There are rare occasions in life that arrive and make us feel truly suspended in the moment, awestruck with excitement, elation or joy – from weddings, milestone birthdays, to the perfect Christmas morning, or a once in a lifetime trip to foreign climes … but for me, one such occasion was the fine September day that I met actress, author and show business legend, Dame Joan Collins.
Two gilded armchairs and matching tables neatly dressed with candles, books and framed photographs set the stage for an intimate evening in the company of a true cultural icon, and as guests filed into The Lowry, Salford, for Joan Collins Unscripted, a large projection screen played rare and unseen personal cine, VHS and digital film footage from the megastars own personal collection whilst a very pleasant recording of Joan singing, lulled away the wait for ‘curtain up’.
“I made a record at the end of my marriage to Tony Newley, and it was called ‘And She Can Sing Too’ which was rather full of itself… and I sang eight of my favourite songs… and we discovered it a few years ago. There are many clips and home movies”
As an amateur filmmaker, this couldn’t have been more up my street. I think that what we capture on film, in a candid and unforced manner with family and friends – it captures the essence of people as pure to the character as possible, and as the years pass by, they become more treasured. Joan never looks more stunning and radiant than when relaxed in the company of those who she is closest to, and what a smile she has. It felt like a generous treat that Joan would share this beautiful and personal imagery with her guests. Gorgeous footage from her wedding reception, where she and Percy took their first dance, to holidays, family meals and get-together’s spanning the decades of her life, you know, the usual family archives… aside from the fact that THIS was Joan Collins.
Then Joan stepped out with Percy to a rapturous applause from a packed theater of fans and admirers. I felt enormously lucky, it was just fantastic to be seated front row with my partner, and I think it’s safe to say that she had a few mega-fans in the house, because the energy and excitement was electric and everyone around me was thrilled… even emotional.
Percy took to the mic, to host and compère the evening. It worked so, so, well. They are brilliant together. It’s great that she has such companionship. Nothing can beat being in a unit that works. Anyway, he let us know what topics were understandably off limits in the lengthy open questions situation that was to follow, and my heart raced like a cornered rabbit at the very thought of speaking to Joan directly, in front of the entire theater, but I am an Aries and I never let my nerves override my enthusiasm – even if there’s a strong chance of my lips sticking to my teeth.
Joan has lead a remarkable and unique life and the questions were wide ranging and often delivered with great northern humor. Joan covered much ground – from early Hollywood through to present day. Through working relationships, freinds, family and the odd piece of advice and many interesting and impressive anecdotes from a career that has seen it all and shows no sign of stopping, having just wrapped a new feature film which is due for release in spring 2017 – THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES
I loved it when Joan revealed that she and her sister Jackie watched French and Sunders ‘Lucky Bitches’ parody clips together and would laugh their heads off. One gets the clear impression that there has been a great deal of love, excitement and laughter in her life, and regardless of any lemons thrown her way, she seems to have always counted her blessings and toasted to it with lemonade. It is an outlook and strength that I admire, because life is never going to be a picnic in the park for any of us.
My own question concerned Damon Gough, the Manchester based singer who goes by the stage name of Badly Drawn Boy. Joan stared a music video for his track ‘Spitting in the Wind’ and I asked her how on earth that usual pairing had come to be, what she felt about the collaboration, because I was fascinated by this most peculiar juxtaposition of characters.
It appealed to me because I thought it was artistic and brave and she looks amazing in the video. Anyone who has seen my own work will notice that I love to film glamorous women, (I know, gay men and glamorous women is no newsflash) but I forget that sometimes actresses take on projects and move on, that perhaps they don’t remember everything too fondly – and I am laughing inside as I type because Joan really thought the whole thing ‘very very weird’, and recommended that ‘nobody look it up’, because it still haunts her…
I was a little mortified by her answer… but now, well, watching the video again after her insights, seeing her bathing in soap suds, eating ice-cream in bed whilst crying into her bathrobe before getting dressed for an opulent dinner party – all alongside this scruffy beanie hat wearing, guitar waving, harmonica blowing Manchester lad…? Well it’s just too droll to think of how she felt, so don’t go and look up the rather charming and actually very beautiful video, Badly Drawn Boy feat Joan Collins – Spitting in the Wind.
The second act started with a segment on DYNASTY. Joan came back onstage to the DYNASTY theme tune, ‘Oh god that music’ she said… but we had just watched an hilarious montage of Alexis’ one liners and the tour de force performance that Joan gave for eight years defined and personified one of the most unique decades of our times, in my opinion. She single-handedly turned a failing television program into a phenomena, and the crowd applauded with genuine warmth and affection because it has been unmatched and imitated ever since.
“That’s caviar Mark, not peanut butter” – Alexis
There isn’t a line from Alexis that I cannot quote, no mannerism or nuance that I cannot mimic and it shielded me from bullies – but I won’t bore you with all of that because I am a grown man now, that was an age ago, and as Percy said, tongue firmly in cheek, ‘Telling Joan just how young you were when you first started watching Dynasty is just plain rude’, and again rapturous laughter from everyone. There was such humor, style and wit, and before we knew it – the show was drawing to a close. Standing ovation lasted a while, of course. I think I whooped myself horse with my “we love you Joan’s” but there are still some dates available, so do go and catch it if you can.
After the show I was invited backstage to meet Joan and Percy. Arranged by my friend, Alyn Waterman, Joan’s personal Makeup and Hair Stylist. It was an incredibly kind gesture being that Joan and he had been working all day, first in London for Loose Women TV and then via train to Manchester for the show. Long day by anyone’s standards… and to me, it meant the world. Hashtag understatement.
David V Barron and Joan Collins.
Joan is every inch the Hollywood Royalty that I imagined she would be. She has a self-confidence, energy and zeal that is remarkable to witness. Quick witted, sharp, and very aware – doesn’t mince her words of course, nor does she suffer fools to spare their blushes… all of which just adds excitement to the megawatt charm and gravitas that she radiates, and I am so relieved that I managed to speak to her without sounding like a bumbling, hyperventilating nelly, because I won’t lie, I was truly star-struck because there has been no one in the world I had dreamed to meet more than Dame Joan Collins, she is endlessly fascinating, inspiring and beautiful.
As Joan stepped her way back into her dressing room, delightful Percy holding the door, I thanked her for the opportunity to meet and share a few words. Her gaze upon me and her smile, it is something that I will remember for the rest of my life as a gift. When she smiles, smiles that natural, spontaneous and involuntary sort, well it is stunning to be on the receiving end of it, and with that flash of magic, Joan was gone.
Thank you so much Joan, Percy and Alyn XXX
Joan Collins and Alyn Waterman