Remembering Hollywood legend and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor who would have been 86 today
Elizabeth Taylor, a star for the ages, was born 86 years ago today.
I’ll never forget flipping on the television to MSNBC in April 2011 and hearing anchor Thomas Roberts share the news that she had died. I felt suddenly so sad.
We knew she had been so ill but it still came as a shock much like when Lucille Ball died in 1989. Both women were in their late 70s and somehow we thought they would live forever.
And just as Lucy has, so has Elizabeth.
As a movie star crazy kid growing up in the 70s, I would devour every issue of People Magazine and Rona Barrett’s various magazines and was particularly fascinated with Miss Taylor.
My mom had always been a big fan of the actress so whenever her movies were on television, I’d watch them with her. I didn’t really understand Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer or Butterfield 8 when I first saw them but I was mesmerized by Miss Taylor’s beauty and her talent.
But my real admiration for her came in the mid-80s when she decided to use to great fame to raise money and awareness in the fight against AIDS. She fought passionately, worked tirelessly and became one of the greatest humanitarians of our time. She began her work well before AIDS activism became fashionable and it became clear that her work as an activist had become far more important to her than her work as an actress.
Still, in addition to her earlier films, it was nice to see her do an occasional later movie like 1985′s Malice in Wonderland, 1987′s Poker Alice and a television version of Sweet Bird of Youth opposite Mark Harmon in 1989. Then there was her hilarious performance as Wilma’s mother Pearl Slaghoople in the 1994 feature film The Flintstones.
[My top five favorite Taylor films: 1. A Place in the Sun 2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 3. Who's Afraid if Virginia Woolf? 4. Suddenly Last Summer 5. Giant.]
I began covering Hollywood events in 2000 and since then, I’ve met just about every star I’ve ever wanted to meet. But never Elizabeth Taylor. I did get a pretty good look at her from my table at the Beverly Hilton when she took the stage to pay tribute to Barbra Streisand at the AFI Tribute in 2001.
My last chance came in 2008 at the Macy’s Passport benefit in Santa Monica. Miss Taylor was not doing interviews but she was slowly wheeled down the red carpet. Dripping with diamonds and wearing red lipstick, she smiled at us as she went by.
I was, as always, spellbound.