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SUNDAY BRUNCH | Out & About

She's Cookin'

March 15, 1998|IRENE LACHER

You've heard of four-car garages? How about a four-oven kitchen? In the land of one-is-not-enough, Jackie Collins is cooking with, as the expression goes, gas.

Oh, yes. She also has three marble-topped islands.

And why would anyone need a personal bushel of appliances and surfaces? For Christmas lunch, of course, when the renaissance author cooks for 40 revelers. One oven is for the turkey, one is for roast potatoes and caramelized carrots, another takes care of the sweet potatoes and baked onions, and the last gets the Yorkshire pudding. Each dish gets an oven to call its own.

"Most people want to have planes and stuff like that," Collins muses from her headquarters in the flats of Beverly Hills. "I just want to have a house that is a great environment, that I can cook in and be in with my kids and never have to leave if I don't want to."

Such are the perks of bestsellerdom. Collins lives in that high-rent district (with all the ovens) thanks to her many fans who have consumed 190 million of her romantic thrillers, or thrilling romances, at last official count. Not surprisingly, her latest is called "Thrill!" (Simon & Schuster). It's about a dazzling movie star with the world at her feet and a je ne sais quoi with a successful film director and a stunningly handsome actor with a mysterious past.

Collins is used to snooty, one-oven journalists sniffing at her handy-dandy formulas. We are here to attest to the fact that nobody gets four ovens for nothing. Indeed, a year ago Collins told a Chicago paper she was planning a novel about someone who has illicit sex with the president, if you can imagine that. Don't ever say Collins doesn't know how to surf the Zeitgeist.

"I have a character called Lucky, who's coming back in the next book, called 'Dangerous Kiss," says the sister of actress and embattled-sometime-author Joan. "I don't know whether she'll have sex with the president or not, but she's going to have interesting times with him because she's going to go to Washington with her half-brother, who happens to be black and is a very successful lawyer named Steven.

"Obviously, I'll have to make up a fictitious president."

Obviously.

"At one point I played with the idea of having Lucky run for president, but I don't think she would want everyone to know her past. You know she did inhale," says chatty Jackie, suited up in her favorite gray pinstripes.

There's a disturbing development afoot in thriller town. Washington seems to be eclipsing Hollywood in one of our cottage industries--sex 'n' sin.

Or, it would if Washington had any credibility.

"I think that if I wrote about it, nobody would believe it. They would say, 'Oh, Jackie Collins has gone too far now.' "

Of course, topping our heritage of sleaze is a tall order. Collins, who trolls for poop at parties (like some people we know), considers herself a prime forager of Hollywood secrets, which are the tastiest kind.

"I never name names, but there's this famous action star who's always rushing into the ladies' room or the men's room in public places with his wife who he's just about to divorce, having wild sex, screaming and coming out all disheveled and thinking nobody's going to notice."

Either we're going to different parties or she writes about sex and we write for a family newspaper. But she does it like a lady. A fiancee, actually. She's committed to a long engagement to shopping mall developer Frank Calcagnini.

"I think I write about sex with humor, and I think I write about erotic sex, what turns you on. And I think sex should have sort of an edge to it. A lot of male writers are too graphic. They write like gynecologists.

"In Chapter 27 of 'Thrill!' Joey seduces Lara but doesn't really. He does things that are much sexier than actually leaping on her, but really hooks her in. I get readers' fantasy going, and then when their fantasy is in full bloom, I drift out of the room."

And into the kitchen.

*

Poster Boy: Robbie Conal is taking his poster art to a new level--science. He may be a guerrilla artist to you, but he's a '90s kind of guy, which can mean only one thing: focus groups.

Not long ago, Conal decided to gauge the reaction to his latest poster, which shows Microsoft emperor Bill Gates along with the pithy phrase "Anti Trust Me."

Of course, these were focus groups, Robbie-style. That meant packs of his favorite guerrilla volunteers would convene in all-night cafes in prime Gates territory--Seattle and its environs and the San Francisco Bay area. Conal was in the neighborhood because he was on tour with his President Clinton "Dough Nation" poster, which generally involved midnight runs, plastering posters around town and then running.

"People certainly seemed to be up for it," says the L.A. artist. "I think they're afraid of him gobbling up the universe."

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