Dame Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton
February 27, 1932 - March 23, 2011 "Elizabeth Taylor is my commodity. I
was always able to sell Elizabeth Taylor."
fag hag (fæg hæg)
Noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive .
A heterosexual female who seeks out or particularly enjoys
the company of male homosexuals.
Elizabeth Taylor did not like to be called "Liz".
Liz - acclaimed actress, entrepreneur, activist
and humanitarian - was a child actress turned Hollywood Queen who endured and
captivated generations with her iconic worldwide fame and beauty. You would be hard pressed to name another woman
worthy of mention in the same sentence. Maybe one. That Bacall woman, and
loads of people
would have a
difficult time naming three of her film.
Born in Hampstead, north London to American parents, Liz was given ballet lessons as a toddler, and at the age of three she danced with
her class for the Royal Family. Her art dealer father, Francis, and former stage
actress mother, Sara, settled in Hollywood in 1939 before the outbreak of WWII.
Her father's art gallery was a staple in the film colony and his gorgeous,
young daughter was soon discovered and tested for films.
MGM introduced the violet-eyed, lovely child to audiences
in Lassie Come Home (1943) and it was behind the palace walls
of the MGM lot in Culver City where she received her education in
all things show business. She worked at MGM six days a week (as all contract
players did) attending classes in posture, diction, dance, and acting. She received a
formal education in the MGM lot schoolhouse attended by John Derek, Roddy
McDowall and Jane Powell. Elizabeth and her classmates would receive (by law)
three hours of piecemeal lessons each day between wardrobe fittings, make-up tests
and film production. Jane Powell told interviewers years later about how isolated the
children really were: "We didn't have much time to socialize, except
at Roddy's house." Powell said, "Roddy was like a brother to me, the
same way he was with Elizabeth. He was a friend of everybody's. We'd meet at his
house most every Sunday, and we'd dance, and we'd swim, and play badminton, and
Roddy's mother would make a big dinner. That was the only socializing
we did, really."
From an early age, Elizabeth used her charm and beauty to her
advantage and was soon coyly telling her directors that she "expected a
present" when their film wrapped. She began collecting baubles and jewelry
this way for the rest of her film career. She declared that jewelry was one of
her greatest loves in life.
"My mother says I didn't open my eyes for eight days
after I was born, but when I did the first thing I saw was an engagement
ring. I was hooked."
Some biographers speculate that because the only
"genuine" care and break from the film factory that Elizabeth ever
received was when she was sick - it began a long tradition of hypochondria that
the actress used throughout her life. However, she did suffer many serious
ailments and several life-threatening illnesses.
"If Liz opens a can of beer, she cuts herself. If
there's a chair on the set, she'll fall over it."
- Director Richard Brooks
In 1942 she broke her foot while making the film Lassie
Come Home, and she's been hitting home runs in the medical
and personal malady department ever since.
At age 17, RKO boss and millionaire, Howard Hughes, sent his
lawyer to Elizabeth's mother with a $1 million offer to arrange a
marriage with her daughter. Other reports say he offered Taylor her own
movie studio. Liz threw her head back and laughed like this: "AH
HA HA HA HA HA HA!"
In 1950 the 18-year-old Elizabeth married rich playboy, Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, the 23-year-old son of
hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton. At their wedding, the bride wore a $1,500 satin
wedding gown given to her by MGM Studios. MGM took advantage of the publicity by
releasing Father of the Bride (1950) where Spencer Tracy walked
screen-bride Elizabeth down the aisle. The Taylor-Hilton marriage lasted only
"Man of her dreams" #1 turned out to be an abusive nightmare.
Elizabeth once claimed that she had a miscarriage because Hilton had kicked her
in the stomach.
Elizabeth broke into adult roles in director George
Stevens' A Place in the Sun (1951) as the American beauty who could
drive Montgomery Clift to offing his pregnant girlfriend. Monty and Liz became great friends.
Liz loved the gays. Roddy, Monty, Rock, Jimmy the dabbler, Malcolm Forbes...
