Lucky Chances (1990)

Forgive the awkward title, combining two Jackie Collins novels into one movie, because we come back to worship at the altar of Ms. Collins, after such success with “Hollywood Wives.” (   “Lucky Chances” brings to life Lucky Santangelo, Collins’ most beloved character, one who, at this writing in August 2011, is about to return to the page in a brand new novel, as well as her colorful father and various other family members.

If “Lucky Chances” isn’t as giddy as “Hollywood Wives,” forgive that too.  Nothing can top the latter, and by 1990, a sad decorum had already started to settle over the miniseries (which was never as racy a medium as it thought it was) that would try to blunt Collins’ style (but never kill it), a fact made even more obvious by the next Lucky Santangelo film outing, “Lady Boss.” 

However, that doesn’t mean “Lucky Chances” is free of guilty pleasures, because this is the world of Jackie Collins, after all, and as long as her name is on anything (and she wrote the screenplay here), we’re in heavenly hands.  Perhaps ONLY Jackie Collins could have had “Lucky Chances” filmed by 1990, when the other mistresses of the beach read were playing it so much safer (take your pick, snooze through Danielle Steel or Judith Krantz, as we learned from 90s duds “Zoya” and “Dazzle”).  That’s what you get for being dainty.  Ever the lady, Jackie Collins was the only one still also a broad. 

Swinging Las Vegas, 1969, which looks like it’s actually swinging Las Vegas 1989, but Vegas hasn’t really changed all that much, I suppose.  Lucky herself, a va-va-va-voom Nicolette Sheridan, in a white clingy number cut up and down to there, is not happy that her father is returning.  “You know he’s never going to give me credit for building the hotel,” she complains to heavily made-up Alan Rosenberg.  “I just want him to appreciate what I’m capable of achievement.  I just want us to be a family again.  I’m his daughter and I love him.  If he can’t accept what I’ve done, then there’s going to be a power struggle,” she says.  Wow, that’s an awful lot of pressure, no?  Alan’s response is exactly what you would suggest, even if you haven’t met these characters before: “you and your father are exactly alike.” 

And with that, we dart back to the past, New York City, 1933.  Oh, come on!  The minute you saw Alan’s heavy make-up and heard Nicolette bitching about her father, you knew it was only a lead-in to a flashback.  It is a miniseries, after all, and that does tend to be the way they unravel.

Daytime soap hunk Vincent Irizarry is Gino Santangelo, a wise-ass sitting at a table entertaining his friends when in comes his business partner, daytime AND nighttime hunk Michael Nader (from sister Joan’s “Dynasty”), with a scary, “we gotta talk.”  Michael, doing the same sort of Italian accent everyone did after Brando in “The Godfather,” is worried that bootlegging is on its way out and they need a new angle.  “If you’re talkin’ moving drugs and sellin’ hookers, you’re on your own,” Vincent says.  “What are you, huh, a priest?  We can’t ease into other areas without you losing sleep?” Michael replies.  Vincent has a perfectly good reason, a sister who died from a drug overdose. 

The cliches, they keep a-rollin’ along, when Vincent sees a fancy car with a fancy blonde in it and tells his pal, “that’s what I want…everything!”  He’s in a speakeasy later when in swoops Mary Frann, all done up to look like a cross between Mae West, Ann-Margaret and Shirley Temple, who tells her companion, “I just adore dives like this.”  Naturally, Vincent only has eyes for the rich dame.  She can’t help but notice him either and asks the owner about him.  When she finds out he’s a bootlegger, she gives the owner her card for him, because she needs some hooch.  “Slumming is so amusing,” she remarks to her husband, Richard Anderson, when she returns home.  “And I might have spotted a new friend,” telling him about Vincent.  Apparently, she’s very open about her life, and her husband accepts it all.  It’s even freakier than you think.  For the party, she tells her husband, she’s found an act: “two girls, one white, one Negro, are going to do an incredible dance and striptease.  Tres risque!”  Not a moment too soon, Jackie Collins has officially stepped in! 

The black girl mentioned above would be Anne-Marie Johnson, introduced while being injected with a needle full of dope by Jimmie Skaggs.  “You’re gonna shine,” he insists, and she asks, “how many men you gonna make me sleep with?”  He assures her, “this is your first step on the road to stardom…and don’t forget who put you there.”  She tries to resist, but he’s not actually giving her a choice. 

When Vincent arrives at Mary’s mansion, he’s met by a snooty butler who insists on knowing his “surname,” which Vincent loudly spells out for him.  To the butler’s chagrin, Vincent is allowed inside.  In fact, Mary is all too happy to see him, at least it sounds like she is, because one can’t see her face through the filters.  This is a dame who can play uppity and sling it with the worst of ’em.  “In the past, we’ve been sold bathtub gin, watered-down whiskey, all kinds of bootleg hooch.  I’m sure you only supply quality merchandise,” she insists before placing her very large order.  “Anything you want, I got,” Vincent replies.  He’s also invited to attend the party, black-tie, of course. 

A few moments after Jimmie and his girls arrive, Vincent finally shows up, to be greeted by Richard and told, “my wife tells me everything, absolutely everything.”  Exactly what that means, Vincent still has yet to find out.  Richard then watches eagerly from across the room as Mary flirts with dateless Vincent.  “I think you have a very exciting future and I want to be part of it,” she decides, to a still-clueless Vincent. 

