What Turns on Hollywood Wives? Lovers and Lettuce Leaves, Says Jackie Collins, Who Wrote the Book

updated 09/26/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/26/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

While Dynasty vixen Joan Collins makes pulses pound between the sheets, little sister Jackie has staked out the territory between the covers—most recently, of her best-selling novel Hollywood Wives. A smarmy tale of showbiz sexploits, Jackie's ninth book nails those poor little rich girls—"based on real people," assures Jackie—who live to nibble lettuce at Ma Maison. The novel has inevitably spawned a Who's Who guessing game, but the usually open Collins is showing a healthy respect for the hazards of litigation by refusing to name names. She is not shy, however, about listing the characteristics that set the stereotypical Hollywood wife apart from the rest of the human race. She recently spent a hot and lazy afternoon in the living room of her Beverly Hills home doing just that for PEOPLE'S Suzanne Adelson.

The Hollywood wife gets up in the morning, has her session with her exercise coach, has the massage, gets the nails fixed, the face fixed, the hair fixed. Then she eats a lettuce leaf at Ma Maison, where she pays a fortune for it. She bitches to her lady friends that her husband is no longer sleeping with her but is sleeping with everybody else. Then she and her friends will all set off for la grande shop where they will buy things they don't need, like a $3,000 fun fur. The Hollywood wife goes home, yells at the Mexican maid, then says to her husband when he comes home from the studio, exhausted, "Now, we have this party tonight." Then she lies down on a board to rest so that nothing gets wrinkled before the party.

The Hollywood wife has a look, usually created by a plastic surgeon. One never knows how old a Hollywood wife is because her face has been lifted so often. The average wife is somewhere between 30 and 50. She fades away after that or her husband divorces her.

Hollywood wives all look the same. They wear Maud Frizon shoes, Adolfo, Bill Blass or Oscar de la Renta designer ensembles. They carry Louis Vuitton bags. They go to Jessica's for their nails; Jose Eber's for their hair. They shop on Rodeo Drive at Gucci and Giorgio. They all know "wonderful little dressmakers" and "wonderful little caterers." The chic thing now is to have their exercise instructors come to the house.

I have a great many acquaintances who are Hollywood wives. They call me and say, "Who is this one and who is that one?" I tell them my characters are composites. They never recognize themselves. There are a lot of well-known Hollywood wives, hostesses and social lionesses who started life as hookers and became Hollywood wives. They are playing the same game, in a way, as their husbands. A lot of Hollywood husbands prostitute themselves in business. An actual hooker can really get the feel of this town and use it to her advantage.

When you look at this town with a clear eye, you can see so many women who actually think that everybody adores them. People in this town operate through the Hollywood wife. They don't call the actor or producer and say, "Do you want to come to dinner?" They call the wife. Agents in this town don't go to the husband and say, "I can really do things for your career." They go to the wife. The wife has the power—until the divorce. Then she gets disillusioned because she's grown to think she's important, but her importance lasts only as long as the marriage.

Most Hollywood husbands are bored, which is why a lot of them are having affairs. The decorator becomes the Hollywood wife's best friend, and usually he's gay. She spends a fortune with him every two years. I was at a Hollywood party the other night and this husband was telling me his wife wanted to change the dining-room table again. "I just spent $12,000 for the last table, and she told me it's out this year."

The Hollywood wife appears to have this perfect marriage to a rich, successful man. He gives her money, and she gives him a comfortable home. But neither gives anything to the other emotionally. She's embittered; he's emotionally starved. Along comes the other woman, an airline stewardess or a little girl from the studio. Then comes the divorce. The Hollywood wife makes such great demands in the divorce action because it's the only power she has left. She hits hardest in the pocket-book. Who are people going to invite to a party—her, or the star and his new wife? It's an unfortunate fact of life that people like to mix with stars.

The court records on Hollywood divorces reveal some outrageous things. Hollywood wives stand up in a courtroom and say, "I just can't survive on less than $150,000 a month." Then they list their expenses: $5,000 for flowers, $10,000 for clothes, $4,000 for the hairdresser. They're getting back, because they've been put out to pasture. The husband feels guilty, so he gives the wife the mansion and money because he feels that's the price he has to pay to get rid of the wife. What he doesn't realize is his sweet new girl from Nebraska, who is telling him how wonderful he is, will, within two years, become a Hollywood wife.

The female survivors in this town are the strong women—like Goldie Hawn and Barbra Streisand—who have really gone against what men would like them to do. Why does everyone say George Lucas or Steven Spielberg is a genius when they want to do things their way—and then say Barbra Streisand is a hysterical, difficult bitch because she wants to do things her way? Dyan Cannon and Jeanne Martin are definitely survivors. They have found life after the Hollywood husband.

To live in this town and be happy you have to disregard totally all the Hollywood bullshit. You have to not want anything from anybody and not care about what parties you're invited to. I am not a Hollywood wife. I don't spend my husband's money. I spend my own. I don't worry about what I'm going to wear to a party. I haven't worn a dress in 10 years. I don't go to lunch more than once a month. When I throw a dinner party, I do the cooking myself. Also, a Hollywood wife would never be caught dead in these shoes. They cost about $25.

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