Joan Collins

Joan Collins: why I love London taxi drivers

Percy and I have seen quite a few movies recently and enjoyed many of them, which is rare. But the most enjoyable was Judy, for the performance of its star, Renée Zellweger. I met Judy Garland many times when I had just arrived in Hollywood as a young starlet and I can tell you that Renée resembles her uncannily, both physically and emotionally. Judy was fragile and birdlike, but her voice was strong and magical. I watched her sing at a party given by the legendary songwriter Sammy Cahn, who accompanied her on the piano. Apart from Miss Garland’s brilliant voice, it was fascinating to watch the audience. People who were great stars in their own right — Frank Sinatra, Rosalind Russell and Billy Wilder — were entranced by her performance. I last saw Judy perform at the Hollywood Bowl, an open-air amphitheatre. She was doing superbly, delivering a rousing rendition of ‘The Trolley Song’, when a moth flew into her mouth and she applied the emergency brake.

At tea with friends and their 15-year-old daughter, I was astonished to learn that at her school none of the girls are allowed to wear trousers. Not only that, but however cold it is, they can’t even wear above-the-knee socks, for fear of exciting the boys. The boys, meanwhile, are apparently allowed to wear exactly what they like — skirts, kilts, shorts or trousers. What on earth has happened to women’s rights? It’s the same as it ever was: anything goes for the male sex. Just think of the whole silly bathroom fiasco. So many loos have been converted into gender-neutral facilities (or unisex as we used to call it) that girls are suffering from urine infections (I’ve read). The girls would rather hold it in than be trapped and taunted by the boys in an unsupervised, and therefore potentially frightening, place. The ‘ladies room’, ‘powder room’, ‘rest room’ has for centuries been a haven for us females. The floors are usually dry and you can finally escape that misogynistic old bore. It’s the original safe space. How ironic that the 21st century is removing them. In the 1970s, the famous Virginia Slims advert promised that we’d ‘come a long way, baby’. But the way things are heading, we’re going an equally long way back, baby.

Trying to get around London in Extinction Rebellion protest week was a nightmare, but come to think of it, getting around London for the past five years has been a nightmare. I confess I don’t walk if I have to travel more than a half-mile.That’s the prerogative of my age and tax bracket. Instead I take my favourite form of transport: the London black cab. I love these taxi drivers and their views on current affairs — mostly because they usually mirror mine. I’ve had several interesting conversations with cabbies recently who all told me that they are 30 to 40 per cent down on their takings because of the protests, plus London roadworks. I dread to think how many other workers have lost part of their livelihoods because of them. I know I haven’t recently been near any of the establishments I often shop at because of the maddening building works. Perhaps Extinction Rebellion should consider the damage to people’s lives as well as the damage to the planet.

Speaking of the endless construction around London, last Friday morning workmen began putting up scaffolding against the outside wall of our apartment building. When I asked the managing agent if they had permission to do this, she said she knew nothing about it. Now it turns out that they don’t have permission, nor a licence to alter, yet the scaffolding continues to creep up the wall of our building regardless. How is this allowed to happen? It seems that while illegal works are, well, illegal, the process involved in shutting them down is so arduous and expensive that most of the time it’s just easier to let whomever get on with whatever they’re doing because half the time they’ll be done with it before you stop them. And if that last sentence made sense then you should be in the building trade.

I won an award last week. I was honoured that the LGBTQ+ community, represented by the Attitude Awards, named me ‘Icon of the Year’ for 2019. It was fun to catch up with an eclectic group of people. Taron Egerton, who brilliantly portrayed Elton John in Rocketman, was charming — enthusiastic and witty. Shirley Ballas, whom I admire greatly for her clever and accurate critiques on Strictly Come Dancing, informed me that she was a fan of me, as I am of her. Cheryl (is she Cole these days?) came by for a cheery hello and we took a lovely photo together. I sat between the famed perfumer Roja Dove, all a-sequinned, and the equally sequinned Julian Clary, who is a really good friend, even though he tells the most outrageously exaggerated anecdotes about how he saved me from drowning in my pool in the south of France. Dream on, Julian!