Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1932 - 2011)

Such sad news on this snowy day. Yes, we have about 5 inches of snow on the ground today, the sky is gray and there's a fine mist. A sad looking and feeling day all around.

Elizabeth Taylor has died. Once the most exquisitely beautiful woman in the world and a very fine actress, she had been struggling with her health in these later years. I woke up this morning turned on the computer and there was the awful (though not totally unexpected) news. With her continued health problems, I'm actually surprised she made it to 79, but so happy she did. She lived a good long life, I suppose. But it should have been longer. She sure as hell made the most of the time she had though - didn't she? Good for her. What more can anyone ask but that we make the most of the time we're allotted.

I have my own Elizabeth Taylor story to tell because I had the excellent good fortune of having met her many years ago when she was probably at the apex of her extraordinary beauty. A brief meeting, but for me, an indelible one.

In the early sixties I worked for a major magazine in the Fashion Department as assistant to the fashion editor. Unknown to me, the editor was friends with two young men who worked as Taylor's and her then husband Richard Burton's secretaries. One day I came into work and my boss said we were going over to the Plaza Hotel to meet some people and do some work. This was not unusual as my job and hers was one of gadding about NYC, choosing clothes and models, setting up photo shoots and that sort of thing. It was a fun job.

Anyway, we went over to the Plaza, to the Oak Room. On the way my boss told me who we were meeting AND that there was the slight chance we'd also get to meet Elizabeth Taylor. I tried to be cool but I nearly fell out of the taxi with excitement.

Unfortunately I had on a pant suit and women in pants were not then allowed in for lunch at the Oak Room. (Yes, it was THOSE days.) But eventually with a bit of pressure from Miss Taylor's secretary who had met us downstairs for a bite, I was allowed to slip in unobtrusively and covered my offending legs with the draped table cloth.

Shortly thereafter we went upstairs to a suite of rooms and I was shown a small office in which I was to help out with some fashion-related business for Miss Taylor. My boss left and went off to do magazine work but promised she'd be back soon. It was a little odd, but my job was to be flexible and so I was.

During that time I did phone work related to some fashions and accessories that Miss Taylor wanted - things she couldn't do on her own because if she went inside a store she'd be mobbed. If I'm remembering correctly this was shortly after CLEOPATRA had debuted in theaters. While I was in the office, the only people I dealt with were her two secretaries who could not have been nicer, though they were busy enough as well.

After a couple of hours I finished my 'work', my boss returned, and we were ushered by the secretaries down the hall and into a HUGE suite. As we walked in I saw a group of people and heard the magical voice of Richard Burton speaking. I almost dared not look. But I did. There was Elizabeth Taylor, standing (holding a drink I think) while a group of people sat around listening to Burton talking about something or other. She looked over at us from across the room, but made no motion or comment. She did check us out though and that made me smile.

My boss and I were speechless and stood there like two stricken turkeys awaiting their fate. Didn't know what to do. The secretaries were no help since they left us there alone. Oh yeah, we were supposed to walk further into that room and blend in. BLEND!! This was Liz Taylor and Richard Burton and their families - it looked like. And there we were, two dorks HANGING out at the Plaza with the rich and famous. My boss was feeling exactly as I was, I could tell. She was tall and much more glam than I. She was a fashion 'somebody' and, after all, she was friends with the secretaries. But it turned out she'd never met Taylor or Burton either.

So what did we do? We sneaked into the bathroom and stayed there. We were such boobs.

Anyway, we finally left the room and inched our way back into the main part of the suite. The secretaries came and told us everyone was leaving and that we would now get a chance to meet and greet. Gasp!

Well, long story short I hardly remember mumbling hello to Burton, unable really to meet his eyes. He was such an intimidating personality. That part of it is a blur now. I have a better memory of meeting Liz Taylor.

We had been escourted out into the Plaza's hallway where we were told to stand against the wall as the entourage passed by surrounded by bodyguards. One of the secretaries brought Miss Taylor over to meet us. (I kid you not!) She took my hand in hers (I'm 5'4", she was tiny.) and said how glad she was to have met me - ME!! She said she'd been looking forward to meeting me and how sorry we didn't have more time! She looked directly at me and I was flabbergasted knocked for a loop by her incredible beauty up close. But also flustered by her completely down to earth attitude - her 'niceness'. I was floored.

Later, when it was all over and I left the Plaza to go home to the Bronx. I walked on air. Silently, I gloried over everyone I saw in the streets of Manhattan that day. I HAD JUST MET ELIZABETH TAYLOR!!!! I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! Hey, I'm somebody! That's how she'd made me feel. In those few moments. She had that gift.

It was one of the most incredible moments of my life.

I am so saddened today, to read of this beautiful woman's passing. I hope she, as in the film I reviewed yesterday, is being judged fairly as she sails on that interim ship. I hope she's found her happy eternity. If these things exist at all.


  1. NOT ONLY BECAUSE she was astonishingly beautiful both inside and out, I will remember Elizabeth Taylor for being fun and funny, for her wise and generous heart (spokeswoman for several causes, most notably AIDS, <--which, of course, is no news to anyone, now is it? Thank you, Miss Taylor, over and againly.), and for being such an amazing inspiration: she never faced the day without perfume; she dressed to be noticed; and she believed you can be close to God anywhere.

    AND THOSE eyes, those incredible violet eyes...

    But, oh! Oh! OH! Your story! What a treasured mark Elizabeth Taylor has left upon you! May she rest in peace.

