Joan Collins Onstage, Looking Back

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Actress Joan Collins at the 32nd Anniversary Carousel of Hope Gala in Beverly Hills, California, Oct. 23rd, 2010.

It has been more than two decades since her defining role as bitchy Alexis in the quintessential 1980s soap opera Dynasty, but Joan Collins, now 77, has hardly dropped off the pop-culture map. She has written books (novels and beauty advice, along with two memoirs), appeared on the West End and Broadway (in Noel Coward's Private Lives), acquired a fifth husband (theatrical manager Percy Gibson), and devised in a one-woman stage show, a retrospective of her career that has toured Britain and is currently playing Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City. She talked with TIME's Richard Zoglin.

Why did you decide to do this night club show?

Gregory Peck told me about 10 years ago that he was doing a one-man show and he was having enormous fun doing it. He told me that it would be a good idea for me to do something like that. When I married Percy about nine years ago, we talked about it. Percy said you've had such an amazing life, you've met such amazing people, you were in Hollywood at the end of the golden age, when the whole thing was beginning to turn, when the gilt was beginning to tarnish. Why not, let's try this out.

The big issue for women in Hollywood is, after a certain age it gets to be very tough. Have you found it as tough?

Of course. Today, women have to conform to a certain ideal of beauty that is beyond any woman's grasp — to be five foot eight or nine or ten, to weigh 118 pounds, to not have a line on your face. It's impossible. But I don't want to be just another actress moaning about how difficult it is to get jobs, which they all do. It's in all professions. It's in the legal profession, it's in publishing, it's television news readers, it's being a nurse. The emphasis today on having to look perfect is stronger than it ever was.

Well, you've done pretty well since Dynasty.

Yes, I've been very lucky, because I consider myself a jobbing actor. I was asked by a reporter years ago, when I was sort of flavor of the month, as it were: What will you do if your career slows down? I said it isn't a question of if, it's a question of when. Show business careers don't last forever, and if you expect them to, you'll only become sad, bitter and jealous. So I went back to the theater, I wrote books. And if I was offered a small role in a movie or a TV show, if I liked it I would do it, and I wasn't moaning about the fact that I wasn't getting the lead.

By the end of Dynasty were you sick of it? Were you ready to leave?

I think the show had changed direction so violently. Jack Coleman, who played my son, left. Linda Evans left. ABC really didn't like the show, and they tried to stick a stake through its heart. They changed our time. They also did something to me that I thought was quite cruel, actually. They gave me parity with John Forsythe in my [per-episode ] salary, which was wonderful. But they said, 'Oh, you're only going to be in 10 out of the 20 shows.' So in actual fact I was making less than I did the previous season.

Do you watch Desperate Housewives?

I do.

What do you think of it?

I'm not going to comment on other actresses.

But does it look familiar to you? It seems a kind of descendant of Dynasty.

I don't think so. I mean, they're all very simply dressed. They're not rich. Everybody in Dynasty was rich. That was the whole point. That was why the public liked it.

I guess I was thinking of the catfight I saw the other night.

I didn't see that. Well, you know, it's not the only show that's had catfights. I guess I was the first one to do it.

One last question from my wife: Is there one beauty tip that you have to keep looking young?

There is no one beauty tip. It all has to do with diet and exercise and maintenance and not gaining weight and staying out of the sun and taking care of your skin and getting enough sleep and eating the right food. And there's no such thing as one.

I know, but there's not one favorite thing you have?

I guess moisturizer.