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On a business trip to Los Angeles in the spring of 2005, my writing partner and I scheduled a lunch with accomplished TV producer Peter Tolan at Pasadena’s landmark Huntington Hotel, now rebranded as The Langham. But first we’d meet at his house nearby, in a particularly leafy, wealthy enclave of town.
As one would expect from the writer who had dreamed up such films as Analyze This and the critically acclaimed show he was making at the time, Rescue Me, the home’s interior was impeccably furnished. But it was when we got to the manicured grounds of the sprawling residence, built in 1915 as the Jewett Estate, that things really got exciting.
As we walked around the edge of a long, rectangular reflecting pool set among formal gardens, Peter pointed out that said water feature had been the site of scenes from the Marx Brothers’ classic 1933 comedy, Duck Soup. That pedigree alone would have been enough for me to take home the following week as a souvenir. Already I had something to brag about back in Jersey some late night over diner fries.
And then, almost as an afterthought, Peter added the following detail: This very same lily pond was also the site of Alexis and Krystle’s infamous catfight on Dynasty.
Wait. Full stop.
I lost the ability to take in any further information. I could now think of nothing but that historic moment on April 13, 1983, when, after years of back-and-forth bitchery, Linda Evans’ sugary sweet Krystle Carrington had finally had enough of Joan Collins’ scheming Alexis Colby. In one of the campiest moments in one of the campiest shows ever to sashay into American living rooms, Krystle, bedecked in beatific blue, launched herself at her nemesis—and with said flying tackle entered not just the watery milieu at which I was now staring but the pantheon of over-the-top TV moments.
All through what must have been a lovely lunch—I don’t really remember—my mind kept wandering back to that pond, wondering if we should have stuck around to search its shores for any wayward, waterlogged shoulder pads. The thought was still lingering in my mind when, six years later, Mattel announced its upcoming Barbie versions of the two dueling divas and, around the same time, Joan appeared in a limited New York run with her one-woman show, One Night with Joan. From the stage at the Plaza Hotel, the actress, who also made 1983 headlines by posing for Playboy at 50, recalled how, just before filming the famous brawl, her taller, stronger, 10-years-younger co-star, Linda, convinced her that they themselves should be the ones slugging it out for the cameras. Later, as she sought medical attention for her bruises, Joan, now 89, recalled the advice of her former co-star Gene Kelly: “Never put a stunt gal out of work.”
The visual of Alexis’ white picture hat set afloat is still so alive in pop culture that the scene was re-created in 2020 by Daniella Alonso and Elaine Hendrix on The CW Network’s Dynasty reboot and was perfectly parodied just this past season by Wendi McLendon-Covey and Erinn Hayes on the ’80s-set sitcom The Goldbergs. But, my fellow Gen Xers, don’t try to retrace my steps or drop my name with Peter to get past the gate, because the Jewett Estate now belongs to someone else. Not that the new owners probably aren’t used to it. Back when he owned the place, Peter told me that “for years, the gate intercom would ring, and we’d hear someone in broken English on the other end of the line—usually Japanese tourists looking for ‘Dynasty house.’”
— Jim Colucci
Want another Love Letter from our contributors? Try Love Letter: Tallying The Votes.