Greg Gorman
Josh Wolk
July 19, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

If you want the company line on the Hollywood luminaries, watch E! But if you want to lift up Steve Kmetko’s rock and see the real worms squirming underneath, give Jackie Collins a call. She’s been chronicling Hollywood’s morality-free lifestyles since she first moved there at age 15. With the release of her 26th novel, ”Dangerous Kiss” (which stars an ex-crack-addicted comedian, his devoted sex-slave maid, and a model forced into heroin addiction and marriage by a scheming Count), EW Online got the 61-year-old author’s take on Leonardo DiCaprio’s loose lifestyle, how she became an expert on Monicagate, and what she thinks when people call her books ”trashy.”

Some say the ’90s is a health-conscious decade. Has Hollywood really cleaned up its act?
Not at all. A lot of young actors are completely hooked on heroin and crack and even crystal meth. It’s sad to watch. A lot of people are into coke still, too, but they’re not so open about it. There was a time in the ’80s when you’d go to a party and the maid would serve coke in a silver bowl after dinner. But now it’s the hidden habit. So you’ll see people coming out of the bathroom and they’ll forget to wipe the white powder off their nose, and they’ll try to be cool.

If you tune in to shows like ”Behind the Music,” it’s clear that the history of fame is filled with people who got out of control, screwed up their own success, and are now repentant. Will celebrities ever learn?
No, they won’t. Do you think Leonardo DiCaprio is walking around thinking to himself, ”This isn’t gonna last, I’d better be careful what I do and who I’m bad to on the way.” Of course he’s not. He’s thinking, ”I’m Leonardo DiCaprio, I can do whatever I want.” And he probably will be able to for a few years, if not longer. He’s a wonderful actor, so he probably has a better chance than other people, but then so is Robert Downey Jr. He’s a brilliant actor, but he’s managed to f— up his life pretty damn well.

Based on your low opinion of stars, do you try to avoid them as friends?
I have a lot of good friends who are famous, but I’ve been friends with them for a long time. It must be very difficult to be friendly with somebody who’s extraordinarily famous today, because of the insecurities that surround them. Look at the famous female stars now. What’s going to happen to Madonna and Sharon Stone and Kim Basinger? They’re all 40, and this town is very cruel to actresses at that age. They’re still at their peak, but you know that their peak is not going to last much longer, unfortunately. So they must be incredibly insecure. Because there’s always that 22-year-old who’s the next big thing, and behind her there’s a 19-year-old.

When President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky went public, it seemed like every journalist came to you as a kind of ”decadence expert.”
My press clipping service sent me all of these articles about the Starr Report, and all of them said it was like a page from a Jackie Collins book. I said, ”No, if it were a Jackie Collins book, the sex would be a lot better.” If I had written the Starr report, I would have been laughed off the page.

Your new book got a positive review from the New York Times. Do you read your critics, because I’m guessing there’s a predilection to trash you.
I don’t really read them unless somebody says, ”That review’s terrific,” because I don’t believe in having negative feedback. If it’s a bad review I’ll start to read it, but as soon as they mention my picture on the back cover, I know we’re not going in a good direction.

Many people probably judge a Jackie Collins book before they read it.
A lot of my worst critics are people who have never read a word that I’ve written, and that amuses me. If I’m on a show with somebody and they’re kind of negative towards me, I’ll ask them, ”Have you ever read anything by me?” They’ll say, ”Well… no.” Or they’ll say, ”I know YOUR kind of book.” What is my kind of book? My kind of book could only have been written by me. I don’t think there is such a thing as a formula book, and if there is, I believe it’s written by people who can only write one book.

What do you think when people call your work a ”trashy novel”?
It used to bother me, and I used to think, Trashy? Trash is something you throw away. But when I go to a book signing, people have battered old paperbacks that they want me to sign. So I coined a new phrase: Flashy novel. Not trashy, flashy.

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