She was paired with her friends, Rock Hudson and James Dean, in
George Stevens' epic Giant (1956) where Elizabeth
could look amazing and show her acting chops. She reunited with Monty Clift
in Raintree County (1957).
Elizabeth would pursue love through marriage eight times in her
life. She is an excellent example of just how sacred the
institution of marriage is. A record in Hollywood only broken by Mickey
Rooney. After her first marriage to Hilton, she wed British actor, Michael
Wilding, with whom she had two sons.
"You don't get over men like the flu. Every divorce is like a little
By 1956, her
marriage to Wilding ("Man of her dreams" #2) was falling apart.
According to most people, Liz guilt-tripped Monty into attending a dinner party
in their home in the hills. After dinner, Monty and guest, Kevin McCarthy (who told me that
Monty didn't have a single drink), drove in separate cars, down the hill.
Monty hit a phone pole and his face was crushed. The story goes that Liz rushed
to the scene, pulled a dislodged tooth from
Monty's throat and saved him from choking to death. Liz cradled Monty's bloodied head
her lap. The ambulance took an hour to arrive. In the meantime,
photographers arrived at the scene. Sheilding Monty from the flashbulbs,
she screamed, "You take one
picture of him and you will NEVER get near me again!" They obeyed.
Liz knew how to use it.
Months later, Monty returned to complete the film with a reconstructed face
and need for painkillers, etc... until his premature death at age 45. Elizabeth later
explained her relationship to Monty, "We truly LOVED each other in the
purest and most complete form of the word."
At age 24 in 1957, she wed producer/impresario Mike Todd
("Man of her dreams" #3) in Acapulco. Mike Todd's best man was his life-long friend, crooner Eddie
Fisher ("Man of her dreams" #4) and Elizabeth's maid of honor was Fisher's wife and Liz's MGM chum, Debbie
Reynolds. That same year, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter named
Liza. Seven months later, Todd died in a plane crash and Elizabeth was
"I needed -- after Mike's death -- some very strong faith
to keep me alive, something to hang on to. I didn't find it in Christian
Science. I wanted to be close to Mike, so I studied Judaism for a year after
his death, and then converted."
She gradually came out of seclusion and finished Cat on a
Hot Tin Roof (1958), revealing a raw, powerful screen persona that elevated
the film. Her connection to the directory Mike Todd was his friend, Eddie Fisher,
who soon became Elizabeth's next husband. Eddie left Debbie Reynolds and their
two small children (Carrie and Todd) to become Mr. Liz Taylor.
The Debbie-Eddie-Liz scandal painted Elizabeth as homewrecker
in the fan magazines and the worldwide publicity led Fox to offer her a $1
million salary for Cleopatra.
"If someone's dumb enough to offer me a million dollars
to make a picture, I'm certainly not dumb enough to turn
Cleopatra was her first film as a freelance actress and
Elizabeth changed the landscape of actor pay scales. She also changed the
landscape of Los Angeles. When
Cleopatra proved to be an overbudgeted box-office bomb for Fox, they were forced
to sell their backlot real estate to developers. These
180 acres became the commercial-residential area known as Century City.
As Elizabeth filmed Cleopatra in London, she was rushed to a
London clinic with a high fever and lung congestion. She was given a tracheotomy
to assist her breathing and lingered in a coma for days. She rallied, recovered
and won her first Oscar that spring. She had been nominated three times before, but
her role as an emotionally wounded call-girl in Butterfield 8 ("I
was the slut of all time!") brought
her an Academy Award. Elizabeth called the film "a piece of
shit". Shirley MacLaine (nominated for The Apartment)
reportedly exclaimed, "I lost to a tracheotomy!"
