Nolan Miller entered Aaron Spelling’s office. He sat down. He was going to need to be seated: Esther Shapiro was there too. Aaron said: “I’ve got a script for you that is going to make you even happier: I don’t want them to wear the same dress more than once. It’s going to be a fantasy of the kind of life you’d live if you were very rich”. And, more or less, the story goes on like this: costume designer Nolan Miller putting on the sunglasses, white picture hat and black veil on Joan Collins. The character of Alexis Colby appeared for the first time in the first episode of the second season of Dynasty. The first season, despite all the madness, hadn’t been as successful as it was expected, but with the introduction of the character of Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan (or just Alexis), Aaron Spelling decided to press the gas pedal and there were unexpected twists, dramas, misfortunes and catfights every five minutes. Something no one had ever seen in a soap opera before.
And, at the beginning of this year, Joan Collins created an Instagram: account: “Hello! finally I’m on Instagram! Follow me at joancollinsdbe”, and we see a picture of her holding the Dame Commander of the British Empire medal she has just received and sporting an outfit by Mark Zunino, former assistant of deceased Nolan Miller. When Barbra Streisand created her Instagram
account, her first photograph, where she appeared with her dog Samantha, was very commented. People said she looked as if she lived inside a Monet painting. It was a portrait more apt for Hello! magazine than for an Instagram selfie. But with millions and millions of active Instagram accounts, it seems difficult for anyone to define what can be posted or not posted on this social network, since in the end it isn’t much more than a never-ending flow of images scattered on your mobile.
Maybe someone like Joan Collins cannot start her Instagram with a selfie. Before deconstructing her own image, she owes us this first photograph: Alexis picking up the medal, impeccable, perfect, with hat and veil like on her first appearance in Dynasty. The second image on Joan’s Instagram is the transition between the fantasy Aaron Spelling talked to Nolan Miller about, represented by the first photo, and everyday life’s mobile digital photography. It’s a photo taken by Joan herself of a poster where she appears wearing jewels. Joan says: “Love AlexisBittar Jewelry”. It seems that on her first steps on Instagram she doesn’t quite master the addition of @ to link to another account… She’s learning the basics. But the most interesting thing is the image she’s taken with her own mobile: a photo of herself on a wrinkled poster, with annoying reflections on it. This picture foresees a change of direction: we can’t tell whether the first image was taken by someone with her mobile or it’s an official photograph of the act of commemoration that she has downloaded from the internet. But on the second one, we can tell it’s been Joan. These comforting details of mobile photography make you see through her eyes.
The third photo she posts is a canonical Instagram image: food. We’re definitely away from Dynasty. It’s an image of a roast turkey on top of a bed of French fries and with a knife on it. Joan’s framing makes it more apt for a horror movie than for dinner at the Carringtons’. Another image posted right after shows us a selfie with Ivan Massow and a stuffed giraffe. That’s how we find out that she’s had dinner with her friend Ivan Massow, gay activist that founded, when he was twenty-three years old, a consultant company for homosexual clients. In the nineties he fought against the unfair fees that were included on insurance policies of VIH patients, but his worse moment came when he lost thirteen million pounds against a Swiss insurance company. During a soirée at Joan’s home in Saint-Tropez, with twelve bottles of wine on the floor, Joan told her friend: “Ivan, I’ve only drunk one glass of wine, the rest you’ve drunk yourself. I think you have a problem and it’s about time you did something”. It could belong to a Dynasty episode, but now it is just a #nofilter.
Another of the most interesting photographs Joan Collins has posted shows the façade of a glasses shop called ISIS. She says that it’s an “unfortunate name”, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. It is true that some companies find themselves on the uncomfortable situation of bearing the same name as the terrorist group, some with such a beautiful logo as Australian building company ISIS, whose employees wear on their uniform and helmet. Michael Barnes, executive of the firm, declared that “ISIS is synonym with quality and attention to detail in the building business”, but ordered his employees to stop wearing the company’s pin on their uniforms. During London gay pride this year, CNN erroneously labelled an image with the foot “Islamist State flag appears on the gay march”, when in fact it was a flag an unknown guy called Paul Combs made at his home by changing the Arab letters of the official ISIS flag with dildos in protest for the barbarity of the Islamic state, and which has now been christened as the ISIS-Dildo flag.
Joan Collins played princess Nellifer in Land of the Pharaohs by Howard Hawks, and it seems unreal that for most Instagram users, based on their comments, Isis is no longer the Egyptian goddess of life and fertility, but the infamous terrorist group. But that’s how Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., work. Names, acronyms, logotypes and images are juxtaposed while we quickly scroll down with our finger. Let’s remember Dynasty, the Reagan era, the CIA: the show had one of its most commented season endings with the episode called “The Moldavian Massacre”, which closed the fifth season, on which during Amanda’s wedding with prince Michael, a group of terrorists appeared and shot all the guests, giving the impression that they were all killed. But on the first episode of the following season we found out that only Lady Ashley and, of course, one of Steve’s boyfriends had died. It was the beginning of the show’s falling from grace.
Steve was one of the first gay characters to appear on a TV show. Actor Al Corley stopped playing it on the second season because he was tired of the sad stories his character was always involved in. His departure brought about the inclusion of an accident in the petrol refinery and a facial reconstruction operation that on episode fifty-one gave way to the introduction of the new Steve, played by Jack Coleman. The character was quite absurd, because he could both marry Sammy Jo, played by Heather Locklear, and find another boyfriend. Be it as it may, between his fictional gay son Steve, Nolan Miller, the “bitch” character archetype and the show’s camp, Joan became a gay icon. That’s why it is not strange to find a meme posted on her Instagram with a photograph of Joan Crawford and the text Vodka + gay men. Joan asks: “best recipe for a good dinner?” I don’t think she’s used a meme generator to do it herself, but it would be quite moving if she had!
And her Instagram goes on: some food pictures, a screen shot of TCM channel’s menu (where she comments that TCM should pay more attention because they’re listing the wrong movie), some old pics, others with friends such as Rene Horsch, one with the queen, another with Camilla Parker Bowles, some Saint-Tropez landscapes… And, as I write these lines, she’s posted a photograph of a jellyfish just caught with a net that just stung her fifth husband, Percy Gibson.