Monday, September 19, 2016

I Miss Jackie Collins

It took a while for her to get the same respect from media folks that the guys got.  Jackie Collins mentioned this during one of the TV shows were on together.  I was enjoying a local arts and music festival one night when I checked my phone for messages and news updates.  I thought it was another celebrity death hoax when I read that Jackie was dead.  Then when I saw the same news item from The New York Times and other credible sources, I had to sit down.  The world had lost a best-selling and highly entertaining novelist.  I'd lost a longtime pal, one who was very gracious to me for over 20 years.  We met when I interviewed her during my VH1 days in the late 1980s.  Jackie was promoting her hip new novel, ROCK STAR.
Jackie loved the entertainment world -- the world of rock music, movies and TV.  She was an insider.  A generous insider.  She helped people -- especially the underdogs, the down and out, and the disenfranchised in ways that she could.  She helped her sister, Joan Collins, to land the role on the TV hit DYNASTY that kicked Joan's career up to a higher level of fame and stardom than decades of Hollywood movie work ever had.
I loved interviewing Jackie.  She was dishy, witty, fun and fabulous on-camera and off.  There was a touch of the "Auntie Mame" about her.  She invited me into her Beverly Hills home for one TV interview.  I was not surprised to see classic literature on her bookshelves.  Jackie Collins had something in common with Charles Dickens.  She cared about the working class, the less fortunate, the people who'd been kicked aside because they didn't belong to the right social class.  And she gave us something Dickens didn't.  Delightfully naughty sex scenes.
When network anchors talked about male authors such as Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum, those writers would be described as "prolific."  Once Jackie asked aloud during a commercial break on a network TV news magazine show stage why she didn't she get same word attached to her output.  I was present at the time.  And she deserved to have it attached.  Maybe she wasn't writing espionage thrillers, but she was tops at the genre of writing she did do.  She wrote 32 novels.  They all made the best-seller list of The New York Times.  Just a couple of months before her death, she was promoting her last novel, THE SANTANGELOS.  When I saw her, she was noticeably slimmer and slower in her gait.  A certain physical vitality had dimmed but not her attention and not her passion in promoting her work.

In the 1990s, when I was working mostly of New York City news programs, I mentioned the diversity in her novels during one of our interviews.  I don't know why Hollywood never took her sexy books to the big screen the way it did those of Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann and the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY author, E. L. James.  But Hollywood should have.  Jackie, from ROCK STAR to THE SANTANGELOS, wrote black and Latino characters into her stories.  They were dignified, dimensional characters that black and Latino actors would have liked to play had the books been adapted into screenplays.  Jackie told me she did that on purpose to assure diversity in casting.  She knew that Hollywood was not color blind.  You couldn't be subtle and expect Hollywood to hire a black actress to play a registered nurse or an entertainment lawyer if it wasn't spelled out in the book or screenplay.  The embrace of racial diversity was important to her and it was in her work for years.  That's one reason why I was glad to read and promote Jackie's work.  I appreciated that she included us.

She was kind and a generous friend.  I knew her when she'd lost her dear husband.  She found love again years later.  She was engaged.  Her fianc√© was diagnosed with cancer and she became a caregiver during his terminal illness.  She once contacted me and pitched me for a network TV job.  I've been actively job hunting for a few years now.  I was extremely touched and honored when she had her book reps for THE SANTANGELOS contact me.  Jackie would be doing a June question & answer book session in Manhattan's Bryant Park.  She wanted me to be the moderator/interviewer.
I was a weekly regular on Fox5's GOOD DAY NEW YORK morning program from 1995 to 1999.  I did mostly entertainment segments interviewing stars such as George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Helen Hunt, Spike Lee, John Lequizamo, Nick Nolte...and Jackie Collins.

On June 18th, day of the afternoon Bryant Park event last year, Jackie was a guest on GOOD DAY NEW YORK and mentioned that I'd be moderator.  She also mentioned that I used to be on the show.

After Jackie's segment, show host Greg Kelly asked co-host Rosanna Scotto what I did on the show.  Greg wasn't at Fox5 when I was working there.  But Rosanna was.  He posed that question about me to Rosanna live on the air.  She thought for a moment.  She didn't know and replied, "I think he went into music."

That's show biz.  Novelist Jackie Collins knew more about my career than a New York City TV journalist who worked on the same floor for the same company when I was there.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity for one last time with Jackie Collins a few months before her death.  I miss her.  She was a great dame.  Jackie Collins died of breast cancer at age 77 on Sept 18, 2015.
Here's an short demo reel of mine that includes a clip from my Jackie Collins interview during my time on GOOD DAY NEW YORK.


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