Mary announces the entertainment and on come the girls, doing a shimmy and a half, though Anne-Marie can barely stand up she’s so high.  Mary is not at all pleased.  “Looks like she’s on dope,” Vincent guesses.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” Mary snaps.  Wait, why is that so hard to believe?  You didn’t exactly order Fred and Adele Astaire, Mary.  Anne-Marie collapses and has to be carried out.  Jimmie and his other girl bolt quickly.  Vincent insists on calling a doctor.  “Can’t do that, scandal,” Richard warns and has Vincent take her somewhere safe. 

When she wakes up at his pad, Anne-Marie asks Vincent who he is.  “Oh, come on!  You gotta remember me, you threw up all over my tux.  I had to buy the damn thing.”  There’s a memory worth copping too!  She denies her drug usage, saying she’s fine.  “If you weren’t so fine, you’d be dead,” Vincent snaps at her.  She’s only afraid at what pimp Jimmie will do if he finds out she’s drying out.  Vincent will be her protector.  “And what do you want?”  “I don’t want nothing.”  “I don’t believe it.”  “Force yourself, kid.”  Oh, yeah!  Now that’s how it’s done!  Go on with the snappy dialogue!

Mary is very appreciative, but Vincent has his his morals, telling her, “you’re a married lady and I don’t play baseball on a full field.”  Okay, that’s a clunker of a line, but let’s just chalk it up to a not-very-bright character being the one to say it.  Mary assures Vincent, “my husband is impotent” and it’s therefore perfectly fine for them to get it on, “and I’ll show you how to do a lot more than play baseball.”  She slows him down when he paws her like an ape and he cracks, “nobody tells me how to do this.  I got a degree in it.”  “Then tear it up.  I’m going to teach you everything you think you already know.”  The deed is done and Vincent becomes Mary’s official boy toy. 

Vincent is so cocky, he wants to toss aside Michael, who is running the drugs Vincent told him not to run.  “You want out, you’re out, but you’re gonna regret it, sucker!” Michael snarls.  Now we have the enemy-for-life all arranged as well.  Anne-Marie is still at Vincent’s, but she’s well enough to cook, though still wondering what it is he wants.  He’s so helpful that he wants to get her a real job and he even told the pimp she left town.  “Everyone deserves a chance, kid, and I’m yours,” he says with the confidence of a fairy godmother.  As you can imagine, Jimmie has not given up on finding her, vowing to find her and make her pay!  We can guess that he’ll return just when life is at an apex of happiness for Anne-Marie. 

While Mary does a hot-cha tango with every man in the joint, Richard and Vincent discuss business.  Vincents says Anne-Marie needs a job and Richard knows a man who needs a maid.  “Speaking of business…” Richard starts, and offers Vincent an actual liquor company for when Prohibition ends.  “Just give me the deal.  Whatever it is, you can count me in,” our trusting hero says, not bothering with the terms. 

Vincent puts Anne-Marie in a cab and wishes her well when his old pal Alan Rosenberg returns to “the old neighborhood,” a lawyer about to be married.  The theatrical producer who hires Anne-Marie as a maid is none other than David McCallum.  He asks for references and when she says she doesn’t have her, offers her the job (“my housekeeper can teach you everything you need to know”).  Where do I get in on that kind of interview?  At Alan’s wedding, Vincent asks Alan to be “my advisor,” because we know that every mobster has to have a trusted legal pal on hand.  It’s never an exciting role, but someone has to play it.  Dependable Alan Rosenberg is game, though playing Italian is a bit of a stretch.  Just then, a little girl comes and asks Vincent to dance.  “One day, I’m going to marry a man just like you, I promise,” she gushes.  Yup, all the pieces are falling into place, though the huge age gap between them will no doubt becomes a lot smaller when she grows up to be played by…well, we’ll get there eventually. 

Four years later, Anne-Marie has worked her way up to being David’s “personal assistant.”  She’s toiled for him all that time and it’s only after four years he bothers to ask about her past life.  She declines to rehash the story, noting that “I’ve never felt so secure as I have working for you.”  And apparently all this time, he’s also nursed a crush on her, finally asking her to out.  She declines that too, citing a previous engagement, a double date with one of the maids. 

In the ensuing years, Vincent has opened a club in partnership with Richard, naming it after Mary.  Alan informs him one night that Mary is coming in with some friends.  “Ah, another rent-a-stud group,” Vincent says breezily.  Wouldn’t you know, it’s that very night that Anne-Marie and her maid friend go to the very same club, where Anne-Marie is warned, “these gentleman got money, so be nice!”  Next to arrive is Michael Nader.  Vincent is thrilled that Michael is there, so he can show him his success and cozy up to him in case he ever needs him, because I suppose gangsters have short memories.  “Better the snake you stroke than the one you strangle,” he tells worried Alan.  That’s an interesting way to put it. 

Anne-Marie can’t stand the grabby drunk date she’s been given.  She’s become a very good girl, doesn’t even want to fake being nice for a rich guy.  Mary flaunts her men for Vincent.  “I see you’re in the education business again,” he chortles.  “Well, it’s so rewarding,” she coos.  Walking over to loud Michael’s table, Vincent warns him, “calm down…this is a classy joint, act like you’ve been in one before.”  Michael is not happy with Vincent’s smarmy friendliness.

It’s then that worlds collide, as we expected with the gang all here.  Michael gets up from the table and bumps into Anne-Marie.  “Hey, I thought this was a classy joint.  It’s all full of Coloreds,” he yells.  Vincent orders him tossed out and goes to apologize to Anne-Marie, whom he at first doesn’t recognize.  It’s a lovely reunion, even a bit flirty.  “This is turning out to be the best night I can remember,” she rhapsodizes over champagne.  “I always try to look after my friends,” he sweetly replies while staring at her in a brand new way.  She tells him that her boss and he and the only “two guys who never tried to take advantage of me.”  “It’s not that I didn’t want to.  You weren’t ready,” he remarks.  “Am I ready now?”  Yup, because before another line can be uttered, they are in bed together laughing.  “That was something else, baby,” he raves.  “And I didn’t think I even remembered how,” she breathes. 

