Joan Collins once wrote a memoir called ‘Second Act’ that chronicled her late-blooming success as a middle-aged actress in Hollywood. Judging from ‘The World According to Joan’, a collection of her newspaper articles and columns, she could easily have a third-act as a Conservative MP.
“Chivalry is dead, manners have been thrown out of the window and politeness is an arcane word that our ancestors used to describe a code of behavior that has long since disappeared,” she writes. “The very idea of opening a door for someone or standing up when a lady arrives at the table is completely unknown to most people today.”
If Joan Collins sounds like an irascible pensioner – the old dear in the corner of the pub, nursing a vodka-and-tonic and complaining that things aren’t what they used to be – that’s because she is. In chapter after chapter, the 78-year-old rails against the symptoms of our national decline, whether it’s footballers’ wives sporting unsuitable outfits at Royal Ascot or children being pampered and indulged by their parents. “In the real world, people expect results before handing out praise and they certainly don’t give a fig about your self-esteem,” she harrumphs.
I was surprised she’s produced enough journalism to fill a book of this length, but I shouldn’t have been. She possesses the essential attribute of a good columnist, namely, a low irritability threshold. Her list of pet peeves is inexhaustible and includes rucksacks, obesity, tattoos, body piercings, public transport, nylon shell suits, political correctness, Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, mobile phones, the f-word, Jeremy Kyle, litter, video games, footballers and “foul-mouthed comedians who joke about the most disgusting things”.
Joan Collins is Richard Littlejohn in drag. Who knew?
She reserves her greatest scorn for glamour models and reality stars – “sub-lebrities”, as she calls them. She simply cannot understand why the media lavishes such attention on the likes of Octomum and Kim Kardashian.
“Most reality stars are devoid of talent, beauty or charm and to stay in the public eye they have had to rely on self-serving antics, each time more bizarre or licentious,” she writes. “Within a short time most go from the glitter to the gutter because this type of fame is fleeting.”
She contrasts them unfavourably with the glamorous movie stars of yesteryear who were nurtured by the Hollywood studio system. Somewhat astonishingly, she includes herself in this exalted company. “Among them were Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Debbie Reynolds, Rock Hudson, Jayne Mansfield and little ol’ me,” she writes.
It’s rather touching that Collins thinks of herself as a screen legend, but her list of movie credits – Lady Godiva Rides Again, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, The Stud – is never going to the subject of a retrospective at the British Film Institute. You wouldn’t catch Ava Gardener appearing in Dick Wittington at the Birmingham Hippodrome, as our Joannie did last Christmas.
Nevertheless, these delusions of grandeur helps explain why Collins is so affronted when some tattooed, overweight mother in Sainsbury’s refuses to move her supermarket trolley so she can get to the cheese counter. She’s a little like the Gloria Swanson character in Sunset Boulevard, except far from being a recluse she’s constantly venturing out into the world where it never fails to disappoint her. If you expect men to hurl themselves at your feet every time you raise an eyebrow, encountering a group of drunken football hooligans in a First Class railway carriage must be quite a shock.
In the final chapter, Collins comes out as a Tory and says that what kids need today is strong discipline, reinforced by plenty of corporal punishment. “I’m sure I shall be criticized for expressing my views,” she writes. “But I’m sure, too, that I express many of the views of a silent majority in Britain today.”
No doubt she does. I think it’s high time Conservative Central Office placed her on the list of approved candidates.