Dame Joan Collins sweeps into Claridge’s on a chilly November morning in 2020. London is between Covid lockdowns, but still the lobby is eerily empty save for construction workers in hi-vis jackets picking up the pace on the hotel’s multi-million-pound renovation. Joan is resplendent in sequins and a pink feather hat. ‘Not exactly a day look, she observes, with a smile. But perfect for a portrait, the latest of the dozen or more we have created over the past two decades. Afterwards, lunch, served in the suite. Salmon, avocado, a glass of Chablis. We talk about stalled projects and interrupted lives and have a lively political debate. ‘Are you a leftie?’ she says, her eyes narrowing. She is fun, forthright and loyal. Not to say indomitable. This autumn she publishes her umpteenth memoir – Behind The Shoulder Pads: Tales I Tell My Friends – and goes on tour with a one-woman show. A movie is in the pipeline. The last star. David Downton is artist in residence at Claridge’s. An exhibition by David Downton “Théâtre de la Mode’ runs 15-26 November 2023 at Cromwell Place.