She came into my focus as my mother sat me down at age 5 & explained to me the entire Elizabeth Taylor + Eddie Fisher – Debbie Reynolds = scandal equation. I got it. She remains my mother’s favorite star; they were born in the same year & same month. She is a favorite of mine & The Husband. We watched Cat On A Hot Tin Roof last weekend & remarked that she wass the last of the truly great Hollywood Royalty, & very possibly the most beautiful woman of all time. I loved her deeply.
Taylor was always a trusted friend to the gay community, & we loved her right back. She was a very close friends & confidant of a coterie of gay men: Roddy McDowell, Rock Hudson, George Cukor, Noel Coward, James Dean & most famously to Montgomery Clift.
Was there ever any pair of actors at the apex of their beauty, more stunning than Taylor & Clift kissing in A Place In The Sun?
Elizabeth Taylor was a conundrum: truly classy, but perfectly campy, deeply kind, but shamelessly embarrassing, perennially lonely, & serially monogamous. Pills, coke, booze, men, the commercials, the mascara, Studio 54, the guest appearances on soap operas… Elizabeth Taylor & I got through the 1970s together. She gave audacious performances in film adaptations of “gay” plays like Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer & Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, & Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
I met her once, at the 50th Anniversary of MGM Ball. I was thrillingly treated to a 7 minute conversation. She, amazingly, asked about me. I explained that I was a Theatre major at Loyola Marymount University & Taylor quizzed me on the curriculum & my stage roles. I told her that I was a quite the admirer of her work. She touched my arm & looked at me with the famous violet eyes & whispered (I could feel her breath): "I always thought that I was a fine actress, but I spent a lifetime feeling that I was held back because I have such a dreadful speaking voice. The coaches at MGM attempted to help me & I did improve, but I will never shake the fact my ghastly small voice was what stopped me from being truly great..."
Taylor was only in her early 40s that evening, wearing a stunning canary yellow mini-dress with yellow flowers in her hair. She was smoking a cigarette with a holder. She was faultlessly beautiful. I nearly fainted.
I appreciated that, like me, she had a taste for expensive pharmaceuticals, rich fabrics & rich men. I tremble at the thought of her 8 tumultuous marriages & the public denunciation by the Vatican as a home wrecker. I loved her for her dramatic tracheotomy scar, of which she was never ashamed. I appreciate her love affair with jewelry that inspired a book simply titled My Love Affair With Jewelry, it looks handsome on the shelf with my own volume- My Love Affair With Whiskey. I admire her unswerving devotion to her friends, to gay people, for equal rights activism & attention to fund raising for HIV/AIDS. My devotions were simpatico with Taylor’s. My mother loves us both. Taylor & I both lived with incidents replete with slurred speech, jokes about weight gain, inelegant gestures of elegance & displays of dignity in the face of devastation.
I wish she were with us today, celebrating her 81st birthday.