But that happy moment goes sour quickly.  He gives her cab fare and tells her, “if there’s anything left over, buy yourself a little trinket.”  She hurls the money at his face, snarling, “you still think I’m just a whore.”  His reply is not exactly wise.  “Hey, wait a minute, what are you talkin’ about?” he asks, dropping every g he can see in the script, “if I thought you were a whore, I would have handed you the goin’ rate.  Come on, the money’s just a present.  I give it to all my girlfriends, what’s the big deal?”  Wow, that’s, um, well, insensitive, to put it politely.  It only angers her further.  The rest of the scene follows a predictable dialogue path and she storms out. 

Whatever, Anne-Marie is small potatoes, because Richard has agreed to back Vincent’s idea to build a hotel in Las Vegas.  “I don’t get it.  You service his wife, he ends up giving you money,” Alan jokes as they celebrate the good news.  “I wish it was always that simple.”

So does Anne-Marie, who finds out she’s preggers.  She therefore sneaks out of David’s house and life.

Whoosh, we’re off to Vegas.  Vincent’s “Sierra Hotel and Casino” is being built, a dream of eight years.  “This is my dream and it’s gonna be a smash,” he tells doubting Alan, who can’t understand erecting it in the middle of the desert.  Las Vegas has opened up a whole new farm of girls for him as well.

Whoosh, we’re back on the East Coast.  Anne-Marie has been flourishing, having opened up a very successful brothel, under Michael Nader’s protection.  When two men show up insisting that she pay Jimmie (he doesn’t know it’s Anne-Marie running it), she complains to one of the girls that this is the only thing she knows how to do to support her son.  “It’s not like you do anything,” the girl replies, meaning turning tricks.  “He’s my past and if he ever finds me,” she says, dramatically referring to Jimmie, a pimp with an exceedingly long memory, “I’m finished.” 

Remember the little girl Vincent danced with at the wedding all those years ago?  The one I said would someday become older and somehow make the age difference between them seem less than two decades?  Bingo!  She’s now Sandra Bullock!  She shows up at Alan’s house, where Alan’s wife is hounding Vincent about finding a wife.  It takes some prompting to remember her, though he’s already captivated by her luxurious hair and pleasant demeanor.  In fact, he refers to her as “Little Miss Innocent” and her mother is dead (always convenient in these stories).  “I’m 18.  I think that’s old enough to do just about anything I want,” she announces.  What she wants is him, so she pounces and when they are on the ground, she goes further, saying she wants to marry him, and has ever since that wedding dance.  Her memory is even better than Jimmie the Pimp’s!  He demures.  “What’s wrong with me?”  “That’s just it, kid, there’s nothing wrong with you.”  She vows to wait until he changes his mind. 

Though Sandra’s Uncle Alan warns Vincent about getting involved with his precious rosebud of a niece, it’s said niece who does all the pursuing.  She makes sure to spend as much time with Vincent as possible.  “I don’t know what I’m doin’,” Vincent tells her at their umpteenth meal in a row, “but I wanna do it with you.”  Thankfully, Sandra isn’t any brighter than Vincent, and easy to please, so a fey line like that still makes her smile. 

Jimmie shows up at Anne-Marie’s flesh palace demanding money, but Anne-Marie hides behind the bar and allows one of the girls to take her place.  Knowing that Jimmie will eventually find her, she places a call to Vincent, but he’s busy, she’s told.  Getting married.  We have our second massive Italian wedding in less than an hour.  As expected, because no happiness is without sadness in a miniseries, there is bad news: Richard and Mary were killed in a car accident on their way to the wedding.

There is someone Anne-Marie can turn to besides Vincent, loyal David McCallum, so she dresses down and calls him.  “Eight years ago, I invited you to dinner.  Does it always take you this long to accept?” he jokes as they have a meal.  He doesn’t even ask what she’s been doing or why she slipped away without an explanation.  He promises to protect her and her son.  Even better, he marries her, unafraid of skin color barriers or her son’s presence.

Without Richard’s money, the casino cannot continue, and there is only one place Vincent can turn for the cash, to Michael Nader.  It’s rather impressive that Vincent hasn’t managed to save a dime in 12 or so years.  Vincent offers to cut him in, as long as “there are no drugs involved.” 

On a money-collecting visit to the whorehouse, Jimmie sees a picture of Anne-Marie and explodes with fury.  “Whatever it takes, I’m gonna get her!” he tells new proprietress.

Sandra gives birth to a girl.  The name?  “Well, it ain’t Amy or Sara or Victoria, none of them proper names.  We’re namin’ our kid Lucky,” he tells Alan.  Phew!  I was expecting Kal-El, Shiloh, Moon Unit, or at the very least, Jermajesty.  A not-entirely-welcome Michael shows up at the hospital with a giant stuffed animal, asking to be the girl’s godfather, a request no one can refuse. 

Two years later, the Sierra finally opens.  Alan is still upset they had to use Michael’s “stinking money,” but Vincent is realistic.  Without it, they could never have opened the hotel.  “Once the money starts rollin’ in,” Vincent figures he can buy out Michael, though Alan doubts Michael will ever want to sell.  Opening night is like a Hollywood premiere.  Michael arrives with two girls, and Vincent with Sandra, pregnant again.  Because of their long association, even Jimmie is there, so Michael tells him to “move in nice and slow” to get their business made a part the casino.  Vincent and Jimmie remember each other, though Vincent gets as far away from Jimmie as possible as quickly as possible.  “Something I like about this deal,” Michael notes to Jimmie, “[Vincent] does all the work, we get all the money.”  These two get more bad-guy cardboard with every passing scene. 