The public affection for Elizabeth had returned: she had
proven herself as America's resilient royalty. The last laugh was on Eddie
Fisher - he could not and would not be forgiven by America for what he did to Debbie
Reynolds. He was later publicly humiliated and dumped by Liz for Richard Burton
("Man of her dreams" #5 and #6) where he spent his remaining decades addicted to drugs until dementia eased him
into oblivion. Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor reconciled years later- on a
cruise ship - and the oft-remarried pair stayed in touch through Elizabeth's
final days. Debbie reportedly called Elizabeth in the hospital and said
"Getting old is really shitty, isn't it?" Elizabeth replied,
"It certainly is, Debbie. This is really tough."
The jet-setting, glamorous, highly acclaimed Liz and
Dick left a
trail of volatile passion and financial excess across the globe. Burton gifted
his wife incredible diamond rings. The couple even appeared as themselves on
a Here's Lucy episode centering around Liz's ring. The Burtons
were equally generous in giving vast sums to charities, including the $1 million
endowment for a heart disease research foundation in memory of Montgomery Clift.
The couple adopted a daughter from Germany named Maria, and Burton legally
adopted Liz's daughter, Liza. Elizabeth won her second Oscar for her role as
the acid-tongued Martha in the box of crazy called Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
opposite Burton as her long-suffering husband, George.
Elizabeth allowed love letters between her and Burton to be published and said:
"Richard was magnificent in every sense of the word. We were always madly
and powerfully in love." Imagine being Burton's widow, Sally. Wouldn't
you want to strangle Liz?
In 1971, Elizabeth became a grandmother at age 40. You can
feel the joy in this photograph.
The late 1970s brought Elizabeth a new marriage to Senator
John Warner ("Man of her dreams" #7) of Virginia. Liz would later say that the endless electoral
benefits, fundraisers and hand-shaking was "so boring. That's why I
put on so much weight."
Liz blew up like a balloon - her fans were aghast. John
Belushi played her in drag on SNL. Liz was a big, fat joke. By 1981, comic Joan
Rivers was making millions with her Liz fat jokes on stage and
television. "She puts mayonnaise on an aspirin! This woman is fat!
Mosquitoes see her and yell "BUFFET!" Not one to be laughed at,
Elizabeth divorced the Senator, lost the weight and took a role on the hottest
TV show of 1981 - General Hospital. On the afternoon soap-opera, Elizabeth
rocked a bejeweled turban and chewed up the scenery as vengeful widow and heiress, Helena Cassadine, making
Luke and Laura's life miserable.
"My curse on you, Laura and Luke!"
Elizabeth entered Betty Ford to treat her addiction to booze
"I had a hollow leg. I could drink everyone
under the table and not get drunk. My capacity was terrifying."
Elizabeth began a new relationship with a construction worker
who she met in rehab named Larry Fortensky ("Man of her
dreams" #8). They were wed in 1991 at
Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. The
couple donated money from selling wedding photos to AIDS charities. They stayed
together for five colorful years, and to make the story more weird, they divorced on Halloween 1996.
As of December 2011, Larry is ill and living in a rented trailer (okay a modular
home). They kept in touch, and Elizabeth sent him a note promising to "send
him a thousand dollars a month for the rest of my life, or until I go
broke." The rest of her life lasted for two years.
Elizabeth had thrown herself body and soul into
AIDS charity work around
the time her beloved friend, Rock Hudson, became gravely ill with the
For her last 20 years of Liz, she lived in a house high up in
the hills of Bel
Air. Most people would only see her front gate, which
had purple neon numbers of her address, 700.
If you strained, you
could get a glimpse of the house.
If you were tacky (hello), on Thursday nights you could go
We didn't find much. A lot of moldy, broccoli stalks and
an Entenmann's donut box that Steve Goldstein described
as " looking like it had been licked clean." Remember when The
Enquirer would publish the contents of people's trash? I really miss that
feature. I loved that they embraced what they were doing.
"I don't allow tabloids in the house. And if it
is something so outragreous, I'll sue."
