Sunday, September 20, 2015

Jackie Collins, my old school friend - Janette Miller

I had the luck to be at school with Jackie Collins who has just died of breast cancer. We were in the same class but it appears she was much older than me. We became students together at Aida Foster and we all knew her as the sister of Joan Collins who had been at the school and that, secret, secret, she had been expelled from her previous school.

I arrived at the age of 15 at Aida Foster Stage School in Golders Green. My ballet school AES which I loved was threatening to close down and my mother loathed the headmistress there because she felt she was cruel that I was taken away and dumped at Aida Foster as mother wanted me in musicals not ballet. There was nothing I could do.

Adia Foster was not academic. I was put in the GCE class to find that they were on page one of the arithmetic book and I am not joking. My education came to a full stop. I knew I was good at English and could put myself through GCE English with not too much problem and I decided to have a go at GCE English grammar, literature and history as I reckoned I could do those myself.

I was seated beside the only other two girls who it was thought might get a GCE, one was called Anne Flack and the other Jackie Collins both became firm friends although I had little hope of either being able to actually take the exams. Jackie had a penchant for yellow legal pads which were covered with a large childish handwriting and never seemed to do any work at all. I never thought anything of it at the time but I pitied both.

They might not have been good at English literature but both were good at life. My education began at the local Italian restaurant where we were allowed to go for lunch. Yes, we were allowed out for lunch and introduced to Italian Food for the first time spaghetti bolognaise of which I became particularly fond either that or my other and really best friend Marti Webb but she took me to the Wimpy Bar in Golders Green.

The restaurant was next door to the local police station but it was where the local flashers held out. Stupid really but they did and each day the three of us ran the gauntlet of the flashing gentlemen. Jackie had a thing about flashing gentleman and I see even to this day one of her last Tweets was on this subject. She used to yell at them not too subtle remarks, Like Ooo what a little one put it away. I was sort of shocked but these gentlemen did not shock Jackie Collins.

Jackie did not take the exam when I was there. I did. I got 87% for English Lit but was helped for 3 weeks by the most brilliant teacher I have ever met. A Mrs. Payne, who was tough and beautiful and taught me how to learn.  I have a blog on her too. Jackie was beautiful and was a great model.  I liked her. I left soon after as I was sexually assaulted by a student and just could not face going back. My father was furious with the school. I went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and never gave Jackie Collins another thought.

Then years later I saw an article about this well known author in a New Zealand magazine and I saw the yellow legal, pad and the childish handwriting and I thought Hey I know that  writing! I should recognise it anyway. As I went on a read that Jackie Collins had become a bestseller of lurid novels and one thing Jackie described in detail was our encounters with the flashers of Golder Green and I knew it was her. She was a million dollar writer without a GCE and I was an impoverished opera ballet producer with one.

Such is life. Nowhere in her biographies does Jackie mention her stint at Aida Foster although the Fosters were Joan's first agent and in fact one of the Baker Twins a student of the school and a friend of mine ruined Joan Collins's marriage to Antony Newly.

Maybe it was all too painful. It was for me. I am grateful  to the Fosters for giving me confidence and make the best of myself. The Fosters did this for all their students and we all did well considering none of us had an education. What we all could have achieved if we had had one. Jackie Collins knew about life and her father could help her get started which was a great advantage. I admire her courage.


  1. Hi janette so nice to read your memories from Aida Foster

  2. Hi Annette so nice to read your memories from Aida Foster do you remember miss Harbinson she was v frightening I was there in 1963 4 5 6 poss longer and we used to hang out in the Italian r near the bus station I stayed in the music world all my life and loved it and now my children are doing it all over again love Glo macari

  3. Yes I remember Miss Harbinson. She was a bit of an acid drop but a reasonably good ballet teacher. All ballet teachers are frightening otherwise lazy pupils would not put up with the agony. You were there after me. Quite a school.