Another four years slip by.  Vincent has to bolt Las Vegas to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.  Wrapped in Sandra’s arms and loving his two kids at the birthday party, Vincent gets a call from Alan, who “has proof” that Michael has been “laundering money through the hotel.”  So, right back to Vegas huffs our Vincent, to the disappointment of Sandra and his daughter.  After Vincent leaves, slimy Jimmie shows up at the house looking for Anne-Marie and giving Sandra the creeps.

Upon arrival at the Vegas airport, Vincent is met by Alan and Grant Show, who has been undercover in Michael’s organization and who has proof of the drugs and hookers Alan had warned him about.  “How many of our people are involved?” Vincent asks.  “Five.”  “Fire them.”  He needs some quick cash in order to be rid of Michael.  At a midnight meeting, Vincent tells Michael, “you’re out.”  Michael goes into a heavy whisper to ask, “who the hell do you think you’re talking to?”  It seems Vincent has his enemy-for-life back. 

Revenge is swift.  Little Lucky discovers Sandra floating in the pool covered in blood.

Things are still rocking in Vegas, 1962.  Vincent is gray and sports a mustache.  He’s having problems with daughter Nicolette and wants to dump her in boarding school.  He’s still feeling guilty about Sandra’s death, though Alan reminds him it was merely a robbery, that the guys responsible “were killed in a shoot-out” and even missing jewelry was found.  Dumb, right?  They all believe it!  Nicolette is apparently just like her father, but the brother?  “He wants to go to art school…he’s got long hair!” Vincent carps, unable to understand his son. 

Nicolette, sporting a wig that is supposed to look like Sandra’s hair, but in reality is, I suspect, someone’s carpet, is not happy to be going to boarding school, as she confides in her brother, Harold Pruett (who, very noticeably, does NOT have long hair).  “I wish I could go to art school like you,” she says.  Harold says tell dad that.  “You try telling him, he’s the king of the “I know everything,'” she says in a silly voice.  “Daddy’s not gonna miss me, he’s never around,” so it’s only the “security guards” and “maids” who will miss her.  She will certainly miss Grant, who works for her father and for whom she has the hots. 

At a fancy boarding school run by a fancy British matron, Nicolette gets to bunk with Shawnee Smith, who cracks that she’s “completing a six month prison term.”  Shawnee says something nasty about about Vincent, and Nicolette barks at her, but Shawnee says, “we all have our crosses to bear,” that her father is an exceedingly wealthy Greek tycoon.  Thankfully, this will not end up as the Christina Onassis story.  “I know where you can find cigarettes, booze, drugs, boys, sex.  You name it, I got it all under control,” Shawnee tells a very impressed Nicolette.  Lickety split, the girls are sneaking from the dorm, off to the nearest watering hole and riding motorcycles (sans helmets) with cute boys.  Shawnee, however, sees a problem.  “I keep introducing you to all these hot sexy guys and you don’t seem interested.  What’s the problem?  You don’t like boys?” she asks.  No, no, it’s just that she’s hung up on Grant, “who is an old man, but who is incredibly great.”  He’s only 30, and Shawnee finds that “acceptable.”  Well, with her approval, what can POSSIBLY go wrong?  Shawnee offers to teach her “how to get noticed” by Grant. 

As for Vincent, he’s shacking up with movie star Audrey Landers, who spent the 80s under the sheets on “Dallas” and elsewhere, thus her first scene is post-coital with Vincent.  “You kept me in bed far too long,” she says suggestively after a marathon of sex.  The two go off to a party for Senator Charles Frank (Vincent asks if Audrey is sleeping with him and reminds her that it doesn’t matter if she is–after all, he went to Mary Frann’s School of Sex is Just For Fun).   

Nicolette and Shawnee are expelled from school, but before the headmistress can call Vincent, Nicolette arranges for Harold to get the call and pretend he’s their father, giving permission for her to leave with Shawnee’s chauffeur. 

Anne-Marie’s son has grown up to be a lawyer, Phil Morris, whom we meet somehow finding his friend Tim Ryan’s DOA stand-up comedy show actually funny.  Even Tim’s girlfriend Leann Hunley can’t force that much laughter.  As for Phil’s parents, they are still happily married, still very much in love, though there are friends putting pressure on her to write her autobiography.  She will not, but when it’s suggested that she write a book on “personal style,” that interests her.  No doubt Jimmie reads all books on “personal style,” so he’ll be finding her.  Phil had been cheered by everyone for a success in court, getting an accused rapist off, but it turns out that the guy really was guilty.  Freed from prison, he not only raped again, but killed his accuser’s mother. 

“I can’t reach you, can I?  We make love, but we’re never together.  I don’t know what you’re thinking,” Audrey complains to Vincent, wasting a perfectly good lace teddy on a man who is just wearing striped pajama bottoms.  The conversation is pretty idiotic, with Audrey, as a dim bulb movie star, trying to penetrate his mind.  He doesn’t mind that she is doing the Senator too.  Not that he asked, but she launches into a speech about how she “has a need to be with important men.”  Get this, she wants to be “part of it” if the Senator runs for President, even if it’s just as his movie-star mistress.  Good self-esteem, toots!  “I’m not as dumb as some people think I look,” Audrey notes after telling Vincent she has pictures of her and the Senator, more as an FYI than anything else.  “Nobody can be that dumb,” Vincent replies.  Once again, he’s not very smooth.  Even Audrey bristles at that crack, but only as a lead-in to more sex.  With Audrey asleep, Vincent hunts for the pictures, quickly finding them. 

