01 May 2012

Dynasty: Joan Collins, Alexis, Shoulder Pads And Leg Warmers...

First came Dallas. These were rich folks, yet somehow gritty. A ranch. Cattle. Offices that looked vaguely 1960s. Clothes... well, the odd fur coat, odd nice frock, but well... let's face it, nothing to really write home about. But then Dallas had JR with his wicked grin and stetson. So, who needed more?

Then came Knots Landing - not particularly dressy in its early days, but with its nice big houses (you could have fitted our kitchen into Karen's kitchen about five times) there was plenty for your average non-rich English viewer to boggle at.

And then came Dynasty. And suddenly clothes were a big thing - particularly after Joan Collins made her debut as Alexis Carrington.

Dynasty had clothes that absolutely screamed "WE'RE RICH!" And they were classy. By '80s standards. Sometimes bizarre. Often very camp. Frills, bustles, Nissen hut-sized shoulder pads...

And Dynasty influenced the other American soaps of the '80s, with the actresses howling for (and getting) higher dress budgets.

And there's no doubt that English actress Joan Collins, who made her debut as Alexis in the second season of Dynasty, had a lot to do with setting the pace.

Joan made her UK Dynasty debut on New Year's Day, 1983.

Sunday Mirror of May 15 1983 contained a fascinating interview with our Joanie, revealing that one of the scenes which sealed her Dynasty fame featured her apparently with no clothes on at all, between satin sheets...


Joan Collins shrugged her shoulders when she was offered a part in TV's Dynasty. "What is that?" she said.

She thought it was just another soap opera.

It was low in the ratings - the show had failed to grip the imagination of American viewers. But Joan was persuaded to read the script.

She liked it and accepted the role of bitchy Alexis Carrington. Later she discovered that almost every actress in Hollywood had wanted the part..

Few of them could have guessed that Dynasty would race to the top of the U.S. ratings, bringing Joan a success she had never dreamed of.

What really turned her into a superstar was a sizzling bedroom scene that shocked some viewers, delighted others - and made Joan giggle.

"I was wearing leg warmers, tights and a strapless bathing suit," said Joan. "It was hilarious."

"Lloyd Bochner, who played Cecil, and I were writhing around under satin sheets. There seemed to be thousands of people on the set, including a censor, and I kept on breaking up into gales of laughter.

"Yet when the episode was shown it was called the hottest thing ever. The Daughters of the American Revolution tried to get it banned."

The publicity over the episode - which will be shown in Britain shortly - was enormous.

Suddenly Joan was one of the hottest properties in show business. She could no longer walk down the street without dozens of people going up to her.

Thousands of fan letters began to arrive each week.

"Now I am told that in the US my picture on the cover is the biggest seller of tabloid newspapers and magazines after Princess Diana," she said.

"I wasn't even first choice for the role. The pecking order was Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch and then me."

When the offer was made, Joan had just sold her Los Angeles home and moved back to England...

Joan has coped with the explosion of interest in her career and private life remarkably well.

How has she succeeded where so many others have been driven to the analyst's couch?

"Well, I'm a mature woman now and realised the pitfalls from the start," she said.

"To begin with, I don't believe my own publicity, good or bad. A magazine says I am one of the ten most beautiful women in America and then a newspaper will say I am the biggest bitch that ever walked. I don't believe either of those things.

"I'm very conscious of being privileged, doing a job I adore and being successful. The knocks I have to take are part of that. On a scale of one to ten I think I score about nine-and-a-half in terms of luck."

Joan dislikes the gossip surrounding Dynasty.

"People make up fueds between Linda Evans or Pamela Sue Martin and myself," she said.

"The truth is we all get on better than any other television 'family'. I've known Linda for a long time - she is an old friend and she is great. As for John Forsythe, he is the most wonderful, charming guy.

"I've no idea where some of the stuff printed about me comes from."

I walk with her out to her car and suddenly she turns and says: "You know what? Life is like a game of Monopoly. Throw a dice and you get a job in Dynasty. Throw another dice and the ratings fall and you go back three spaces. But I do believe you finally get what you deserve from life and, without being big headed, I think I have earned my success."

And off she speeds along the Monopoly board.

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