Fare Thee Well, Elizabeth Taylor

It is very sad to ponder the loss of iconic star Elizabeth Taylor.  And by all counts, a star she was.  Legendary for her beauty, her talent, her love life, and most of all just being her gutsy, unique self.  Besides that, she earned a reputation of being a wonderful, loyal friend and a philanthropist who contributed her time and status as a social activist, raising millions of dollars for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, an organization she helped establish after the death of her long-time friend Rock Hudson. And this at a time when there was very little awareness of AIDS.

I’m not much of a celebrity buff but I did admire Elizabeth.  And so I did a bit of research since I heard the news of her death on Wednesday, and discovered a few things.  Some relatively inconsequential things like she may have the longest legal name in history:  “Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky” and that she actually hated the nickname “Liz.”

I also learned other things that speak to her drive and character, like how she began horseback riding at the age of three, and as a child was once thrown from a pony into a patch of nettles, got up, and got back on the horse.  And how her mother had been an actress who went by the name “Sara Sothern” and had encouraged Elizabeth  to pursue the art, helping her land her first film role at age 10.

There was one quirky fact I did know about her.  A while back I did some marketing for a company that invented a “positive dimensional mirror.”  What, you ask, is that?  It’s actually two front-coated mirrors butted together that create a sort of  reflection-of-a-reflection effect that merges to form an image that is not only dimensional like a hologram but also “positive”– meaning you could hold a newspaper up and read it in the mirror.  Their slogan was “See yourself as others see you.”  Problem was, most people didn’t want to see themselves that way for the same reason a lot of people don’t like their own photographs.  It’s because they are USED to seeing themselves backwards, and their “positive” self can be quite a bit different from their “negative” self.  And the less symmetrical your face, the bigger the difference.   To demonstrate this, we did an “experiment”  with the images of well known people—one image showing how they look to the world at large and the other what they themselves see when they look in a regular mirror,  which in most cases was a pretty dramatic difference…EXCEPT in the case of Elizabeth Taylor.  Her appearance was virtually identical no matter which way you looked at her.  This was because she had a flawless symmetrical face, with no “bad angle”—a fact that was legendary among Hollywood cameraman.

I also learned that Elizabeth experienced a lot of physical setbacks, serious illness, and accidents, and had several near-death experiences.  Apparently during the filming of Cleopatra she was in such excruciating pain she had to literally be carried on and off the set.

Having an addictive tendency, Elizabeth relied on pain killers to get through her physical and emotional problems—and then kept taking them—spiraling into a dependency on drugs and alcohol.  Pondering this made me extremely sad, as I kept thinking that if she had been able to use Topricin, it may have helped her get through things in a healthier way, and avoid some of the more tragic phases of her life.

But Elizabeth was a resilient survivor.  Authors and publishers frequently approached her to write her memoir.  Her response was that she was “too busy living my memoir.”  And when she had the opportunity to read an obituary prepared in advance of her death, her reaction was “My obituary was the best review I’ve ever had.”

How lucky we were to have Elizabeth around during our lifetime…She shall be missed.


One thought on “Fare Thee Well, Elizabeth Taylor

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  1. Hey Patti,

    Wonderful remembrance of Elizabeth Taylor. An celebrity’s celebrity, a “star” that personifies old Hollywood as it grew into the latter-day tinsel town of our own lifetimes. When I was working as an AIDS case manager in the early 90s I recall how active she was, braving the utter disregard and the fear-mongering spewed out by Reagan and the conservative gentry. My favorite role of her’s, though, was one which anticipated the dependency and breakdowns, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. Wow. Such an artist, such a loss.


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