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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A gritty lily: Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011

The death of icon Elizabeth Taylor brought sadness and a sense of relief, just because she seemed to suffer so with health problems through the years. She just may have been tired and wanted to let go this Wednesday morning, after having absorbed so much for so long.
The incomparable Elizabeth Taylor

Often described as having "luminous" skin and "penetrating violet eyes," Taylor was easily cast in Hollywood as a doll of perfection. But her personal choices showed she wasn't as fragile as she appeared, that she had a healthy lust for life -- and the resilience to bounce back from constant and severe tragedies. At times her life seemed like a made-for-TV movie. It certainly kept the tabloids flush, for years.

No, there probably won't be another like her -- lovely to look at, passionate in her work, on and off screen. Her humanitarian activities endeared her to a new generation. And you had to love her as a seasoned siren in those sassy "White Diamonds" commercials, even if the scent left you wanting.

Her epic romances and battles with weight made her human, turning the jealousies and envy of women into sisterly sympathy. One of my earliest introductions to Liz Taylor was a hilarious 1980s Saturday Night Live skit with Joan Rivers and impersonator extraordinaire Joe Piscopo locking wits over who was the "real" Joan Rivers. As a topic flashed, they cracked wise.

When "Liz Taylor" flashed, the joke was lethal: "Liz Taylor is so fat, her blood type is Ragu."

It's almost been 30 years, and I remember the joke. As harsh as it was, it opened up a curiosity about the woman, and turned me into a fan. If you missed her films, or just want to relive them, get the popcorn and DVR ready for April 10, when TCM will run a Liz Taylor tribute marathon.

Still, it was more than her movie roles that won me over. That she embraced those who lived and struggled with HIV/AIDS before it was trendy showed the kind of loyalty and guts that made her more than a pretty face. Elizabeth Taylor was, in every sense, a star. Most of the young tarts today couldn't carry her brush.

She is among the last of the Hollywood pantheon of silver screen goddesses. And she will be missed.

1 comment:

  1. She was a true example of "never let them see you sweat"! A powerful lust for life and an unshakable resolve and deep compassion for those who were cast aside. She was a lady.