I asked Carrie Fisher about a small item I read in a gossip column about Liz
pushing Carrie into a swimming pool. Carrie told me that when they
were still in talks to cast the TV-film These Old Broads (PIECE OF
SHIT), both Carrie and Liz were at a garden party. Carrie thought it would be
funny if Elizabeth threw her in the pool, so she suggested it to
Liz. Liz refused saying, "No, you're going to pull me in with
you." Carrie said to me, "Yeah, I can hear her plastic hip
clicking every time she walked, I was not going to pull her in."
Carrie finally demanded, "Elizabeth! Just push me in the f*cking
pool!" Liz did. Hilarity ensued.
Starting in 1984, Elizabeth was at the forefront in the fight
of AIDS research. She went out on a limb, when it was dangerous to do so. Long
before it became trendy, Liz was there. Bless her. She co-founded AMFAR and
later, the Elizabeth
Taylor AIDS Foundation.
"I don't mind using my fame for AIDS. I
be too greedy when it comes to AIDS. And if my fans want to do one thing
for me, they can give money for AIDS. Honestly, I would give my life to defeat
When Elizabeth died, the organization spent thousands of
dollars to place billboards in tribute.
I would give my life for those
In 1990 during a near death experience with viral pneumonia,
she saw the ghost of Mike Todd, and he told her, "You have to go back.
not time." So Liz returned to life specifically to make The Flintstones (1994). She
was paid $2.5 million to play Wilma's mother. This is right about the time I
sent her a fan letter requesting her autograph. I received one, well it
was probably auto-pen so I won't bother you with a picture, but it did come with
this complements card.
Oh! I just remembered, my friend, Steve Smith, and I were
prank phone calling celebrities one night (I know, but we got chewed out by
Betty White!) and we called Liz's house. We asked for Elizabeth and told
them who we were (we didn't lie). They hung up on us. They then *69'd
us. To my friends in other countries *69 was a very 90's way to call back
the last phone call you received. I mean seriously, what were Liz Taylor's
people going to do? We answered and they hung up. Again.
During the 1990s, Taylor reportedly earned about $2 per
second, or about $63 million per year. Her namesake jewelry and perfume
line made her greatest fortune. She toured the country promoting this tat,
always accompanied by her dog, Sugar. Sugar's poo habits were
legendary. A certain type of tissue paper had to be spread on hotel room
floors for her dog to defecate on. Sugar rarely hit the target and would leave
a trail of excrement around the room. At least that's what I've heard...
For Liz's 60th birthday, Madonna sent Liz a stripper. An
insider quipped: 'Liz doesn't care for get-well cards. It's beefcake that
lifts her spirits.' She made a few interesting cameos over the years, including giving voice to Maggie
Simpson's first spoken word.
In 1997, she shaved her head in solidarity with people
suffering from cancer. She bravely underwent brain surgery to remove a benign
I'll leave this stinkin' hospital... WITH
In 1998 she was rumored to be dating Rod Steiger
were hoping there would be another wedding to mock. I know I was.
In 2003, a fascinating lawsuit was filed against Liz and her
butler Jean-Luc Lacquement by her former gardener. He claimed sexual harassment and unjust
firing because he was straight, and Liz loved those gays. The details were fab. Jean-Luc took Viagra to have sex
with Liz, or as he described it, "jump the old trampoline". This is at
the same time he made a pass at the gardener, telling him "I'm good
and horny," while grabbing him. Two months later, the gardener was thrown
out on his tits.
The lawsuit described Liz as "an overweight, crippled,
mentally confused insomniac who's sexually addicted and sustained by pain
killers." You can almost see Liz reading this nonsense and exlaiming, "Mmmhm, and?"
According to a spokesperson, the suit was settled "with no exchange of money".
She became wheelchair bound due to spinal problems and she was
heartbroken at the 2009 death of her friend, Michael Jackson.
She seldom went out in her final years except for a charity
function or a midweek afternoon cocktail at her favorite gay bar, The Abbey (I'd
rather shove forks in my eyes),
in West Hollywood. She would be wheeled in by her caregiver/companion and
hold court by the fireplace. Elizabeth would have her little dog on her lap,
flirt with the handsome waiters, and occasionally try on people's
sunglasses/hats that she admired. She later donated a portrait of herself to the
establishment in the now-named 'Elizabeth Taylor Room'. I seriously question her
sanity during her later years.
