Jackie Collins, looking as splendid as ever, relaxed in a hammock swing chair on Rockefeller Plaza outside the TODAY studios, hoisted a tall, frosty glass filled with an alcohol-free version of a cocktail created by Wolfgang Puck in her name (see recipe below), and waited for the show’s co-host, Matt Lauer, to offer the toast.
“This is virgin Jackie Collins,” Lauer said.
“I haven’t heard that in a long time,” Collins cracked.
She’s one of the most-read authors on earth, with more than 400 million books in print worldwide, with translations in 40 languages. She visited TODAY to talk about her 25th book, “Drop Dead Beautiful,” and kick off the show’s Summer Page Turner feature.
The book brings back Collins’ popular heroine Lucky Santangelo, who has starred in five previous page turners. Sharp, bold and, of course, sexy, Santangelo, said Collins, is “the woman all women would like to be, and she says the things all women would like to say.”
She has a young lover, she has a 16-year-old daughter, and she has to battle “the worst villain I’ve ever written.”
Her daughter is busy making friends on the Internet, unaware that a young man she thinks she’s made friends with is actually an older pervert. The villain is Anthony Bonar, the illegitimate grandson of Lucky’s lifetime enemy Enzio Bonnati. And, although the book begins in Bel-Air, it ends up in the city with which Collins has always been fascinated — Las Vegas.
Expect to see it soon on a beach near you. Collins, who will turn 70 this year, told Lauer that her friends are always coming back from vacations with pictures they’ve taken “of some fat old man on the beach reading my book,” presumably because pictures of all the hot young people who also read her works wouldn’t be as funny.
‘I was a wild thing’
She said she takes her characters from life, but “I disguise people.” And her novels always include a lot of sex - “hot, erotic sex,” she said. “And I like writing about married sex. Lucky has a great sex life in the book. Anthony (Bonar) has all the deviant sex.”
Collins writes from experience. “I was a wild thing,” she told Lauer. “I write about it all the time.”
The younger sister of actress Joan Collins, she says she was constantly in trouble while growing up in England. At the age of 15, she was expelled from school and celebrated by throwing her school uniform in the Thames River.
She went to America, moved in with her sister, and tells of sexual escapades with older men when she was as young as 16, which is the same time she first went to Las Vegas.
She has three daughters, and has said that she was “a strict, hands-on mother” who now has a great relationship with her children.
“I’ve been in love five times,” she has written. “You know when you’re in love because you can’t think about anything else. My [second] husband was 20 years older than me, but he was fantastic.”
She lost her fiancé, Frank, to cancer seven years ago. “He was like a hero from one of my books,” she said.
Paris is not so bad
She has said that she got into a lot more trouble than Paris Hilton has. “The media is absolutely obsessed with her because she’s young and sexy and hot,” she told Lauer.
“Drop Dead Beautiful” includes a passage about Lauer, and TODAY’s Al Roker was called in to do a dramatic reading while Lauer blushed.
With a delivery worthy of a soap-opera narrator, Roker read: “Reluctantly she followed Cole out the front door. Today she really didn’t feel like indulging in any physical activity. She was genuinely tired, so why couldn’t she have stayed in bed and watched mindless morning TV? Although there was nothing mindless about Matt Lauer on the Today show — he was still the hottest talking head on TV.”
On the Plaza, spectators cheered. In the studio, TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira pantomimed putting a finger down her throat and gagged.