Monday, October 1st 2012. 12pm. In the office:
Fi - 'Would you like to meet Jackie Collins at the Dorchester in London for afternoon tea tomorrow?'
Me - 'Tomorrow? What? That's far too short notice. We couldn't possibly. Could we....?'
Cue much squealing.
Let me first say that I love Jackie Collins. I mean, LOVE her. I first picked up one of her books (American Star) in a charity shop twelve years ago and since then made it my mission to read every one of her 29 best sellers more or less back to back. (Her brand new offering, The Power Trip, is currently sitting in my kindle waiting to be absorbed during my 10 hour plane journey to the US next week). There have been many imitators, but nobody has ever come anywhere close to encompassing the glamour, scandal and seediness of Hollywood like Jackie can. And it's not just about the rude bits(although they are amusing, they aren't central to the stories - take note, E.L James) - the characters are real (real a**holes, mostly), the plots juicy and twisty....what more do you want?! So when Fi announced that she had been chosen as the winner of a competition we'd entered (the prize = tea for two with Jackie in London), I was a little bit excited.
After we'd arranged our days off work and booked our train tickets, we started thinking about the really important stuff - what does one wear to tea at the Dorchester?! Mild hysteria ensued as we both mentally went through the contents of our wardrobes trying to find something suitable (being stuck at work until 7pm meant shopping for something new was sadly impossible). Luckily neither of us are of the 'buy less, wear more' mentality that Gok Wan keeps banging on about so we did have a couple of options. We finally settled on this floral dress from Monsoon (me), and a polka dot number from Wallis (Fi).
Jackie then appeared and greeted all of us before sitting down for tea. A perma-tanned waiter who'd been hovering nearby swooped over and served us finger sandwiches, scones and dinky cakes with pink champagne. No crusts - they don't do crusts at the Dorchester. I literally ate half a sandwich and a bit of cake, as stuffing our faces didn't seem to be the done thing, although I did manage to force down the champers with no problem. Jackie was chatting away very pleasantly, and was every bit as Hollywood as I had imagined; telling us about her new book, favourite restaurants in LA and the other publicity bits she was doing whilst in London (with "someone called Gary Barlow?!"). The hour and a half we had with her flew over but she did manage to squeeze in a few snippets about life in Hollywood over the years, including sneaking around when her sister Joan was dating Warren Beatty in the early '60s and they were all staying at the Chateau Marmont together - could it be anymore glamorous?!
Jackie then signed books for us all before shooting off to do a radio interview (and later on, dinner with Michael Caine) and we were left to nibble on the leftover scones and sup the last of the champagne, while quizzing her publisher about tips on getting a book to print, and the other celebs they were working with, from Arnold Schwarznegger to Sam from TOWIE.
I realise this makes me sound a bit stalker-ish but meeting Jackie really was a brilliant experience, and has inspired me to force myself to finish writing that novel I've been working on for the last 6 years (gulp). Being able to ask her for some juicy Hollywood goss was also fun - how often do you get to have tea with a genuine Hollywood icon?
Of course, the most important question about whether Warren Beatty was really as gorgeous and charming as he seemed in those days was met with a resounding yes. See below for a pleasing photograph I've added. Just because I can. :)