In St. Tropez, Nicolette and Shawnee are having fun doing “Le Twist,” but Nicolette can’t keep up with Shawnee.  “You are like a bitch in heat,” she castigates her pal.  “Can I help if it every man I meet wants me?” Shawnee asks.  Tiring of the hedonism, Nicolette calls her father, who flies out on Shawnee’s father’s plane.  Shawnee’s father is not a fat bald Onassis knock-off, but instead dashing daytime soap legend Eric Braeden.  When the dads arrive, Nicolette says Shawnee is “in the bedroom, where else?” 

Not surprisingly, Anne-Marie’s book is a smash hit.  She and David are not worried about any secrets spilling out because they have reinvented her past as an “African princess.”  They have even lied to Phil (now working for the DA), telling him his father is dead.  Hmmmm, a crusading DA and the mobster father he doesn’t know existed. 

In its second hour, as things are becoming way too rote, Vincent assures his wayward daughter he’ll snap her back into line and then delivers Audrey’s pictures to the Senator just so the man will owe him a favor.  It’s a damn big one!  He marries Nicolette off to the Senator’s son, Robert Duncan McNeill.  Done up in a hideous wedding dress that speaks of all money and not taste, Nicolette grumpily marries Robert.  “I thought brides were supposed to be happy,” remarks brother Harold.  “Yeah, brides are supposed to be able to choose their own husbands,” she snaps back.  She confides in (her) godfather Michael Nader that her father thinks “this is the way he can control me,” so Michael offers to help any way he can. 

Four years later, we’ve reached 1967.  Anne-Marie has become the grande dame of the social scene, but takes a few minutes out of her day to have lunch with Phil, who confides in her that he’s going after organized crime, both Michael and Vincent.  Yup, we called that one!  Understandably, Anne-Marie is not happy at this “Madame X”-ish turn of events (unknowing son prosecuting father rather than defending mother).  Anne-Marie calls Vincent to meet him for the first time since huffing off the night they had sex.  She warns him about what her son is up to.  “I don’t understand, how come you’re taking that kind of a risk?” he asks.  Anne-Marie has to tell him the truth about Phil’s parentage. 

After five years of marriage, Nicolette and Robert still have no kids.  So, Robert asks outright, “you wanna make a baby?”  “No thanks,” Nicolette dryly replies.  “My parents really want us to do this,” he reports, as if that’s going to sway her, so she goes out for a drive.  “You spend more time in our car than you do in our bed,” he shouts.  Robert, it could be that old-man pajama set you wear, but she’ll never be yours. 

On a call with her brother, where she tells him she has to get out of the marriage, he informs her that Vincent has summoned them both to New York.  “You can’t go running off to New York without me, what will people think?” Robert bleats, one more nail in his coffin.  “Our marriage was a joke from the beginning.  Now it’s over.”  The Senator is actually happy to be rid of her.  The kids go to see Vincent, who starts off on the wrong foot, telling Harold, “you look like one of those Hippies or something out a rock group, go get yourself a hair cut.”  Grant and Alan are there as well, so Nicolette orders Grant to get her a scotch, “and don’t water it down.  I’m not a little girl anymore.”  “I can see that,” says Grant, finally noticing her after all these years. 

Vincent announces that he has to leave the country.  Why?  For some reason, he wants his minions to answer, so Grant explains that the IRS has been after him.  “I’ve paid enough damn taxes to run the White House for 20 damn years,” Vincent spits out.  The facts are these: Harold will go to Vegas and learn the hotel business and Nicolette, who is actually interested in it “is just a woman, a married woman, who is going to stay with her husband and have a baby or two.”  Oh, no!  Oh, no!  Vincent has said the wrong thing (again) to the wrong woman.  Nicolette comes out hissing, to upbraiding from her father.  “I ain’t a lady!” she reminds him, “and while you’re away, I’m going to prove it, bet on it!” 

As promised, Nicolette rises to the top of the company, which is building a new hotel, though she says it’s been “a struggle.”  “What struggle?” her brother asks, “you pushed everyone out of the way and took over.”  She’s left design to her brother, legal to Alan, construction to Grant and “I love running the show.”  She goes looking for Grant while her brother smirks.  “You can wipe that little smile off your mind,” she says, tossing off one of the best lines so far, explaining that her crush on Grant is long in the past. 

She takes Grant over to the new hotel construction site where they engage in a little banter before business.  He compliments her on looking great, “for a kid.” 
“Very funny.”
“I am to please.”
“Yeah, every bimbo in Vegas.  Don’t you ever get tired.”
“Only in the rainy season.”

That’s some good stuff! 

After a board meeting, Nicolette is told investors are dropping out because they don’t believe in her, but she assures Alan that she can get the money from her former father-in-law.  Grant takes her to the airport for more banter.  Oh, and I should point out that we’re somewhere in the late 60s now, but everyone looks like the 80s.  Nicolette Sheridan looks like she’s wearing her fanciest “Knots Landing” costumes.

According to Nicolette, she deserves the Senator’s money because she stayed married to his son for five years, but he tells her he was blackmailed into the marriage, a fact she never knew.  “You bastard,” she hisses, though she can hardly be angry at him.  Then she turns to Michael.  “If I come in on this deal, nobody’s gotta know but you and me,” he tells his goddaughter.  He only wants “a big part of the action,” which goes undefined.  Alan and Grant aren’t thrilled with not knowing where the money is coming from, but Phil is.  His insiders in Michael’s organization have just given them a new way of getting to Michael.

