By Lawrence Ferber
Photo by Lorin Davis
Novelist Jackie Collins may kick ass and take names, but she certainly knows how to keep those names secret (or at least thinly veiled) in her books. “As long as I change the names to protect the not-so-innocent, I can basically write about anything,” she chimes, “and I do.”
The U.K.-born Collins has mined Hollywood’s labyrinth of secrets and scandal (and gays!) while researching and writing her litany of over 30 books. Released on June 16, The Santangelos ($27.99, St. Martin’s Press), this ninth entry in her series revolves around powerful gangster’s daughter Lucky Santangelo and her family. In addition to a major character who meets a gruesome end, Collins promises “secrets, revenge, murder, and of course, sex—and that’s just the first few chapters.”
Speaking by phone from her Los Angeles home, the ever-saucy Collins dished about her book, helping gay friends use Grindr, closeted Hollywood stars, and Caitlyn Jenner.
Lawrence Ferber: How has Lucky changed since you last wrote about her exploits in 2013’s Confessions of a Wild Child?
Jackie Collins: Well, she’s a little calmer. She’s still wanting do everything herself, and does. She’s had a phase in her life where she had kids, [but] they’re grown, she’s still with Lenny (her fabulous filmmaker husband), and they aren’t on top of each other—unless they’re having tantric sex. She’s changed in the way she can deal with things without getting out of control.
And there’s a murder!
There is. A very gruesome murder, indeed. I like drama. I like bringing in new characters, so there’s a new fabulous drug dealer, Alejandro. He runs a very sleazy nightclub in Hollywood, and his father is one of the chief drug lords in Colombia. I think it’s a very epic book because it brings one of the characters to an end, and it sets up Lucky’s children as my new heroes.
What about new LGBT characters?
I’ve always written gay characters. Lesbian, bisexual, whatever’s going on—that’s the kind of world I live in, so I write it. Lucky’s assistant is gay, and he’s been in several books now and got married to his boyfriend, but they’re not major characters this time. We don’t have a lot of new gay characters in the book, but we’re going to have plenty in the next. We’re even going to have a transsexual or two.
Would you put a thinly veiled version of Caitlyn Jenner in there, perhaps? What are your thoughts on the Jenner affair?
Everybody is politically correct about it, and I think it’s great she feels free enough to come out. It’s sad she didn’t do it maybe 20 years ago instead of hiding her real self, but I think it’s a very brave thing to do, and I think the Vanity Fair photos are majorly glamorous and look like something out of a Marilyn Monroe pinup. In fact, I think I’ve seen Marilyn Monroe in that bathing suit. It’s interesting, watching how people react to it in the media, because I think it was Jon Stewart who said now that she’s a woman she’s going to be criticized for her looks all the time. But I think she’s looking amazing.
Would you ever write a fictionalized novel about the entire Kardashian clan?
If I had time, I think it would be fun to do as a tongue-in-cheek novel. I’m writing three books at the moment—a serial-killer book, a sequel to The Power Trip, and I’m still working on Reform School or Hollywood, my autobiography.
Are you looking forward to the moment that same-sex marriage is finally legal in every state?
Yeah, but I never stopped writing about gay characters. I think to delve into the fact
they’re getting married and divorced—quite quickly, I might add—will be very interesting, and a good plotline to come up with.
Some of the first same-sex married couples have in fact already gotten divorced.
I know. They didn’t realize how lucky they had it before! [Laughs] If you’re with a partner and you’re not inclined to get married, and your partner goes, “We can get married now!” you’re going, “Shit, I didn’t want to get married.” They’re going to have all the problems that single heterosexuals have.
Any updates regarding film versions of your books? I understand The Power Trip, which featured a pair of gay protagonists, is in some stage of development.
I’m getting lots of interest from the studios, so I’m hoping it will come off, but it’s development hell. I’m also working on getting The Bitches of Beverly Hills made into a tongue-in-cheek movie. That’s a short story I put up on my website for free, and it’s very funny. I’m also working on getting a movie of The Love Killers.
You’ve been writing books with steamy sexual content for years. Did you have any writer’s envy about 50 Shades of Grey and its juggernaut success? Did you read it?
I read the first one. I don’t get writer’s envy. It sounds like penis envy. I think they’re wringing the life out of this series. Do we really care about his point of view now? If that’s what turns people on! But this goes way back to the ’50s, with books like The Story of O and Tropic of Capricorn. Those were all about chains and spanking and dungeons. It’s nothing new. But I prefer my sex served up by women who kick ass and don’t get their asses kicked.
Would you ever write a 50 Shades of Gay?
When it first came out, I was tempted. It would have been hilarious, but a lot of people were doing parodies and I thought, no. I would have posted it online—I love posting something for free online, so people can read it.
The Duggars—any thoughts on the brouhaha?
It’s interesting, because I’m a pop-culture junkie and watch everything. When I watched the shows, even before this happened, the moment they say the word “Duggars,” I wind down. I thought, “Who is this boring family with 8,000 kids?” I’m totally uninterested in them! Then this scandal happened, and it’s like, oh yeah, there’s always something hidden under the blanket, so to speak. It’s very hypocritical that they should come forward with these messages about how you’ve got to behave, and they knew all this time they had this son with this problem. I’m completely not interested in them.
Are there any closeted Hollywood actors that, if we learned the truth, would actually make us drop our jaws? Dish!
I heard there are two very handsome leading men married to beautiful women who are very into getting it on on the side when nobody is watching. I built 32 books on never revealing actual names, although I know where a lot of bodies are buried, because people tell me things! Drivers, makeup artists, stylists—they’re always ready to spill the beans on who’s nice, who’s not nice, who’s getting a blow job on the set while their wife is in the dressing room—and I mean a male blow job. I have so many gay friends, and all of my gay friends think every man they meet is dying to jump into bed with them. They go, “Yeah, he’s secretly gay.” Every man can’t be secretly gay!
Grindr is very helpful for determining that.
I have a gay friend, and he wasn’t on Grindr, and he asked, “Why should I be on it?” and I said, “You’re looking for somebody, so we’ll put you on Grindr.” We were at a restaurant with a woman friend of mine from New York, and we put it on his phone, and he scrolled through and sees this gorgeous guy, and I said, “All you have to do is swipe him and see where he is.” The guy on Grindr goes, “I’m very close,” and we’re all excited, so I hand the photo of the guy to my [New York] friend, and she looks at it and goes, “Holy shit, that’s my driver—he’s right outside the restaurant!” That’s a true story. I couldn’t make it up.
Have you ever “ghost Grindr-d” and actually texted on someone’s behalf to hook them up?
No, but I’d be good at it. I had a couple of gay friends who would go to Santa Barbara on weekends. They seemed to be getting a bit jaded in their relationship, so I came along one weekend, and we were having dinner in a restaurant, and I said, “Boys, before you go upstairs, I’m going to give you your instructions.” I gave them explicit instructions on role-playing. One was going to be a FedEx delivery guy and the other was going to be an out-of-work cop. They came down the next morning and said, “We had the best night. Thanks so much!”
Getting back to women who kick ass—are you looking forward to voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016?
I would vote for a woman—not particularly that woman. [But I would love to see] a female president. That would be great, because we’d have the best of both worlds.
See Collins’ blog and jackiecollins.com for more information.
Freelance contributor Lawrence Ferber is co-writer of the award-winning 2010 gay rom-com Bear City and author of its 2013 novelization.