaggerated version of herself, and if that wasn’t within the confines of her narrow range then what the hell is?

Like Alexis, Joan Collins isn’t a very warm character. That this five-times-hitched harridan of haughtiness has been besties with Shirley Bassey, Cilla Black, Christopher Biggins, Piers Morgan and Jeffrey Archer — oh, and is happy to cavort with Boris Johnson at any bash where there’s a sniff of free champagne — should tell you everything you need to now about arch Conservative Collins and her cold cold heart.

But what she lacks in earthy talent and empathy she more than makes up for in droll, opinionated camp and cutting cattiness. Gosh, that sounds familiar.

But what has the imperiously grand dame done since? Once you hit peak role, the only way is down. Ultimately, Joan Collins will be remembered as a mediocre performer and second-rate human being famous for shoulder pads and disco soft porn films — hardly a great legacy.

Let’s put it this way, this glitzy omnipresence is now regarded as a national trinket so relentless in rent-a-quote ubiquity that she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2015 for being glamorous showbiz person Joan Collins — or, officially “in recognition of her services to charity” — certainly not for her acting. 

And certainly not her politics. Now 89, in recent years the befuddled Brexiteer has been better known for fannying about with her fascist friend Nigel Farage while voting Leave from her luxury villa in the south of France, a 90 minute drive from Nice, where I write this.

Overflowing with sumptuous vacuity, Joan’s Spanish-style hacienda is in a hillside village south of Saint-Tropez called (are you ready for this, sweetie?) La Croix-Valmer, which is presumably why she bagged an oh-so-fleeting cameo in the so-so Absolutely Fabulous movie rather than because of any CV citing any great performances in Pinter, Shakespeare… or, hell, even one acclaimed Hollywood movie with her in the lead role.

I concede that she was adequate in two early productions, Land Of The Pharaohs and The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing and she can be fairly funny in small doses, but what has always irked moi is that the whole Joan Collins public persona is essentially dishonest, being based on the lie that she was once a major Hollywood movie star.

Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor must be chortling from here to eternity.

Still, the old ham has a contract with Sky since the network broadcast some satin and tat vanity project of hers a while back, so perhaps that famously titanic ego insisted Austin’s woefully fake news introduction was included in clause form as a condition for appearing. Notice how the low-grade lady doesn’t flinch or attempt to correct him in the slightest.

No false modesty for this pound shop prima donna then.

Anyway, enduring the footage all I can say is there must be one helluva flatter filter on the camera lens as I’ve witnessed Joan Collins up close in person on three occasions*, and wonky-eyed scary would be an understatement.

Actually, she looks embalmed. I wonder if her beautician moonlights as a mortician. 

Oh gawd, that was probably as funny as a funeral — Lex Dex the Dexter spectre is so gonna kill me! 

But would Joan cry at my demise? 

Nah, that would ruin her make up.

Steve Pafford

*OK, OK, the sightings at close range were a book signing at Waterstones in 1994 (I wasn’t there for her); a dinner with John Sessions at The Ivy in 1998 (again, I wasn’t there for her); and a taping of an episode of So Graham Norton where Joan and Marc Almond swapped authoring tips and judged a Pet Celebrity Lookalike Competition (again, I really truly wasn’t there for her but perhaps she finally found her ultimate role), from which this shady taster is taken…

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