Is Winona Ryder a Jackie Collins Character?

Jackie Collins | O.J. Simpson | Phoebe Snow

Is Winona Ryder a Jackie Collins Character?

Winona Ryder prides herself on doing quality movies, very upscale even when they're grungy (see Reality Bites).

But Winona's latest problems with charges of shoplifting seem to be out of a Jackie Collins paperback. Indeed, Collins's best novel, 1984's Hollywood Wives, featured Elaine Conti, a movie land spouse who suffered from kleptomania.

"It was the Winona Ryder story!" Collins interjects.

"Do you think there are stars stealing?" I asked her.

"Oh yes," she replied. "It's like a pastime. These women have so much, too. But you don't walk around with 17 bags and three hats and 10 pairs of sunglasses and not expect to get noticed!"

Now Collins is hitting the circuit with her umpteenth tome of gnash and trash, called Deadly Embrace.

One of the really great personalities from Hollywood, Jackie Collins is fabulous with a capital F. She's a true survivor, having landed in Hollywood in the early '60s. She and her sister Joan know where every body is buried, and where all the ashes have been scattered.

I had tea with Jackie on Monday at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, where she'd kicked off her publicity tour with a traditional stop at the Today show.

"Al Roker said, 'If it's summer, it's time for Jackie Collins,'" this force of nature said.

Collins told me she finished writing Deadly Embrace just six weeks ago. "I was literally finishing the book while they were faxing me back corrected proof pages from earlier in the story." Of course it didn't help that Collins had no idea how the novel would end.

She dedicated the book to the New York City police and firefighters who died at the World Trade Center.

"I just sat at my computer and stared into space," she said, for days after Sept. 11. "Until you're here, though, you don't feel the impact of it."

But very little stops Jackie Collins from making her deadlines. She wrote one whole novel, and parts of two others, during her late third husband Frank Calcagnini's struggle with lung cancer two years ago.

"I would go into the bathroom and write because I didn't want him to see me," she recalled. "I guess it was my form of therapy. And that was a lighthearted book. I don't know how I did it. Frank was an incredible guy. I celebrate his life. I've been married to three fantastic guys."

Collins's second husband, Oscar Lerman, a Hollywood and London legend, died in 1993 after 20 years of marriage and three children. Lerman was most famous for starting nightclubs, including Tramps in London and L.A.

Collins says it's unlikely she will marry again. "I nursed two people through terminal illness. When Frank and I first got together I said, 'Don't you ever get sick!' And he did. I did it. I don't want to ever have to do it again.'"

Her books — which are usually delicious page-turners full of potboiler sex — are divided among two subjects: Hollywood and the mob.

On the day we met, John Gotti had just died. But Jackie says her knowledge of the Mafia comes mostly from reading the papers. She did have one "godfather," now long dead but named "Slim."

"He was shot," Jackie recalls, "and he didn't leave me anything. The only legacy was entrée into this world."

Collins' next novel will be about Hollywood marriages — inspired by Tom and Nicole, Dennis and Meg and all the other high-profile couples who hit the skids.

"It starts at the Cannes Film Festival," she revealed, and licked her high-gloss lips with glee. "I really enjoy writing my books and having fun. I don't believe in misery."

P.S. Don't believe those stories that Jackie and sister Joan don't get on. They just had dinner last week in London at Mr. Chow's. But it makes good headlines, doesn't it?

Ron Goldman, Nicole Simpson: Case Still Open

Tonight is the 8th anniversary of the Goldman-Simpson double murder. I suppose O.J. Simpson is still looking for the real murderers.

A criminal trial jury acquitted Simpson of the murders, but a civil jury determined he was responsible for them.

Of course, the civil trail was not the carnival that the criminal trial was; to this day I have never understood how Marcia Clark and Chris Darden earned any celebrity from that first trial. They were way out of their league, and had not an idea of what they were doing. And they lost. That's lost, with a capital L.

Meanwhile, O.J. Simpson lives in Florida, where he moved after the second trial. Even though the civil judgment against him was $31 million, his $250,000 annual pension is not included.

There is speculation that he moved funds offshore before the trial was over. We know he made money during the criminal trial by signing football souvenirs. Simpson got the last laugh. He's living high on the hog.

I covered the Simpson trial for New York magazine. I can tell you that during the pre-trial hearings in December 1994, before he was medicated, Simpson's courtroom behavior was unbelievably odd.

During one long session he was a symphony of facial tics. He hummed. His head swiveled like a desk lamp. He was on the verge of blasting off, or jumping out of his skin.

Remember this: When Simpson was questioned by police upon his return from Chicago on June 13, 1994, the authorities took blood samples. Simpson was tested, as I reported back in 1995, for eight drugs including cocaine and marijuana. He was clean.

What he wasn't tested for was steroids. Yet the next day, Simpson's attorney brought in a doctor, Dr. Robert Huizenga, whose specialty was steroid abuse among athletes.

Dr. Harold Burzstajn, a Harvard forensic psychiatrist, laid out for me then a scenario suggesting that Simpson killed Goldman and Nicole Brown in a steroid rage. This was based on interviews Simpson's lackey, Al Cowlings, gave to a journalist for a book that was never published.

Clark and Darden never pursued this line of questioning. Instead, they put the famous shrunken glove on Simpson's hand. And the party was over.

My sympathies today, as ever, to the Goldman and Brown families. They know the truth. The truth is out there. One day we may actually hear it from O.J. Simpson's mouth.

Music Musings

Eminem — currently enjoying a mystifying popularity among music critics — sold about 700,000 more copies of his new album last week, bringing the total to well over 2 million in less than three weeks. Isn't that nice?

Meanwhile, Vanessa Carlton, whose hit single "A Thousand Miles" steals liberally from Billy Joel and the Marlboro Man theme music, lip-synched on her CBS Early Show appearance Tuesday morning.

Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes" sounds a lot like the Bangles' "Eternal Flame." It's all pretty depressing.

Oh yeah: did I mention that Britney Spears is being sued by two songwriters who claim she stole their songs?

So come down to the Cutting Room in Manhattan tonight and hear Phoebe Snow do it for real like no one else. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and Snow is taping it for a live album. There's no re-takes, dubs, tape loops or samples. It's just The Voice, which is better than ever and a completely unique instrument.

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