We’re back to where the movie started, the opening of the new casino, all in 18 months, no less.  “I see you dressed up for the occasion,” Nicolette tells Grant, sporting a tux.  “I see you undressed for it,” he retorts, nothing her form-fitting gown.  Grant thinks “it’s about time to talk,” a euphemism for what the two really want, especially her!  When Michael shows up, he tells Alan he’s the source of the money, which angers him to no end.  “I’m here to stay, get used to it!” Michael growls.

“Is the reality going to be as good as the fantasy?” Nicolette asks Grant right before their first and very passionate kiss.  They start what promises to be a good sex scene, but are, of course, cut off.  Alan is looking for them, so we rejoin them after it’s over and Nicolette is thrilled with the way it’s turned out, wanting more.  “I need a ten minute break,” he insists.  “Make it five and you’ve got a deal.” 

The next morning, Nicolette and Grant are due to have breakfast with Alan and his wife.  Nicolette admits she’s in love and just as Grant is walking over, a shot rings out and he falls dead.  Never proclaim your happiness in a miniseries!  That’s when it all falls apart.  Alan insists Michael is behind the murder, but Nicolette refuses to believe it.  However, she goes to Michael, who doesn’t give her five seconds in the door before suggesting a suspect, and a vacation for Nicolette, while his guys “watch the bank.”  She says her brother can handle things.  “You’re the one with the stones in the family, no offense,” he clucks. 

It’s been threatened for some time, but finally, Vincent returns.  “I have to warn you, there’s not way you’re shutting me out, no way,” Nicolette insists.  “Who said I wanted to?” he asks.  “I’m proud of you, kid, I really am.”  Praise was the last thing Nicolette expected.  He’s only upset because Michael is on board, but they will work on that together.  A big hug, their first, sets things right.  “For the record, you both did a great job,” Vincents tells both kids.  They are over the moon with his praise.  Outside Vincent’s apartment, they are thrilled with the way things are going, Nicolette promises to get rid of Michael and offers Harold a ride, but he only has a few blocks to walk.  So do the two goons following him.

When Nicolette returns to Vincent’s that night, one of Michael’s best henchmen is there.  He is the mole for the FBI and is willing to sing for cash before telling the feds all and going into witness protection.  He tells them of Grant’s murder and then the shocker, of Sandra’s murder.  Well, that would be a shock to only those who weren’t paying any attention. 

We lurch into high Jackie Collins now!  Nicolette, Vincent and Alan leave the building just as a car drives by and dumps Harold’s dead body on the curb.  Seeing it, Vincent grabs his left arm with a heart attack.  “Daddy, don’t worry.  I know what I gotta do,” Nicolette tells him as he’s being wheeled into surgery. 

Suddenly Nicolette knows how to pull off an assassination.  Put on dark clothes, jump the fence, bang on Michael’s front door.  Michael is not happy to be woken up at 3am to purportedly talk about Vincent’s return.  “I thought that we should deal with it now.  I thought that we should deal with it the way you dealt with my mother,” she says.  “Maybe you should get rid of me too, or you’ll never know whose side I’m on,” she adds.  “You’re a lunatic,” Michael growls.  He would know, after all.  “If I tell you to get out of here, bitch, get out of here!”  Michael reaches for a gun, which Nicolette says is not loaded, she pushes him up against the wall in slow motion and a shot rings out.

Vegas, 1970.  Nicolette is found “not guilty for reasons of self defense.”  There wasn’t a whole lot of suspense there, even if Lucky Santangelo would not be Jackie Collins’ main character for the next umpteen years.  She’s the leading lady and leading ladies don’t go to prison, especially not for killing scum like Michael Nader.  Only Michael’s son, Luca Bercovici, isn’t happy, threatening Nicolette.  It’s him the FBI (Phil) wants, and they have been at the trial the whole time.  To add grease to his fire, he’s now dating Leann.  Leann tells Phil Luca is “my producer…for the movie I’m going to be in.”  “That is private property, mine!” Luca tells Phil referring to Leann.  Also with Luca is our dear old friend, Jimmie the pimp. 

In fact, nearly everyone is assembled.  Leann’s ex, comedian Tim Ryan, has a gig in Las Vegas.

Vincent is the host of a party for movie star Liliana Komorowska, where Nicolette will get to meet Vincent’s new main squeeze, Stephanie Beacham (we’ve had to wait over three hours for her!).  Also at the table is Nicolette’s former roomie, Shawnee Smith and her father, Eric Braeden.  Shawnee (with rock star boyfriend William Shockley in tow) is still bitter about Nicolette calling her father years ago, but Nicolette doesn’t bother with her, only with Eric.  Nicolette and Stephanie do not hit it off well, which is thrilling as a viewer, because we haven’t had a three-dimensional villain yet.  Stephanie manages to take over in just a matter of minutes.  “What do you think about little Lucky,” Vincent asks Stephanie, who replies, with dead-on timing, “she’s not so little.  She can look after herself, and  you can look after me.” 

Tim’s act has actually gotten worse over the years. In fact, it relies on sexist humor to tickle the three people gathered to watch.  Nicolette is not amused, so she huffs back to Tim’s dressing room, where he’s in nothing but boxer shorts.  “Want to quit staring?  You make me feel like Burt Reynolds on a good day,” he jokes.  “Your material could use an update,” she tells him before demanding he take out the anti-woman humor.  “Hey, sweetheart, you have a problem, take it up with the management,” he yells as she’s leaving.  “I’d be happy to,” she says sweetly, never revealing who she is.  “Fire him,” she commands as soon as she walks away. 

