Just Don’t Call Her Liz

My parents were very much into the “golden age” of movie stars. While I was growing up, my father would buy books on all the classic film stars. In fact, there was only two subjects that my father would read up on, other than the local newspaper: classic movie stars and World War II.

One of those classic movie stars that stuck in my head was Elizabeth Taylor. She was different from the others. Elizabeth was not your typical blond starlet. Instead, she had dark hair, violent eyes as a result of a rare mutation, and a genuine woman’s body. Her slightly voluptuous figure was the real deal, not like today’s impossible standards of beauty, such as plastic surgery and botox. The thing was, she could act. Elizabeth Taylor genuinely had talent. Adding all of those elements together, she was born for cinema. As Lady Gaga would put it, she was “Born This Way.”

Beauty however, is nothing without a bit of mystery and intrigue. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers once sang “every woman has a piece of Aphrodite…” If that’s the case, than Elizabeth had more than her fair share. Seven, count seven times she was married. Twice to Welsh thespian Richard Burton. She claimed that third husband Mike Todd was her one true love. However, Taylor and Burton had that romantic intensity that some people only dream of. Burton was eloquent, but still a rugged man’s man. Taylor was a celluloid goddess. In today’s terms Taylor and Burton would be considered a Hollywood power couple. Unlike this generation’s known power couples, they weren’t that much focused on making blockbuster films. As a matter of fact, many of the films they had starred together tanked. No, with Taylor and Burton, it was all about the love. Having all that chemistry between them, no wonder the paparazzi was on their tail.

Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton.

Alas, love doesn’t always last. The Taylor and Burton pairing was far from perfect. Quite contrary, it was extremely turbulent. Burton was talented, but tortured. He was a womanizer, an alcoholic, and insomniac. His mother had died when he was barely two years old and raised by his older sister, as his own father hardly around. I’m quite sure Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t exactly an angel, with her extravagant spending. Whatever the case, the marriage dissolved. To this day, the Taylor-Burton mythos still invokes a bit of mystery. The stuff Hollywood legends are made of.

Back to Elizabeth Taylor. She wasn’t always so lucky. Her health, weight and pill addictions gave her a beating, but she survived each and every time. Her marriages may have not survived, but she knew the meaning of friendship. Later on with my generation, she became known as an AIDS activist and overall humanitarian. Her involvement with these causes was partial the result of Rock Hudson’s death.

Oh yeah, and her perfumes. Back in the 1980s, she had marketed a few scents, such as Passion, etc. They weren’t exactly the greatest. Okay, they were more or less drug store colognes (yeck) capitalizing on her name. I remember the television commercials though. Even then she still excluded an air of glamour. Even if ‘White Diamonds’ didn’t (yeck).

When I found out Elizabeth Taylor had passed away, the first thing I did was call my mother. After all, my parents were the ones who had introduced me to the lore of the double-lashed violet-eyed wonder. My mother was taken aback slightly, then regained her composure. Softly she remarked that “they’re all going now.” She meant known personalities from past eras. That’s wasn’t the point. You see, Elizabeth Taylor was a woman that came along once in a lifetime. Actors, movie stars, celebrities, they all come and go. Dame Taylor though, was one of a kind. There will never be another Elizabeth Taylor. You can call her many things, but just don’t call her Liz. I read somewhere that she hated that nickname.

Elizabeth Taylor. By Michele Witchipoo. Watercolor, ink, and gouache. Sun. March 27th, 2011.

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