Like many gay men of a certain generation, I found myself glued to the television set every Wednesday evening for nearly a decade. The ‘80s was the decade of the primetime soaps and “Dallas,” “Knots Landing,” “Falcon Crest” were at the top of the ratings, but I watched “Dynasty.”
All of the shows featured handsome actors, fanciful plots and glittering costumes, but only one show had Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan. Alexis was the ultimate femme fatale, the glamorous diva we all secretly aspired to be somehow.
What many people forget is the show got off to a rocky start with dismal ratings until British actress Joan Collins arrived on the set. Seven more seasons of bitchy catfights and fabulous fashions were to follow.
Collins will take audiences back to those glorious days of television drama with her new one-woman show, “One Night with Joan,” this Friday, April 25 at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. The evening includes anecdotes and jokes about the actress’ career, all illustrated with video clips on a big screen. And, yes, those infamous onscreen fight scenes will all be there, too.
The creation of the Alexis character and her distinctive fashions were the result of a close collaboration between Collins and costume designer Nolan Miller, she said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
“We worked very, very closely on everything I wore,” she said. “The more fanciful the scene, the more fanciful the outfit….sadly he is no longer with us.”
She made it clear from the start, she had a vision for her character.
“From the very beginning, they thought they’d put me in a tiny tweed suit with a mink collar and pillbox hat. I told them there is no way Alexis would wear anything like that!” she recalled.
A jetsetter like Alexis would wear haute couture and all the latest styles. Often Collins and Miller would draw inspiration from the outfits of Princess Diana. When the princess traveled to Russia, they created similar outfits for an onscreen trip Alexis would later take. They also adopted the padded, embellished shoulders that would become a signature look of the decade (“They made our waists look slimmer.”) and championed the designs of Pierre Cardin.
Collins also credits fashion with her enduring popularity with the gay community, “perhaps because they like clothes,” she said. “I have a lot of gay friends and if I want to know if a dress looks good, I’ll ask them.”
“Dallas,” her show’s closest competitor, recently got a reboot on TNT, with several of the original actors reprising their roles, but Collins doesn’t expect to return to the screen as Alexis.
“I don’t think there’s interest from the people who own it,” she said, “and besides, John Forsythe (Blake Carrington) is dead.”
She consoled fans, reminding me that her show will include many clips from the show.
For the time being, she’s happy to continue performing and has been most active behind the camera since the series ended 15 years ago. In addition to producing films and television, she has successfully tried her hand at casting. And then there is the Joan Collins Timeless Beauty line she sells in Britain and QVC.
What advice would she offer an aspiring actress who might desire to usurp her title?
“Don’t,” she answered curtly. “It’s the most overcrowded profession in the world. It’s incredibly competitive and you have to take rejection constantly. People think it’s glamorous and it’s not, getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and working on a cold sound stage. Unless you have another strength, like waitressing or writing novels, it’s not worth it.”
Collins added, “I consider myself lucky to have done it for many, many decades and to make a good living.”
On Friday, she’s going to show us exactly how she did it.
If You Go
Joan Collins, “One Night with Joan”
Friday, April 25, 8 p.m.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
Tickets $45, $65, $85 at www.seminolecoconutcreekcasino.com