Eric takes Nicolette on a yacht ride on Lake Mead and wants to go into business with her, not her father, who has also made overtures (based on Nicolette’s suggestion).  She calls dad and lays it on the line: Eric and she will be handling business, not him.

Tail between his legs, Tim goes to live with Phil, who puts him up as a way to get to Luca.  He wants Tim to call Leann, though Tim tries to avoid involvement.  “How’s my career going?” Leann bubbles when Luca returns home.  “Don’t worry, you’re gonna see a script soon.  My investors loved those photos of you,” he replies. 

Not happy to be dragged to a charity benefit is Vincent.  Stephanie warns him, “you better get used to it.  I do a lot of charity work.”  He’s too worried about Nicolette, a subject that bores Stephanie.  He mentions Sandra and Harold’s murders and all she can say is, “the past is behind you.”  Delicious!  At the charity event, Stephanie is dying to meet Anne-Marie.  She and Vincent have to pretend to know each other, but agree to meet for lunch the next day. 

Eric has Nicolette over for a romantic dinner, but she’s all business, proposing a casino in Atlantic City for when gambling becomes legal there.  He has no business on his mind.  “I intend to know you very well indeed,” Eric announces and then the two dance in his room alone.  “You’re very beautiful, very exciting,” he notes, and she adds, “and very demanding.”  He goes in for the clinch, her first since Grant’s death.  She slips off her dress and tells him, “bring the champagne…I’m going to make you very very thirsty.”  They do the deed, as expected, and he tells her, “you can build the hotel of your dreams in Atlantic City.  I’ll back you.” 

At lunch, Vincent warns Anne-Marie that not only has he seen Phil, but also Jimmie.  “Don’t worry about it, he’ll never put it together,” he assures her.  Famous last words.  He then offers any help Phil may ever need, but she doesn’t intend to reveal the secret of Phil’s real father. 

Bad news, at least for Nicolette.  Vincent is marrying Stephanie and his idea is that they will spend weekdays in LA and weekends in Las Vegas, so Nicolette can run everything during the week and then he takes over on the weekends.  Needless to say, that doesn’t sit well with Nicolette.  “Nobody dances center stage when I’m around,” Vincent argues when Nicolette throws a fit.  This escalates into a melee that should be fodder for Tim’s comedy.  Vincent tells her to get married and have kids as “that’s what women are supposed to do.”  Nicolette exits dramatically and Vincent tells her never to come back.

Anne-Marie is widowed (not that we’ve seen David in eons).  Phil, of course, is his mother’s rock of support, but worried “about my own mortality,” she tells her son the truth about his father.  Phil is definitely not happy to hear Vincent is his papa.  “He’ll be there for you if you ever need him, honey,” Anne-Marie assures him.  He’ll never need “a man like that!” he assures her and wants to continue thinking David is the only father he’s ever needed. 

Nicolette finds out she’s pregnant, so get the bouzouki players tuned up, because she has to get hitched to Eric, and it has to be on a Greek island with all the Greek cliche trappings (plus pouty Shawnee and her boyfriend).  “Young and the Restless” fans have probably never seen Eric do Greek dancing, but he joins the line and does just that, complete with shouts of “opa.”  “Tell me, what is it that attracts you to my father, his age or his bankroll,” Shawnee asks.  I guess we are going to do Christina Onassis after all. 

Three years later, Tim is the toast of Las Vegas, playing the big room, having traded in sexist humor for New York City jokes.  In the audience are Shawnee and her boyfriend, as well as Leann and Luca, who supplies them with drugs, and of course, Phil.  Tim and Phil discuss Leann’s movie, which was “a porno.”  On her way to the ladies room, Leann tries to talk to Phil, but Luca’s goon hustles her along.  Shawnee sidles over to Vincent’s table, where she sets her sights on Tim.  That leaves Luca to invite solo William to his table to meet Leann, who is “very accommodating.”  Luca tells everyone it was “my father’s money that built this hotel.”  Williams thought Nicolette did that, and Luca explodes, promised that “if she ever returns to this country, she’s going to pay for what she did to my father.”  He doesn’t really get the idea of a vendetta, does he?  It can be carried out anywhere; geography should be no hindrance. 

Tim and Shawnee drink and drug themselves into such a stupor that they wind up getting married that same night. 

Greece isn’t exactly Nicolette’s idea of fun.  “I’m too young for exile,” she claims and wants to build a hotel.  She has a small son now, but “having a husband and a child isn’t enough.  I need to have an edge,” she confesses.  She’s told Vincent is not happy, in fact downright lonely since his marriage to Stephanie is truly a sham.  Vincent and Nicolette need each other, that’s the truth.  He calls her and they realize it.  She invites Vincent to her villa in France, though he has a feeling Stephanie will not be joining them. 

Waking up with giant hangovers, Shawnee and Tim aren’t exactly sure what happened.  “Who are you?” he asks.  “I think I’m the daughter of a very rich man,” she says.  “Who are you?” she asks.  “I think I’m a comedian, but I’ve never done anything this funny.”  They actually decide to “give it a try,” and Shawnee disappears under the covers.

Anne-Marie innocently opens the door to find Jimmie there.  Now, really!  This has gone on for almost forty years!  He wouldn’t actually be alive, not with his lifestyle, but would he still care?  She was one girl out of many.  He saw her picture walking by a bookstore.  Her first book was published ages ago, it took him this long?  “What do you want?” she asks.  “I want money, lots of money,” he threatens, because she is convinced no one will believe him.  But, when he threatens to tell her son about her past, she’s backed into a corner.

Liliana, something approaching the Maria Callas character, arrives first in France, causing Nicolette a bit of worry, but Vincent soon arrives for a loving reunion with Nicolette and to meet his grandson.  Shawnee and Tim wend their way to France, where Tim sees her real behavior, treating people like garbage, not to mention the swarms of paparazzi that follow her. 

