I thought it would never happen.
I wrote several times that if it did happen, it would mean the end to old-time Hollywood glamour as we know it.
Elizabeth Taylor has died at 79.
A great movie star and a fabulous personality, Liz had radioactive charisma centered by those violet eyes which, as a friend notes, look violet even in black and white.
From her knockout turn in 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to her 1966 transformation in Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? (in which she was again a hectoring wife, but this time blowsy and hilariously twisted), Liz had the chops to go with her physical perfection.
I loved her in Cleopatra, being carried by shirtless hunks and ruling Egypt with 1960s makeup and speech patterns.
I even adored her truly bad films like Boom (great headdress), The Driver’s Seat (wonderful eye makeup scene), and The BlueBird (indescribable).
Liz was always game, always present, and made the screen a fun and glam thing to look at.
And off-screen, she redefined the role of the celebrity by daring to talk about AIDS way back in the ’80s, when no one else wanted to touch it.
She risked everything by heaving her famed cleavage forward and speaking up about the illness and the need to take it seriously, and for that she’s even more legendary.
Her life was always an Oscar winning movie too, from the parade of high-profile husbands (most notably two times at bat with can’t-live-with-him-or-without-him Richard Burton) to her other riveting antics that sold more tabloids than Lassie.
Everything from now on will be known as “pre-Liz” and “post-Liz.” I’m glad I was around for the “during.”
Further thoughts: Liz had so many chapters in her life and career, from accomplished child star to sex symbol to real actress to AIDS activist and perfume spokesperson and beyond.
Let’s not forget that in her heyday, Liz was the original Angelina, stealing crooner Eddie Fisher away from America’s sweetheart Debbie Reynolds and being branded a voracious sexual predator, which ultimately helped her career.
My favorite period of hers was after her second Oscar for Virginia Woolf, when she and Dick Burton were game for anything, even a rip-roaring, cleavage-filled movie of Taming of the Shrew (1967) and 1972’s Hammersmith Is Out, which Leonard Maltin describes as a “grotesque comedy about a mental patient, his male nurse, and a hash slinger which proves once again that Liz and Dick would do anything for money.”
Yeah, MY money!
Here’s amfAR’s statement:
“The board of trustees and staff of amfAR mourn the passing of our beloved Founding International Chairman, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Dame Elizabeth was without doubt one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS. She was among the first to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV when others reacted with fear and often outright hostility.
“For 25 years, Dame Elizabeth has been a passionate advocate of AIDS research, treatment and care. She has testified eloquently on Capitol Hill, while raising millions of dollars for amfAR. Dame Elizabeth’s compassion, radiance, and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed by us all. She leaves a monumental legacy that has improved and extended millions of lives and will enrich countless more for generations to come.”