Dame Joan Collins posed for an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! inside her new luxury Los Angeles apartment back in May 2018. The actress and author had recently moved into the 3,000 square foot space with her husband of 16 years, Percy Gibson.
"I love all this space!" Dame Joan told HELLO! as she sat underneath a portrait of herself painted by her son Alexander Newley. "Nobody throws cocktail parties very often in this town, but we do, because this is the perfect space to entertain in. We have so many friends in this neighbourhood. George Hamilton lives down the road and I can be in Beverly Hills in just a few minutes.” Percy said: "We both loved this apartment when we saw it, but I think it was the number of closets that sold it to Joan."
Joan at her Los Angeles apartment
It’s just as well that Joan and Percy are already settled as the jet-setting pair, who traditionally split their time between London, LA and the South of France, will now be in the City of Angels for the foreseeable future. The couple were brimming with excitement over news of Joan’s role in Ryan Murphy’s multi-award-winning TV series American Horror Story.
“I met Ryan at the Vanity Fair Oscars party a few weeks ago,” Joan said. “He said he would love to have me on his show, but people say that a lot in this town. You never believe it will come to anything”. A month later, Ryan – TV’s current Midas man – called Joan and offered her a role on the show that won Lady Gaga a Golden Globe.
An imposing bronze sculpture by renowned art deco artist Demetre Chiparus rested on the mantelpiece; a dramatic painting of a woman with a greyhound presided over the dining area and a large golden Buddha sat in front of a floor-to-ceiling window, bathed in light and seemingly keeping watch over the apartment’s inhabitants.
“Jackie left me those things,” Joan said of her best-selling novelist sister, who passed away in 2015. “She knew how much I loved the Chiparus sculpture. And Jackie was a hovering Buddhist, so the Buddha was very important to her... I have a lot of her things surrounding me. She moved to LA in 1968 and we made so many memories here… I miss her every day."
Joan with her late sister, the author Jackie Collins
Joan is not one to dwell on negative thoughts, even if the previous year would have pushed many to the limit. A flood in her London apartment caused catastrophic damage and she and Percy were forced to move out for nine months while repairs were carried out. “It still looks like a bomb site with builders everywhere, because the landlord decided to redo all the common areas. The noise is horrendous so we have been forced to move out. I’m glad that I have a gypsy mentality.”
Joan told us how her many treasured copies of HELLO! escaped damage. “I have 25 years’ worth of HELLO! magazines in my home in the South of France. I didn’t throw any away, so now I have my own reference library of sorts. I think I was one of the first people on the cover of hello! and I used to buy Hola! even before the English language magazine came out.
"One of my most enduring memories of HELLO! is sharing the first photos of my first grandchild in October 1998, which was on the cover,” she told us, which coincided with the week of our 30th anniversary.
It was at the home in France that Joan narrowly escaped a major wildfire that engulfed an area close by last summer. "We had 11 people at our house and two tiny cars. We were having a lovely relaxed dinner when Percy called to say that the fire was encroaching on us. He said: ‘Just grab your passports and get out of here right now.’ We crammed six people in one car and five in another – it was very scary. We had to stay away for three days as the fire was still smouldering. Our house was fine, but it was quite an ordeal."
Joan has no lack of support in her personal life. Famously close to her family, she’s a doting mother and grandmother and recently celebrated 16 years of marriage to Percy, who she describes as her “soulmate”. Despite being in each other’s company almost 24/7 as they have done many theatrical projects together – Percy was a producer on the set of Joan’s recent movie, The Time of Their Lives – they act like a couple in the first flush of love.
She revealed: "I think the secret to a happy marriage is to really support each other. Understand that there will be highs and lows. You won’t always agree about everything, but you need to enjoy each other’s company. Percy is such an amazing man, he is so kind and so caring." "People get married on the crest of lust. Once that’s gone, they look and think: ‘What the hell? Who is this person?’ There has to be something else to fall back on. If there isn’t, they start looking."
Joan and her husband Percy
"My children just adore him – and the grandchildren too," she added. "He’s wonderful with them, extremely patient. He’s always answering SOS calls when one of them has had their computer stolen or dropped their phone in the loo. He somehow manages to sort everything out, even when he’s in a different country."
The couple rarely argue and when they do, it’s usually because of Percy’s workaholic tendencies. "I suppose we bicker about him doing too much work," Joan said. "He’s a Libra and he can be very stubborn. But we don’t really fight."
And she also explained the secret behind her famously ageless looks. "I was born with the happy gene and the energy gene. What makes me happiest is seeing my children happy. Honestly, life makes me happy and I’m very aware of how lucky I am. I’ve worked hard all my life, nobody has given me anything on a plate, but I wake up each morning thinking how fortunate I am. I’m very fit and healthy now – knock on wood – and I try to look after myself."
Joan avoids junk food and works out with a trainer three times a week – “I don’t love it!” she said – but she also makes downtime a priority. "Just lying on the bed, reading HELLO! magazine, eating chocolates and watching TV is my downtime."
So what does the future hold for Joan? "I’m not that ambitious," she insisted. "Some actresses – who shall remain nameless – would kill their grandmother for a role. I’m not like that." She does, however, have one goal she’s determined to reach. "To live to 100-101, actually."
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