What was I doing, helping Joan Collins flog copies of her sizzling new self-help mega-tome, The Art of Living Well: Looking Good, Feeling Great (Sourcebooks), on my 54th birthday last Monday at the Borders store in the Time Warner Center? A fair question.
Several months ago, I was asked by the Borders events manager to host a book-signing for La Collins. Apparently the great lady had penned another masterpiece and, in lieu of doing a reading, had requested that yours truly interview her à la Dick Cavett. Having done the same for sister Jackie Collins—fab, funny and relaxed—at the 92nd Street Y a couple of years back, I was looking forward to notching another Collins on my walking stick. My goal is to add Phil and Judy before my 60th.
At Joan’s request, I submitted questions in advance. These were constructed after conscientiously breezing through The Art of Living Well. (This hilarious book—at $24.95, a great ironic camp holiday gift—is liberally plastered with photos of Joan flaunting herself in various outfits, locations and decades.) I was at pains to make these questions cheeky and unpedestrian. This approach seemed to mirror the spirit of Joan’s occasional diary for the U.K.’s Spectator, of which I am an enthusiastic reader.
I was excited about the whole encounter. I had visions of striking up a wild rapport with Joan. After all, we had so much in common: We were both low-born, stop-at-nothing, first-generation immigrants who had come to the U.S. and clawed our way to the middle, albeit in different fields. We both enjoy the attentions of a younger husband. And then there are the wigs: Though hers are expensive handmade jobs and mine are cheapo nylon numbers made for window mannequins, wigs loom large on our respective horizons. Having spent extended periods of time in Lima, I also looked forward to swapping carjacking stories with Joan’s Peruvian-born husband, Percy. I had visions of calling my Jonny and making up an après-book-signing foursome at the eaterie of Joan’s choice. (Even though it was my birthday, I would let her choose.)
’Twas not to be.
Enter La Collins. When the events manager introduced us, Joan, who was wearing black satin slacks with a fab chinoise-y top with flyaway bits, recoiled in horror. “I knew nothing of this!” she gasped, splaying a hand on her upper chest and adding: “And I hate these kinds of surprises!” Sphincters tightened. Knuckles whitened. So great was the maquillaged septuagenarian’s displeasure that I began to have Dynasty déjà vu. I felt as though we were in the middle of a showdown in the lobby of the Mirage country club: Krystle and Alexis were about to slug it out and roll around on Borders’ mauve carpet.
But fighting was out of the question. There was no way I could bring myself to throttle the still-gorgeous icon. Yes, she was having a hissy fit, but, when all is said and done, the lady had just cause: Apparently, horror of horrors, Joan’s people had forgotten to remind her that someone had agreed to come—on his birthday!—and help her peddle books. What kind of monsters were they? How could they treat a great star like that! No wonder she was furious. If, on my next book tour, somebody shows up and tries to help me sell books (on his or her birthday), I will bitch-slap that loser all the way to Carrington headquarters.
The affable S.O. somehow managed to placate his missus. With Percy in tow carrying the Collins fur stole, we proceeded to the speaking area, where we were greeted by loud cheers, a good number of which were directed—sorry, Joanie!— at moi.
Encouraged by the sight of so many well-wishers and familiar faces, I resolved to vanquish the current froideur and kicked off the interview with a rousing quote from Joan’s book: “Relationships, particularly sexual ones, are not just the prerogative of the young …. ”
“Joan, this is my favorite quote,” I gushed. “Would you care to elaborate?”
“How nice that it’s your favorite quote,” said Joan, and then looked straight ahead without further elaboration. Subsequent questions elicited similarly turgid responses.
Fortunately, the Collins microphone was malfunctioning. Thinking quickly—as one needs to if one has audaciously elected to spend one’s birthday helping someone else sell his or her books—I handed Joan my microphone, thereby absolving myself of any further Dick Cavett–ish obligations.
The role of utterly useless and humiliated spectator was not without its chuckles. I especially enjoyed watching the lovely authoress—fielding her own audience Q&A—get repeatedly distracted by the nice deaf gents who were signing enthusiastically in the front row.
As soon as the fans lined up to nab Joan’s autograph, I bid farewell to the authoress, grabbed my monogrammed Goyard bag and fled. Ere long, I was reunited with my dog and husband, both of whom seemed excessively amused by my cringe-making ordeal.
Undeterred, I blew out the candle on a small cupcake, made a wish (don’t worry, Joan, the wish was about eternal togetherness and stuff like that and did not concern you meeting with an unfortunate accident) and resumed my birthday book-promotional duties.
Coach president and executive creative director Reed Krakoff had sent me an insanely chic new book—one that he published himself—on the work of Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne. Don’t go looking for it at Borders. This incredible illustrated book, entitled Lalanne, is the perfect non-ironic holiday gift at $75.
Who are the Lalannes? Have you ever seen those photos of a young Yves St. Laurent lounging in his ultra-groovy 70’s pad astride a fluffy full-size sheep? (I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some career low point, a partially clad Joan was also photographed lolling on a Lalanne sheep in a Marks and Spencer bra-and-panty set.) These hip varmints and other sculptural follies are the whimsical creation of the husband-and-wife Lalanne team, currently in New York to kick off a show of current works at the Paul Kasmin Gallery on Nov. 16.
This is exactly the kind of groovy event to which I had envisioned dragging Joan once we had become friends. Oy vey! No sense lamenting what could have been. Time for bed. The end of another birthday.
I placed my precious copy of Lalanne on my bedside table. I then wedged my copy of The Art of Living Well: Looking Good, Feeling Great in its rightful place at the bottom of my bookshelf, between Jane Seymour’s Guide to Romantic Living and Polly Bergen’s Polly’s Principles, and crawled under the covers.
Sleep did not come easily: The excitements of the evening’s promotional activities had left me in a state of arousal. It was only after counting Lalanne sheep, alternating with flying wigs, that I was able to drift off.
P.S.: Apropos of looking good and feeling great, a psychologist friend told me that the best way to combat the inevitable crankiness of old age is with lavish doses of antidepressants. By the time my Jonny is carrying my fur stole, I plan on being Zolofted up to my eyeballs.
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