The hero is a rock star superstud. The heroine is a honey blonde who cops the Miss Coast to Coast beauty title by offering special favors to the judges—both male and female. Their steamy saga is recounted in Lovers & Gamblers, to be published next week by Grosset and Dunlap. Claims the author, actress Joan Collins’ little sister, Jackie: “I like to see good girls win in the end. What I actually am is a moralist.”
For the British-born Collins, 40ish, her particular morality is well rewarded on earth. In seven novels with hard-sell titles like The Stud and Love head, she has earned a reputation—and an enviable bank account—as Britain’s answer to Harold Robbins and Jackie Susann. Thanks to the quivering couplings, Lovers & Gamblers has also become a best-seller on the Continent.
It is this side of the Atlantic, however, that she thinks is her natural market. “A lot of American writers have become gynecologists rather than storytellers,” contends Collins. Jackie, on the other hand, writes about love, and asserts: “I believe in marriage, and my message to men is, ‘Don’t screw around with women because they can turn around and screw you back.’ ”
Her word to women: Keep the home fires burning. “I’m very down-to-earth,” says Jackie, who gets up at 7 every day in her London townhouse to cook breakfast for her husband and three daughters. She is a nonsmoker and light drinker (“I have unsophisticated tastes in booze, like banana daiquiris—milkshakes with a kick”). But she admits to a weakness for expensive American cars and thrice-weekly visits to trendy London disco Tramp. Since her husband, U.S. businessman Oscar Lerman, 55, happens to be a co-owner, Jackie feels at home there with regulars like Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr and Roger Moore. “It’s like an accommodating old whore,” she says of Tramp. “Comfortable, no airs or graces—and the best hamburger in town.”
Collins wasn’t always in hamburger heaven. The daughter of a theatrical agent and a nightclub hostess, she was expelled from school at 15 for smoking and then followed older sister Joan to Hollywood. “All people have one wild time, and that was mine,” confides Jackie. “I’d try anything, once.” One of her realized teenage dreams-a date at 15 with Marlon Brando-gave her an insight into the famous: “All of them are basically lonely and have special problems with women.”
Collins took mental notes on it all. “I’m a voyeur,” she confesses. “I can watch people and not be affected by them.” It was a knack that came in handy when both her acting career and her marriage to a drug-addicted businessman fizzled. In 1966 she married Lerman, who encouraged her to develop as a novelist. “I loathed acting and the cheesecake bit,” she professes now, “though it put me in good stead for source material.”
Writing, she finds, is “therapeutic.” Collins does it to a background of music (Gloria Gaynor for a disco scene, Isaac Hayes for a romantic passage). She is now mulling a novel about Hollywood wives. Sister Joan, who starred in the screen version of The Stud and currently is in Sunburn, may be a character in yet another book. “I’m not sure we’ll be on speaking terms afterward,” Jackie worries. “You have to include warts and all.”
Their father wishes his younger daughter would clean up her act. “Why not write a decent book under the family name?” he asks. Her moralistic response: “I wouldn’t make any money that way.”