As someone with oddly colored eyes and a somewhat foul mouth, I have adored Elizabeth Taylor since I first stumbled across the Turner Classic Movies channel one afternoon when I was around 14 years old and saw “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
At the time, I had never seen anyone famous, past or present, who remotely reminded me of myself. Tabloid scandals of the day lent themselves to blonde, spray-tanned goddesses of a different species from my auburn-haired self, and the perpetual crises seemed to all generate from the Hollywood parallels of either drugged-out party girls with no discernable talents or serious-minded and pretentious actresses who were constantly chasing Oscar gold. When I started doing research on the actresses of Hollywood’s heyday, I didn’t seem to have much luck finding anyone who reminded me of myself either. Vivien Leigh, who was married to my pretend husband of yesteryear, Laurence Olivier, was apparently completely insane, and Audrey Hepburn, despite being my personal hero, was just too gosh darn good for me to actually relate to her. Then I discovered Liz.
I asked my grandfather, who is now 70 years old, about Elizabeth Taylor right after the movie ended.
“She’s a home-wrecker,” he replied promptly. I asked my grandmother, and the response I garnered was “She’s a foul-mouthed (the word my grandmother used has been removed because of editorial policy).” At last, I finally met my Hollywood match.
Elizabeth Taylor, who died yesterday at the age of 79, has always been one of my top-five life models. I like Liz not simply because she was brass and bold, without much of a care as to whether or not she offended you with the truth as she delivered it, and she didn’t care if you didn’t like what she wore, because it made her happy. I like Liz because she always seemed to just be herself, without any sort of apology whatsoever. Steal another woman’s man? Wearing black with brown? It’s OK, it isn’t anyone else’s place to judge, so says the Tao of Liz.
That’s the main reason I adore this woman, with her endless train of failed marriages and bad outfits. She just always seemed to “do Liz,” so to speak — she didn’t care if Mr. Blackwell mocked her fashion choices, as much as she didn’t care for pomp and circumstance. Other people wrote her lines, she was just there to stand pretty and deliver them. She knew her place in the world, and she never aspired to make any sort of false aspirations of grandeur. She was a fabulous actress, though, and extremely funny off camera, when no one else was writing her lines. She knew other people thought that she was a joke, a walking punchline, and she didn’t mind at all. It almost always seemed as though she was in on the joke, as though it was all just some big creation for Taylor to snicker at when she was at home alone later with her diamonds and sequined dresses.
She also loved without any sort of apology, even until she died. She was careless with her heart, despite how many times it was broken, and never seemed afraid to give it away to anyone she deemed worthy, no matter how much it hurt her later on. She still defended her friend Michael Jackson amidst the accusations of child molestation, and she never once wavered her support for him, even after his death. She sponsored AIDS charities, even when it was unpopular.
In a way, she was always larger than life, and that’s the reason I’ll always love Liz. As a boozy, reckless person with an affinity for big hair and sparkles, I’m going to miss Liz a lot. So, in closing, instead of my usual Hallmark summary, I’m instead going to close with my favorite Liz quote: “The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
And by the way she was married 8 times and 2 of them was with one person and she won 2 oscars