“Oooohhhhh, asparagus, it’s so sensual,” Liliana says orgasmically to Eric as Nicolette angrily watches.  Asparagus?  Really?  Nicolette jumps up from the table and Vincent follows her so they can have some alone time together.  He tells her he’s divorcing Stephanie (damn, she was barely around).  Shawnee announces her new marriage and Eric asks if she signed a pre-nup without even bothering to look at Tim.  Tim and Shawnee argue, but their plot is so inane that it’s not worth caring about, so Tim goes off to the beach, where Nicolette is swimming in a tiny bikini.  They don’t remember each other, but bond over witty remarks and shared misery, such as “I know nothing about you and you know zilch about me.”  Without exchanging names, Nicolette swims off with “goodbye stranger, maybe in a different life.” 

Everyone but Liliana is gloomy at dinner, where Tim and Nicolette are officially introduced.  It’s an awkward moment no one else seems to notice.  Not to worry, they get a post-dinner conversation where Nicolette remembers having him fired.  It clicks for him too.  “Don’t worry about it.  I went on to bigger and better,” he says.  The pieces of their mutual unhappiness fall into place and Tim goes in for a smooch that he actually gets! 

Mother invites estranged son to the house to tell him more.  Phil isn’t particularly pleasant to Anne-Marie, but she tells him “my past has finally caught up with me.”  She tells him about the blackmail, but without any actual details.  Phil promises to have it taken care of. 

In Nice, Shawnee can see Tim and Nicolette enjoying each other, but Nicolette doesn’t have to worry about bolting, not once she finds him in bed with Liliana!  “I’m leaving you…you’re just like your daughter, only a little more polished,” she says matter-of-factly, finally given her out to escape.  She goes to chat with Vincent, who is packing up to leave because Phil has cabled needing help.  Nicolette tells her father she and her son will be returning to Vegas (something tell Luca to get ready). 

Also leaving are Shawnee and Tim.  Shawnee is returning to William, but asks Tim, “how much money am I going to have to pay you?”  He says he wants “not a dime.”  Not smart, but moral, at least. 

Vincent has a plan to bring down Jimmie.  No, he’s not going to kill him.  He’s arranged for Jimmie to be in a specific alley with “a half a million dollar’s worth of cocaine” and DEA agent Phil just has to show up to arrest him.  I’m not sure how this plan will solve anything.  Can’t Jimmie tell his story in jail and blackmail everyone from the pokey?  Neither father nor son knows Anne-Marie has told the other the truth, but they are courteous and Phil is appreciative.  Jimmie shows up, just as expected, and when he pulls a gun, is shot dead.  Now everyone is safe.  “It’s over,” Phil tells his mother.  Anne-Marie claims she “didn’t want him dead,” but Phil assures her it was the only way. 

Tim pays Nicolette a surprise visit and the two reconnect with sexy music playing to cue their new-found love.  Nicolette hasn’t looked this rapturous since Grant. 

Shawnee returns to LA with William and meets Luca and Leann.  She has no idea what she’s doing when she tells Luca that Nicolette is back in Las Vegas.  Nicolette tells Vincent she’s thrilled to be back in Vegas and wants to build another hotel.  “What do you want to do, own the world?” he asks.  “Why not?” 

Luca forces Leann to go to Vegas where he kidnaps Nicolette’s son.  Leann leaves a message on Phil’s machine telling about the kidnapping and Phil hears the message at home with Tim.  Tim calls Nicolette to tell her he knows the story and to get to LA, where Luca and Leann were headed in a private plane.  Phil and Tim are waiting at the airport when Luca’s plane arrives.  “Read him his rights and book him,” Phil orders, though Luca is forced into the police car vowing to get Leann for her duplicity.  “I guess it’s too late for us,” Leann wonders to Tim, who has Nicolette’s son safely in his arms.  The whole kidnapping plot too less time than Anne-Marie’s drugged-up dance back in 1933.  Nicolette introduces Tim to her father as “my future.”  Vincent sees Phil standing a few yards away and thanks him.  Now they have each done favors for each other.

Vincent proudly walks Nicolette down the aisle for her third marriage.  This time, it’s for love, finally. 

I’m sure there was a reason everyone decided it was a good idea to combine two novels into one miniseries.  It gives everything a saga-like feel, but it’s also disjointed.  Vincent is the star for so long that when Nicolette takes over, he’s reduced to the cliche of the aging mafioso.  Either of their stories would have been just fine for a two-nighter.  Frankly, having to drag the “Chances” characters through 40+ years to get them to fit into the “Lucky” part of the action comes off as somewhat sad as we watch the characters and their aging make-up fall into uselessness, except every now and then to finish up a plot. 

However, having Collins herself do the script smooths over a lot of the roughness and this is a rare miniseries where the script triumphs over the acting.  There is very little good acting anywhere (Nicolette has her moments, but has way too much to do, while Vincent isn’t up to the challenge of creating a fully-loaded character–it’s the guest starts like Mary Frann and Stephanie Beacham who have all the fun), but usually that means there is a terrible script undermining them.  “Lucky Chances” does not have a terrible script.  Yes, it’s declawed and overly long, but it’s not at all bad.  In fact, it probably could use a bit more camp, but as I said up front, by 1990, the miniseries was starting its inevitable decline and there is an air of desperation here, as if someone decided to take a whole bunch of soap opera actors, cull their fans and steal a few nights of TV.  That’s harmless enough, considering some of the crap the next few years would churn out for far lesser reasons.

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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