Jackie Collins’s 27th novel, Poor Little Bitch Girl, just hit The New York Times Best Seller list after only ten days of its American release. Collins has sold over 400 million copies of her novels and, to put that into perspective, Madonna has sold roughly 200 million albums to date.
I met Jackie Collins while I was traveling through the Southwest to work on my video piece, Studs, inspired by Jackie Collins’s novel, The Stud (1969). I was filming synchronized swimming hunk Bill May in Las Vegas and Cherokee Hollywood legend Wes Studi in Santa Fe. On the road through Arizona, I stopped at a Casino on the Maricopa Indian Reservation to intercept Jackie Collins’s book tour and talk to her about the very novel which I am basing my video.
Sarah Baker: I’ve started a Jackie Collins book club in London. At the first meeting, we read from the novel and screened The Stud. Club members came along dressed in ’70s glamour, and martinis were served while we ate cupcakes and deliberated. The pictures are now featured in a magazine called Undercurrent. The next book club meeting will be at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
Jackie Collins: Oh, how much fun is that! You know, Married Lovers is not published in England until October, so that will be good timing. You should get hold of Nigel. Have you been to my website? He is fabulous. I always stay at the Dorchester.
SB: Definitely! Meantime, I want to ask you about The Stud. I have been thinking about the three main characters, the Rich Husband…
JC: Benjamin Khaled.
SB: The Bitch…
JC: Fontaine Khaled.
SB: Yes, and the Stud.
JC: Tony Blake.
SB: I am interested in Benjamin Khaled’s character. He is funding the whole fiasco, which allows his wife, Fontaine, to start the nightclub Hobo and to hire Tony Blake as the manager…and the story is about the rise and fall of Tony Blake under Fontaine Khaled’s command. But I was wondering if you could tell me more about Benjamin Khaled’s role…
JC: It’s very difficult for me to say anything because I wrote that book so long ago…
SB: At this point, it’s a classic!
JC: …and having written 24 books since that book, it would be difficult for me to recall the character unless I read the book. He was Middle Eastern, as far as I remember, and he was very powerful. I think he was a secret arms dealer, although he deals in money and banks, as far as I can recall… What else do you want to know about him?
SB: Is Benjamin Khaled a realistic character in terms of women who marry men for money?
JC: Yes. I based the book on people I knew. Tony Blake was somebody I knew. Fontaine…not the character, but the ambiance of the character, was based on my sister. And, of course, Joan played Fontaine in the movie (The Stud) really so great. Joan had a friend who lived in Switzerland, so I created a character that was a cross between Joan and her friend.
SB: And this was all pre-Dynasty.
JC: Yes, and Aaron Spelling saw the movie and whizzed that character away. If you see Dynasty, you’ll see that Alexis Carrington is Fontaine Khaled; same character.
SB: So you basically invented Alexis Carrington.
JC: Yes, I think so. I would like to say I did.
SB: What makes Fontaine so special?
JC: Fontaine is a woman who’s completely obsessed with herself and what she can get out of life. She really doesn’t have a lot of integrity; she’s out for everything. She is a consumer in every way. She wants the best car, the best fur… She doesn’t care that it’s not politically correct to wear a fur. She wants the best men; she wants sex when she wants it. To Fontaine, sex is a game, and she plays Tony Blake.
SB: Tony Blake, The Stud, is a highly sexualized character. What about sexualized male characters in popular culture?
JC: He was based on a real life character that ran a discotheque that my husband owned, and that’s what happened. I mean, the women would come in and discuss him like a piece of meat. He was actually having an affair with a very young girl, and there was the older woman, and I observed the whole thing. He’s an interesting character to write about because…don’t forget, The Stud came out 1969 or 1970, so it was the end of the ’60s, the end of an era. The Stud was the guy that women really went after as opposed to guys going after women. It was the time of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Everybody was just becoming famous, the swinging ’60s of London.
SB: Have you been to Dubai?
JC: No. I’d like to go to Dubai, but I have a feeling that my books are banned there.
SB: I have been censored there.
JC: Have you? It’s interesting, I think Arab men or Middle Eastern men would be extremely scared of me because I tell women that they can do anything, and I mean it. I get incensed that women don’t have the freedom that they should have in Arab countries, and they want it, but it’s the men who are preventing them from having it. It’s putting women into a box, it’s not giving them the freedom that they deserve. So I don’t think I‘ll be going to Dubai. Dubai, I know, is different, but still there’s that underlying current that women are playthings and men are all powerful.
SB: Do you consider yourself controversial?
JC: I would be there [chuckle] definitely. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere where I have to cover my hair and wear robes. I don’t understand; when Middle Eastern women come to London, they still do that whole thing. Why don’t they dress like we dress? We have to dress like they dress if we go there. Do you see what I am saying? I think that’s completely ridiculous. So they should be told that if they are going to come to a Western country, they should dress like Westerners — not walk around with veils covering their faces with hoods and robes and whatever.
SB: Is there anything you particularly loathe about contemporary fashion?
JC: I loathe women who make themselves look like sluts. It’s not a good look. If the dress is only that much below C-level, it’s not a good look. You are asking to be treated with less respect, and I try to give women more strength in my books.
SB: What about those celebrities showing all their areas?
JC: Making a sex tape and that’s how you become famous? Sucking some guy’s dick on a screen… Women have to have more respect for themselves because that’s the only way they’re gonna get more respect from men. Unfortunately, you see these rap videos and you see a lot of images in magazines and movies. There are fabulous women, like Angelina Jolie. She is fabulous. She’s so incredibly sexy. She takes off her clothes when she wants to, but she does it in such a kick-ass way, she’s just great. I just love her.
SB: The painter Beryl Cook died recently. I know she’s your favorite artist and that you own a lot of her work. I read in the obituary that she was continually rejected from the Tate and other contemporary high-art establishments in London, though she was very commercially successful. What do you think about being respected by the elite critical network verses reaching a broader audience?
JC: I think it’s bulls***. I am a popular culture junkie. I love everything about it. I love popular television shows, popular movies, popular music… All this about “you’ve got to love opera” and “you’ve got to love ballet…” it’s fine for some people, good for them! I don’t criticize them for it. Yet my books, which I know are gonna be around in 100 years, people go, “It’s just flash and trash,” and it’s not. It’s saying a very important message to women, which is: you can be stronger, don’t let the double standard get you down. I’ve hit the double standard on its head, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
Jackie Collins' latest novel 'Poor Little Bitch Girl' is in stores now.
'The Stud' was Jackie's 2nd novel, first published in 1969, and still in print today.
Sarah Baker's blog called Dear Jackie, was inspired by and is dedicated to Jackie Collins.