Book Excerpt: Joan Collins on Staying Young


People started to tell me that I wasn't young anymore early on in my career. When, at twenty-five, I told a Hollywood producer my age, he informed me cynically, "Twenty-five? Honey, that's not young in this town anymore." At thirty-one, when I wanted to start acting again, after having two children, my agent told me: "Joanie, you're much too old to be in the movies anymore. Retire, dear, go back to being a housewife and raising the kids." Needless to say, I did not take her advice although she put forward a pretty good case for early retirement for actresses.

Then, when I turned forty, I took off most of my clothes and frolicked on a swing in The Stud, much to the shock, horror, and amazement of all and sundry. But I didn't give a damn. I knew I looked good, very good in fact, and my figure was better than it had ever been, thanks to working out and eating super-healthily.

The Stud became a huge hit, and it was because of that movie that I was given the opportunity a few years later to play Alexis Carrington in the hit TV series Dynasty. Interestingly enough, one of Dynasty's female producers tried hard to prevent me from getting the part because of my age (forty-seven). So if that other Hollywood male producer I mentioned thought twenty-five wasn't young anymore in this business, imagine what the other Hollywood producers, who were considering me, along with Sophia Loren and various other actresses, thought? Luckily for me, Mr. Aaron Spelling insisted on casting me, so against all the odds I journeyed to Hollywood once more to take on that juicy role and the rest is TV history.

At forty-nine I posed for a Playboy layout, and yes, I took off most of my clothes. By this time it had hit me how unbelievably ageist not only Hollywood, but most of the Western world was towards women over thirty, and I decided to figuratively thumb my nose at them by proving through my photographs that women "of a certain age" could still be sexy and alluring. So many older women have thanked me for "coming out of the closet," as it were and I was given much credit for being the forerunner of the movement who believed older women could still cut it. Today fifty is almost the new thirty-five and being in your sixties is comparable to how being in your forties was in the twentieth century.

When you're older there are so many views you can express that you don't always feel comfortable stating when you're younger. And there have been some great sayings about getting older too. For example, "Old age has a great sense of calm and freedom -- when the passions relax then hold them. You are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only but of many." Plato said that, but I don't agree with him -- particularly about the passions. The economist Bernard Baruch said, "Old age is always fifteen years older than I said, Old age is always fifteen years older than I am." That's brilliant. At seventeen I remember thinking thirty was ancient, and at thirty, I thought forty-five was pretty old, and then at forty-five, I thought I was in my prime. Think positively. As Groucho Marx said, "Growing old is something you do if you're lucky." I think that's great. I mean, so you're getting older? So what's the alternative? No one wants to die, however old they are, and as someone said to the late, great Billy Wilder, "Who wants to be ninety-five?" "Someone who's ninety-four," retorted Billy.

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