By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
We love Jackie Collins for the flap copy alone. The short-attention-span crowd heads right to the plot breakdown and, with her latest book, Lethal Seduction, learns about characters like "Rosarita Falconan ambitious and sexy would-be New York socialite with a yen to murder her husband" and "Joel Blainethe playboy son of a billionaire with an unquenchable taste for public sex." We know these people. We arethese people. Even better is Collins's actual prose, which crackles with light, beach-ready scandal and suspense, with lips glossed and legs akimbo. Only she could come up with a character named Varoomba, so called "because of the amazing contortions she was able to perform with her outrageous bosom." (And I thought it was a once-trendy restaurant on Seventh Avenue South.) There are even celebrity drop-ins, like Leonardo DiCaprio, about whom it is observed, "He was shorter than she'd expected, and much too young. But all the same, he wasa major star." And can perform amazing contortions with his outrageous bosom.
I called Jackie last week for a scheduled phoner, but, being a major star, she'd gotten tied up with radio interviews and book signings in her never-ending quest for mass domination. When I reached her later on, she apologized profusely and said, "The interviews went over too long because they kind of got a kick out of talking to me. . . . People called in, saying, 'Why can't you write more books a year?' " I confessed that I'm also jonesing over Lethal Seduction, and she promptly told me the book's chart position and asked if I'd also gotten her CD! "It has my favorite female singers," she gushed, "and I read two scenes from my books to this wild, throbbing music. I was chosen 'recording artist of the week,' tongue-in-cheek, by Entertainment Weeklythree weeks ago."
The woman does quote her own press a lot, but that's probably only to save you the trouble of looking it up. She's the modern-day Jackie Susann, and in all her bodacious brashness has inspired imitators who inevitably plunge into the career toilet as she soars Beverly Hills-ward. "I've often read, 'This writer is going to knock Jackie Collins off her perch,' " she told me, coolly. "If I'd been knocked off my perch that many times, I'd be black and blue all over. There's nothing sadder than a bad imitation, and you know exactly what I mean by that." No, I didn't, but laughed appreciatively anyway, rather than risk turning up as a boorish and flatulent columnist in her next roman à clef.
We segued, naturally, into the kooky queer scene, and Jackie observed, "I think the new hairdressers of the millennium are the fitness trainers. Baby, they know absolutely everything! I'd like to develop Cole, my gay trainer character, further. I'm going to do a sequel to Lethal Seduction and maybe call it Throb." That's what I'm already calling Lethal Seduction, with its elaborate descriptions of Joel Blaine's hetero promiscuity. ("Get down on all fours, we're gonna do it doggie style," he tells Rosarita with typical panache.) Baby, Jackie knew what I was talking about! "Talkmagazine said, 'Nobody writes about sex in the back of a Bentley better than Jackie Collins,' " crowed Jackie Collins.
As for something else I read somewherethat the '80s are back with a vengeanceJackie confirmed to me that the masses are glamour starved and "they're going to get so sick of Survivorand Big Brother." That'll be good news for me, her, and her sister, Joan Collins, who's swiveling her hips faster and harder than ever. And how does Jackie feel about Joanie turning down a stage production of The Graduate because of the nudity? "I think it's hilarious," she said, remembering that Joan starred in the racy '78 movie version of her book The Stud. "I told her, 'There'll be no nude scenes. It'll be very subtle.' She said, 'Absolutely right.' Well, I saw the dailies, and there she was, stark naked on a swing! My sister, she'd try anything. She might be naked after all!" I guess it runs in the family.
And now for the bare truth about the real world of stars who are shorter than you expected and their various public contortions. The Man Who Came to Dinner revival is a so-so soufflé of vitriol, name-dropping, and sexy would-be socialites that's longer than Angels in America but not quite as relevant or revelatory. The old-fashioned, demonstratively acted warhorseabout a nasty critic who zanily wrecks lives for a hobby (don't look at me)doesn't really click until Act III, when its wackiness becomes more lethally seductive. Still, it's hard to totally dislike anything in which characters say stuff like, "Don't look at me with those cow eyes, you sex-ridden hag!"
An after-theater tour of Midtown gay bars brought me right back to the Village, though my cow eyes were delighted to find some intimate neighborhood boîtes where people actually go by their real names. Chase is a narrow, claustrophobic place in the bottom of a West 50s town house, where the wrist-flapping crowd work overtime to make it a party and not just the world's longest runway. Nearby, Scandal looked so tiny and sparse that the only scandal would be to go in. But Hannah's Lava Lounge has a kind of seedy charm, with pre-Stonewall types, alkies, and other people who've been knocked off their perches lined up at the bar as if out of a Eugene O'Neill revival directed by Trevor Nunn. Just one question: Who do you have to fuck to get a free drink there?