photo by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2015Associated Press
The novels of Jackie Collins dramatized the lives of the most elite people and places, but they were read by everyone, everywhere — from airports to beaches to, sometimes, under the covers with a flashlight to hide from disapproving parents and partners.
Collins, whose books like "Hollywood Wives" were as brazenly sexual as they were proudly pulpy, sold hundreds of millions of novels in dozens of countries, and it led to a level of wealth, celebrity and glamour that in many ways surpassed her own characters, and arguably matched that of her older sister, "Dynasty" actress Joan Collins.
Collins died at age 77 of breast cancer in Los Angeles, her publicist Melody Korenbrot said.
Collins' tales of sex, glamour, power and more sex were a forerunner to the culture of "Desperate Housewives" and "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Her books provided at first more than some wanted to hear, but she became the kind of author from whom readers could never get enough, providing forbidden fodder for housewives and for teenagers raiding their parents' bookshelves.
Collins told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview that she "never felt bashful writing about sex."
"As a writer, you can never think about who is going to read your books. Is it going to be my mom?
My children? A lot of people say to me, 'Oh, I read your books under a cover with a flashlight when I was really young and I learned everything I know about sex from you.'
"She was born Jacqueline Jill Collins in London in 1937, the daughter of a theatrical agent and a dance teacher.
Her first novel, "The World is Full of Married Men," was a story of sex and show business set in "Swinging London" in the mid-1960s. It came out in 1968 and became a scandalous best-seller, banned in Australia and condemned by romance writer Barbara Cartland.
"Barbara Cartland said to me, 'Oh, Miss Collins, your books are filthy and disgusting and you are responsible for all the perverts in England,' " Collins told Porter Magazine in 2014. "I pause for a few moments and said, 'Thank you.'
"Collins followed in the 1970s with books like "The World is Full of Divorced Women" and "Lovers & Gamblers."
By the 1980s, she had moved to Los Angeles and turned out the 1983 novel she is still best known for, "Hollywood Wives," which has sold more than 15 million copies. It came at the same time that her sister hit the height of her own fame on "Dynasty."
"Dynasty" producer Aaron Spelling would also produce the 1985 hit TV miniseries of "Hollywood Wives," which featured Candice Bergen, Angie Dickinson and Suzanne Somers, among others.
It led to follow-ups like "Hollywood Husbands" (1986), "Hollywood Kids" (1984) and "Hollywood Wives: The New Generation" (2001).
The books made Jackie Collins a celebrity in her own right, and she loved the part, looking, living and behaving more like an actress than an author. In many ways, her own persona was her greatest character.
Collins embraced Twitter in her later years, and she loved the engagement with her over 150,000 followers.
"I love tweeting. I have so much fun with my fans," she told the AP in 2011. "I've asked them for reviews. I answer people's questions. Sometimes I'll do a little survey and say, 'Who is hot this week?'
"Many were using Twitter to mourn her Saturday night, including Oprah Winfrey, who Tweeted "RIP Jackie Collins. I always loved our interviews."
Larry King Tweeted that Collins was a "true talent, a beautiful being and a dear friend."
Collins' books didn't stick strictly to Hollywood. She penned a series of mafia novels documenting the lives of the Santangelo family, focusing on its patriarch Gino and his daughter Lucky. She wrote nine novels based on the family that included her last, "The Santangelos," published this year.
Collins told People magazine, which first reported her death Saturday, in her final interview Sept. 14 that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer over six years ago, but she had chosen to keep the news among family, confiding mainly in her three daughters, 54-year-old Tracy, 48-year-old Tiffany and 46-year-old Rory.
A family statement called Collins "a true inspiration, a trailblazer for women in fiction and a creative force. She will live on through her characters but we already miss her beyond words."
Collins was married twice, the second time to art gallery and nightclub owner Oscar Lerman in 1965. Lerman died in 1992. She was then engaged to Los Angeles businessman Frank Calcagnini, who died in 1998.
Asked by the AP in 2011 if she was dating anyone, Collins said "I have a man for every occasion."
"When I was a kid growing up, I used to read my father's Playboy and I'd see these guys and they had fantastic apartments and cars," she said. "I have all of that now. Why would I want to hook myself up with one man when I've had two fantastic men in my life? One was my husband for over 20 years, and one was my fiance for six years."