Jackie Collins Lady Boss

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins story on BBC Two – the six most tragic revelations about her life

The author was married to an abusive drug addict who took his own life

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story takes the viewer on a journey through the author’s life – which included plenty of tragedy.

The 2021 documentary tells the untold story of the bestselling author and her mission to build a one-woman literary empire.

Here’s everything you need to know about the one-off documentary and the six most tragic revelations about her life.

Jackie Collins
Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story charts the author’s hugely successful career (Credit: BBC Two)

Read more: Joan Collins’ volatile relationship with sister Jackie explored in new film Lady Boss

Five most tragic revelations about her life – her first husband was abusive

Jackie Collins’ first husband Wallace Austin was a gambler, an alcoholic and very controlling.

She married him in 1960, and they divorced four years later.

Austin was addicted to drugs prescribed for manic depression, and this led to their separation.

He died from a deliberate overdose the year after their marriage ended.

The couple had one daughter, Tracy, born in 1961.

In the documentary Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story, we’re told that “her traumatic experiences kept on coming back into play”.

This is why Jackie found an “image” which she used as a “shield” – almost like a character in one of her books.

Jackie managed to reinvent herself after the disastrous marriage.

The Jackie Collins Story: Her second husband tragically died

In 1965, Jackie Collins married for a second time.

This marriage to American art gallery and nightclub owner, Oscar Lerman, was a happier one.

Jackie and Oscar – who was 18 years her senior – had two daughters, Tiffany (born 1967) and Rory (born 1969).

He also formally adopted Jackie’s first daughter, Tracy, from her previous marriage.

Tragically, Oscar Lerman died in 1992 from prostate cancer.

Jackie was heartbroken by his death.

Jackie Collins in a bikini
Jackie in her London flat in August 1964 (Credit: BBC Two)

Read more: Paul O’Grady sends fans wild as he teases television project with Joan Collins

The Jackie Collins Story: Her fiancé died of a brain tumour

In 1994, Jackie Collins became engaged to Los Angeles business executive Frank Calcagnini.

They enjoyed several happy years together until tragedy struck again.

Frank died in 1998 from a brain tumour.

At the time, Jackie said that what got her through the tragedies of losing two loved ones was “celebrating their lives, as opposed to dwelling on their deaths”.

She called her second husband Oscar and fiancé Frank “fantastic men”.

She had a difficult relationship with her sister

Jackie often felt that she was living in the shadow of her older sister Joan Collins.

Joan was centre stage on the big and small screen for seven decades, while Jackie was hugely successful in her own chosen career.

The glamorous pair would often appear at parties and red carpet events together.

Joan even played the main role in two film adaptations of Jackie’s novels.

But the relationship was not without its complications.

Joan has previously revealed that Jackie disliked her fourth husband Peter Holm.

As a result, the sisters didn’t see much of each other while they were married in the late 80s.

And Jackie felt “inferior” to Joan all her life.

In her diary, at the age of 15, Jackie wrote: “Went to a party with Joan. It was fun.

“I get an awful inferiority complex when I’m with Joan.

“I feel all big, clumsy and dull.”

Speaking on Loose Women in 2020, however,  Joan described Jackie as “the perfect sister”.

In the documentary, Joan explains her belief that Jackie has been reincarnated as a fruit fly.

Jackie and Joan Collins
Jackie and Joan promoting The Stud in September 1977 (Credit: Getty Images/Kent Gavin/ Mirrorpix/BBC Two)

The Jackie Collins Story: Her writing was not taken seriously

Jackie Collins is one of the most successful authors in history.

Her raunchy novels have sold over 500 million copies in 40 countries.

However, her literary career wasn’t always taken seriously as a result of its romantic and often raunchy subject matter.

As discussed in the documentary Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story she “put female sexuality at the centre of the world”.

We’re told “she changed the way women got to have sex”.

But perhaps half of the world wasn’t ready to hear it.

Girls can do anything was her motto, and she became an iconic figure to many women.

But friends and family tell the viewers that “what she wrote and who she was were two different things”.

Jackie Collins’ tragic death of secret illness

Jackie Collins died on September 19 2015 at the age of 77.

She died of cancer, after being diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer more than six years before her death.

The author had kept her illness almost entirely to herself.

She told her sister Joan two weeks before she died.

Jackie even flew from Los Angeles to London to appear on the ITV chat show Loose Women nine days before her death.

Jackie Collins
Jackie promoting The World is Full of Married Men in London in 1968 (Credit: Getty Images/Bettmann/BBC Two)

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story on BBC Two – what’s it about?

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins documentary on BBC Two explores the life and works of the world famous author.

The feature-length film reveals the private struggles of a woman who became an icon of 1980s feminism.

But she was also hiding her personal vulnerability behind a carefully crafted public persona.

Jackie’s family and friends describe the woman they knew behind the headlines.

Joan Collins remembers her late sister, as do Jackie’s daughters and best friends.

Watch out for archive clips from Terry Wogan’s chat show, and Michael Caine and Roger Moore arriving at one of her house parties.

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Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story airs on Friday October 15 2021 at 9pm on BBC Two.

Have you read any Jackie Collins novels? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.

Helen Fear
TV Editor