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 are these 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 was a 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 Weekly three 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! "Talk magazine 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 Survivor and 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?
Down in Chelsea, lesbiansand sometimes even drink ticketsare queen at King's Saturday night Lovergirl event, where a tasty trail mix of young sapphists cruises and schmoozes amid lapdancing and liplocking. Its male equivalent, the Dante-esquely circular g, is still crowded, though there hasn't been the usual line of sex-ridden hags and fitness trainers down the block on Saturdays; half the clientele is on Fire Island, where they have half-shares. But its straight equivalentBenefit at Joe's Pub on Mondayscontinues to bring out a randy bunch of straights who say original things like, "I'll be in the Hamptons this weekend. Call me on my cell," as they knock you down on the way to their third martooney. I couldn't stand it, but was suitably awe-inspired by the fact that Joel Blaine would find the place hard-on heaven.
Finally, cutting-it-off heaven came at the Slipper Room, a snazzy Orchard Street hangout where Hello, Dali!a "surreal tribute to the art of transsexualism"had us cheering on all fours. As the trannies tarted themselves up backstage, sultry DJ Sunny Suits played "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off," an advisory that was vehemently ignored come showtime. In rapid succession, Amanda Lepore and Sophia Lamar performed deadpan magic tricks in panties; Tina Sparkles pushed her sequined titties into an audience member's face in a vivid tribute to The Lion King; Candis Cayne climaxed "Le Jazz Hot" in a way skimpier ensemble than Julie Andrews could ever manage; and Glorya Wholesome shed her boa while dedicating "Different Drum" to George W. Bush (though bush is generally this crowd's goal genital). The switcheroo finale had our female host, *BOB*, stripping behind a screen to reveal a huge prosthetic schlong, then declaring, "In the future, there is no gender!" Uh-oh, Jackie Collins is in trouble.
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