Her condition spiraling, they fast-tracked her birthday
celebration a month early. Her house was filled with gardenias and lilies of the
valley. Liz wasn't in great shape. A guest commented, "She was
in her wheelchair and having trouble breathing. When she talked, it was in
short sentences." When friends and relatives paid tribute in a
champagne toast to the star, Liz
mustered the strength to raise her glass and say, "I'm not dead yet!"
should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a
pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of
smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow!
What a ride!"
- Hunter S. Thompson
The "final" photograph.
On Feb. 8 she was
admitted to Cedars Sinai Hospital for a leaky valve, and was operated on, on the
12th. She was down to about 96
pounds and spent her final two weeks on
a ventilator. The world without Elizabeth Taylor began at 1:28am on
Wednesday March 23, 2011. She died peacefully of congestive heart failure. Finally. She was surrounded by her four children.
She was also survived by her brother, Howard, and 10
grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
She was 79 years old.
Tabloids wept, and trees gave a sigh of relief.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce - ready with their hot glue
gun and glitter, placed this wreath on her star on The Decrepit Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As with most big celebrity deaths, I was out of town at the
time. Thanks Dawn Wirth for texting me with the news!
The next day, Thursday afternoon, March 24, Elizabeth Taylor
was taken to her final resting place (near her friend, Michael
Jackson) during a small, private funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial
Park in Glendale. She arranged ahead of time, that the hearse
would arrive 15 minutes late. Fashionably late, to the end.
"She always wanted to have the last laugh - and even in death, she got
it." said a guest.
There was speculation about Liz's burial
spot. There has been a rumor for decades that she would be buried with
Richard Burton in Switzerland. I'm sure Burton's widow loved that. Both of Liz's parents are in crypts at Westwood Cemetery, and
the person entombed next to them was moved out. Most of us assumed that Liz would be
buried with them, so it was a surprise that she went to The Great Mausoleum in Forest Lawn
This is probably the
grandest statue in the entire building, and stands front and center when you
visit the building to see their stupid Last Supper window.
Liz had a
traditional Jewish burial, in a mahogany casket made completely of wood.
No nails, screws - just wood. Reportedly it is lined with red satin and
valued at over $10,000. Rabbi Jerry Cutler officiated the service.
He did Shelley Winters, Milton Berle and Walter Matthau. I wonder who sent
Colin Farrell (Colin. Farrell.) read from the Hopkins poem The
Leaden Echo and The Golden Echo. The poem was Richard Burton's
favorite. Other relatives read, and her
grandson played Amazing Grace on the trumpet.
Up until this point, I was positive that Michael Jackson would
be moved to Neverland when they got a permit to make it Graceland West.
Now I believe he'll stay in his crypt in the same building.
Months after her death, her Bel Air home and jewelry
collection were put up for sale/auction by her estate. Her crowned jewels will
be touring the world before they go on the auction block. She left behind a
fortune of $600 million to $1 billion.
When Andy Warhol would make a portrait of someone, he always
presented one to the subject as a gift. Nikki Haskell, the diet
pill star cap lady, claimed that a drunken Liz was nasty to Andy, and he
refused to give her one. Either he forgave her, Liz bought a fake, or
Nikki is a goddamn liar.
In November of 2011 a photograph emerged that was allegedly Liz
in the nude. It certainly got a lot of attention, but it was later
revealed to be a doctored photograph of comedian, Lee Evans. Kidding.
Dancer, Lee Evans.
A "secret diary" (don't they all have them?)
supposedly exists in which Liz reports a fling she had with Marilyn, when
Marilyn came on to her at a party. Let the good times roll.
In 1993 she reportedly took 2,500 doctor prescribed pills in a
Old Hollywood is almost gone.
Rest in Peace.
Story by Scott Michaels, Mark Langlois, and much appreciation to Mark