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Remembering The Gossipy Pen Of Jackie Collins

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It was her author photo I noticed first.

She wore a jacket, her hair moussed to the nines. She wore a jacket that had on it a panther pin.

I was used to Judy Blume’s sweaters, Beverly Cleary’s neat haircut.

Jackie Collins dressed like it was 1985.

And it showed.

Of course I knew that Jackie was Joan Collins’ sister. Often they were seen around Los Angeles, eating at Spago, going to movie premieres. They were always dressed in the latest fashions, their hair perfect. Joan was flying high on Dynasty; Jackie was flying high her with her writing. I started reading her during winter break from school when I was 12. Good thing I did- if I brought Jackie Collins’ books to Sequoia Middle, it would’ve been too hot to handle.

Be it Gino Santangelo basically having sex with any woman that had a vagina, his daughter Lucky sleeping with her boarding school roommate Olympia, Carrie Dimes sleeping with many clients (in case you need reminding, she was a prostitute) and on and on and on. I read both Lucky and Chances that winter break. I had no idea that many of the characters were based on real people (Olympia on Christina Onassis, Gino’s third wife Susan on Barbara Marx Sinatra), all I knew was she told a good story and she kept that story moving.

Oh yeah, did I mention her characters were always having sex?


They were like rabbits.

Jackie Collins was brought up in England along with Joan and their brother Bill. Expelled at fifteen, she followed her sister’s lead and started acting. However, she wanted to do something different. She wanted to write books like her heroes, Mickey Spillane and Harold Robbins. Where men were men, but women were just as strong as them. She wrote novels with titles like The World Is Full of Married Men, The Bitch, and The Stud.

In the eighties, she and her second husband Oscar Lerman moved to Los Angeles with their three daughters (Tracy, Tiffany and Rory) and the move was huge: Look out, LA. Jackie Collins was in town.

Nobody was safe.

And sure enough, she started writing about her new town with the book Hollywood Wives.

Predictably, it was followed by Hollywood Husbands.


It was Lucky Santagelo that was Jackie Collins’ pride and joy. Edith Wharton had Lily Bart, Margaret Mitchell had Scarlett O’Hara, and Jackie Collins had Lucky.

Lucky had long black hair, swore like a sailor, and played dirty like her dad, mob boss Gino Santagelo. Lucky was haunted by two deaths: finding her mother Maria dead in the family pool, and the death of her first love Marco. Yet she took over the family business, bought casinos, and if anyone crossed her or her family, they were compost the next day.

I admired Lucky. I was at the end of my middle school career and while eighth grade was bearable, I would’ve loved to have gone Lucky on the bullies of my school.

In some ways, Jackie Collins was ahead of her time. She wrote about AIDS when many couldn’t say the word aloud. One of her characters opened an AIDS hospice in his home. In her introduction to American Star, she acknowledged her hero indulged in many affairs while not using condoms and she strongly told her readers not to follow his lead and practice safe sex.

Jackie Collins ushered in a new type of author: The celebrity author. She appeared on talk shows (and was the host of one in the late nineties). She wrote and produced several miniseries based on her books (which had Vincent Irizarry a.k.a. Lujack from Guiding Light as Gino). Following the success of Stephen King’s The Green Mile, she did her own serialized novel called L.A. Connections. It didn’t surprise me that not only was she on Facebook, she was also on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She was connected to her fans. She knew she didn’t write high literature, but she could tell a good story.

She also faced personal challenges like the death of Lerman in 1992. She met Frank Calcagnini and they were engaged, but he died of a brain tumor in 1998. Six years ago, she found out she had breast cancer. She kept it private among her family. She kept writing, including a cookbook based on Lucky’s recipes. Even in her last days, she went to the UK to promote her last novel, The Santagelos. Her last official tweet? Asking her followers if they were going to watch the Emmys this weekend.

When I read about her death, I thought What? No way. She’s too young! I hadn’t read her in years, but I was always glad to see she had a new book out. She was still at it, still in the game.

The most famous picture of her is one where she’s with Joan in a limousine, going out on the town.

She would take in what she saw like a sponge, and write about it.

Nobody was safe from that pen.