Hollywood recently invaded Feinstein’s at the Regency here in New York with the simultaneous cabaret debuts there of Joan Collins and Stefanie Powers. Collins didn’t sing a note, but instead recounted her tumultuously glitzy life and times, accompanied by slide images and film clips. She was one game girl, but, perhaps due to nerves or insufficient rehearsal, it was a rather hectic affair with some clumsily handled and quite unnecessary business featuring an erratically ringing telephone (perhaps injected to add theatricality to what was, in essence a lecture of reminiscence). She did come across with a raft of juicy anecdotes, however, delivered with her trademark cut-crystal (Carrington) diction, and was agreeably self-deprecating throughout.
She looked marvelous in her show’s first half, with signature windblown brunette bob in very 1970s high disco black sequinned capris and slinky dolman sleeved top, which flattered her figure and showed off those slender stems which nearly every lasting star has possessed throughout showbiz history. However, her costume change was a definite mistake: what appeared to be a Bob Mackie bespangled and befeathered gown that had seen better days and whose skin-tight, unforgiving gold fabric was decidedly less – shall we say – alluringly camouflaging.
Stefanie Powers, who largely eschewed any autobiographical chatter in her act, quite blew me away with her musical props, something she was never allowed to really display in her screen career. In her youth, as one of the final big studio contractees, and before that, she received serious training and was almost cast, as a teenager, in the original stage production of WEST SIDE STORY. This training was evident in the graceful assurance with which she took the stage and moved around on it, her gestures were immaculately on point and her voice was a remarkably big, blooming affair, filled with colors, redolent of the unabashed big, sincere sound of an earlier era that perfectly served her choice of strictly Rodgers & Hart songs.
She looked, if anything, uncannily better than ever before: that perky All-American cuteness of her youth has matured into a striking handsomeness, her ramrod-postured body is a dream of enviable svelteness and then, there was ALL that hair she has long been famous for. She was sartorially impeccable in a mid-calf length, black, floaty cocktail affair with very wise sheer netting for sleeves and over her decolletage.
After the show, I asked her who designed her gown and she just tossed it off with, “Oh, I bought it off the rack somewhere. I’m not a fashion person!” But the perfection of her choice bespoke the innate good taste and elegance no doubt honed from her studio experience with the likes of Edith Head, and, unlike all the stars today, she’s one naturally chic lady who doesn’t need a raft of stylists hovering about her, dressing her impersonally like their own personal Barbie doll.
Powers’ down-to-earth honesty made her one of the most appealingly warm interviewees I’ve ever had. When I met her at Simon & Schuster in Manhattan, to discuss her terrific new memoir ONE FROM THE HEART, it was an icy, rainy day. She noticed how cold my hand was when she shook it and immediately made me go to the bathroom and wash it with warm water (“You’ll feel so much better”). She was a thorough, surprisingly erudite delight throughout and even told me one hilariously unprintable story about Jean-Claude Von Damme. Continuing in this slightly kinky vein, I told her that when, years ago, I worked for Paula Klaw, infamous Bettie Page photographer and proprietor of the archive MOVIE STAR NEWS, our top-selling movie still was the one of her bound and gagged in DIE, DIE MY DARLING, which definitely appealed to a strong segment of our clientele who collected only such shots. She reacted to this news with appropriate shock, awe and amusement.
And, when she signed my copy of her book, she did something no one else ever has. She asked me what my partner’s name was, so she could sign it to him as well.
Now THAT’S Hollywood Royalty.
To read my interviews with both ladies, in GAY CITY NEWS, click here
STEF THROUGH THE YEARS