  2. What a great story. Thanks for this. What an interesting career(s) you've had.

  3. Sparkle: Thanks for your wonderful words about Taylor. She was truly something. And will be awfully missed.

    Yes, I am thrilled to have had that special moment in time. :)

  4. Jacqueline: Yes, I have had an interesting life. Nothing special. But here and there, some interesting stuff. I've been lucky now and again.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It was such a special day for me. There's a bit more to it, but some of the details I didn't feel I should share. :)

  5. 'Twas a sad day when glamour became epitomized by anorexics with tattoos. Not knocking the anorexia problem, you know. Just saying.

  6. Carol: You said it! These days it's hard even to tell one actor from another. Most of these people are so similar in looks and attitude and abilities that it must be hell on earth these days to be a casting director. Well, the truth is, Liz Taylor was one of a kind. Not many of those in the world at any time, really.

  7. Elizabeth Taylor was one of a kind, true.

    Not only a great actress, with charm, but a beautiful human being. All of the stories I have heard and read about her being in the forefront on the AIDS crisis, with courage and humanity.

    I just saw a newsclip of her telling the government that they were wrong about AIDS, with strength and determination.

    And the AIDS/HIV community always respected her actions and words, and her compassion.

  8. Kathy: Yes, she did a lot for AIDS awareness and raised millions. I think she was a good woman. AND a movie star. When being a Movie Star meant something magical.

  9. Yes, a movie star! I may have to watch Cleopatra in her honor--even though I heard on the news tonight that it got bad reviews. Who cares? It was an epic with her and Richard Burton, and they were infatuated with each other then.

  10. I fell in love with her as a kid when I watched Cleopatra for the first time. She was a gorgeous woman, amazing talent, and a strong voice for those during the first years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She will be miised by millons, one of which is me.

  11. Ryan: I'll miss her too. She was an icon. There will never be anyone like her again.

  12. I gasped and was very sad when Joe and I learned of Elizabeth Taylor's death while riding in a car out in New Mexico (vacation - loved it!). Every time I hear of yet another great person having died who came from the heyday of Hollywood I always say "It's definitely the end of that era." Will anyone be saddened and mournful when the "stars" of today are gone? I doubt it.

    BTW - excellent brush with fame story. It tops any that I could pull out of my hat. I have a handful, but none are anywhere near as thrilling as yours. I used to be in theater and have met some MGM stars as well - Nanette Fabray, Leslie Caron, Vivian Blaine - all in one summer while working as a bit player/intern in a stock company.

  13. John: I agree, there aren't very many who will be mourned in quite the same way. There are very VERY few Movie Stars left. Meryl Streep is one, though she doesn't have the glamor that the old stars had. Still, she is certainly unique.

    Most of these older actors who are dying off were all part of my youth, so for me, it's like my past is slowly evaporating.

    I'm glad you enjoyed my story. I have another good one that concerns Ann Margret, but I'll save it for the right day.

    Oh, I love Leslie Caron! I would have loved to have worked in a theater!!

  14. There are so many things about your post that have made me drool - first of all, you worked in fashion in the 1960s? I'm literally dying right now over that (Rachel Zoe reference)! So fun! And then being in the same room with Richard Burton? Then meeting the unbelievably gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor? I can't quite pick which aspect of this post has made me über-jealous! On a serious note, I was saddened as well to hear the news about such an original Hollywood legend passing away. That glamour can only continue to be remembered through blogs like yours. Hence, the reason why I love your site!

  15. No drooling allowed. Ha! Well, maybe a little. It was so long ago during my 'salad' years. I had a lot of fun in those days. One of my biggest thrills was meeting fashion giant Bill Blass in the flesh. OMG! But it was also an exhausting job. I did a lot of lugging around, packing and re-packing of clothes, heavy lifting. But I got to go to fashion shows and did all sorts of fun fashion stuff. Met some interseting people. The good old days.

    I'm glad you like my blog. I don't know how glamorous we are, but we're trying to keep things looking interesting and fun.

    I'm fine tuning with the colors tonight and we'll see how it goes. Don't want to get static.

  16. What an incredible story! I'd have been gobsmacked to have met her in person!

    Your job sounded so New York City glamorous, Yvette! I'm sure you have many good stories to tell! (and I do remember the "big to do" about women in pants!)

  17. Pat: Yeah, it was glamorous, but also tons of hard work and long hours. This is before my daughter was born. I was newly married. I had a great time and I often think back and wish I'd stayed on the job longer. But it was great while it lasted. I would run into Helen Gurley Brown all the time - she was the editor in chief. There were many fashion photo shoots (we called them photo shootings then) and I met so many interesting people. I got to lunch at many of NYC's 'smartest' joints. Met Bill Blass once and almost fainted. My oh my, was he something. Oh, lots of stories I could tell. It was a wonderful time for me.

  18. Just read a full two-page spread about her in the NY Times. Not only was she gorgeous, a star, a good actress, many-times married, but she also knew how to play to the media. And she was good at a retort and a quip.

    There was some fun lines of her in the Times, as when she was asked often to write her memoirs. She'd say, "No! I'm still living my memoirs."

    There are many more in the NY Times of March 24. There is even an article on her own fashion tastes.

  19. Kathy: Yes, the Times did some good pieces on her. I linked to some of them. Vanity Fair and a few of the other media outlets did well too. She was a 'righteous broad.' :)


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