Saturday, March 26, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

We’re not born with a sense of beauty. It happens, around the time we realize we’re not everything we see; around the time we stub a toe on the itness and thatness of the world.

If memory serves, and sometimes it doesn’t, my early childhood was spent in the constant company of beauty, but it was company I took for granted. It was the only childhood I knew.

The realization that beauty is something other than myself crept up slowly and probably started with music. When Grieg’s Morning Song joined Peter Cottontail on my hit parade. Or maybe the first time I appreciated something that wasn’t edible or rideable or in any way useful or fun.

Take my friend, Niffer. She was five, and couldn’t read, throw a baseball, or count to ten. But she could do something I couldn’t do – she could be pretty. No matter how I tried, I could never make my lips tilt that way, the perfect bow and soft twist at each corner.

Niffer enchanted, effortlessly. Well, that’s one of the secrets of the enchanters – practice can make you better at some things, but it will never make you effortless.

I can’t believe Elizabeth Taylor is dead. Mainly because, didn’t it seem like she was always dying? Making headlines for being, constantly and surprisingly, undead?

I haven’t seen many Elizabeth Taylor movies. I find her early childhood movies rather unsettling– she carries the head of an exquisite thirty year old woman on the same body we all have at eight. Not that she looks “knowing,” just perfectly formed. In later movies, though her body changes, the face holds a constant note for the next two decades or so.

Must be fun to grow up and find you’re the most beautiful human being alive – or a credible competitor for that title, anyway. The big difference between our life experiences is, well, everything, but started on the day I discovered I wasn’t the rose.

She shared the rarified air with others who are most privileged from birth – the Einsteins, Mozarts. When your gift is beyond gifted, you don’t have to play a hand expertly or even competently. You just have whatever you want in the world, that’s all. That’s your normal; that’s your business as usual.

Taylor didn’t seem to mind when all her exquisiteness went away. When she was all caftans and bubble hair-do’s and bangles – looking not unlike a well-preserved grandmother from Miami Beach.

Maybe when you’ve been a rose for so long, you just know it’s there, branded, in your heart.

Yesterday, I read something Debbie Reynolds said. “Elizabeth loved her charity work, good-looking men and dirty jokes.”

And all of a sudden, I liked Elizabeth Taylor, and was sorry she died. We probably could have spent a nice evening splitting a cheesecake or a scotch. When it comes to earthly delights, maybe we shared some common ground.


  1. A lovely, thoughtful tribute, Karin. I hadn't heard the Debbie Reynolds quote. What a beautiful, forgiving thing for her to say.

  2. You're right; she made a life that wasn't just about looks.

  3. "Place in the Sun" only 17 at the time. Then later "Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf"

    Your observation of the 30 year old head on the child body is spot. Like a Kiddle doll.

    Grew up in the shadow of great beauty. Yes, you can get away with murder. People will always interpret events in your favor.

    Loved Liz

  4. I think she was a remarkable person who managed to remain human and humane throughout her life. Cheers to Liz.

  5. Ms. Taylor was a surreal enenomie...She wore diamonds bought to cover farm taxes and played life as a continual 1st lady role...
    She was 5 years younger than my parents but aged as if she were my grandparents...
    She passes with the priest from Eldorado,Il. coincedence?
    I've been in tears all week for no apparent reason, yet for Liz.
    (The Debi Renolds quote sounds like Lucy Ball.)
    I thank you Liz for my diamonds card and your sents and point of view;)

  6. Spot on, KB. I was amazed to learn that when she reached the ripe old age of 34 her movie career was on the rocks. So she reinvented herself and became a business woman and philanthropist for AIDS research. She turned out to be "pretty" smart and fundamentally life affirming in the face of so many physical problems. I think she died happy knowing how many lives she saved. I'll miss her spunk and style.

  7. "You look so cool, so cool, so enviably cool."

  8. You write a great tribute're a wordsmith.....something I'll never be either along with the "pretty"!

  9. I always thought Elizabeth Taylor was larger than life. I suspect her legacy will remain that way.

    Very nice tribute, and I'm enjoying the comments as well.

  10. Joan River's quote "Elizabeth Taylor died with money, men and her good name. Where do I sign."

  11. I don't follow the stars much, so I'm glad to hear all the specific positives about her life, to offset all the lurid stuff.

    As for the beauty, she and Marilyn Monroe seemed more like concepts or formulas to me, not quite real, live women you could really fantasize about--like, say, Jane Russel, Susan Hayward, Eva Marie Saint, Piper Laurie of a roughly similar age. I feel as if I'm forgetting even more obvious Hollywood beauties who seemed--what?--more real?

    Does that make any sense? It's something about being too perfect--an old idea, but seems relevant to Ms. Taylor.

  12. Nice tribute, Karin.
    I remember reading that Elizabeth Taylor once said this:

    "I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine. You can't possess radiance, you can only admire it."

  13. Wonderful tribute Karin.

    I had forgotten the Debby Reynolds quote---which reminded me of the times I met Elizabeth. Mother married husband #2 (I can call him an commentary, his actions), we moved to the West side. We mingled with various celebs, way back before the "Lohan" days and TMZ. I literally bumped elbows with her and we struck up a conversation. I think she, at first, thought I didn't know who she was. Then I commented about a few movies, then sort of moved on to other topics. I think she liked the fact that I just treated her like a human. And yes, she had a plethora of dirty jokes for me, after she found out I attended a private girls school & knew I had some to share. ;-)

    I'll miss her presence, her wonderful work, her smile and laugh and of course, her ability to get just about any man to do whatever she wanted.

  14. She was so beautiful she didn't have to be a good actress, but she was a good actress anyway. Yeah, she did some clunkers, but she also did some great stuff. Nobody thought she could play Martha and she was definitive.

    And yeah--that thing about saving lives. She gave her time and energy and her name to AIDS research when there was still a stigma and everyone else was afraid to associate themselves with it.

    I knew a guy who did some publicity work for her. He loved her. He said she did her own grocery shopping. (That was before she became ill.) Imagine running into Liz Taylor at the grocery store.

    She was one of a kind.

  15. I don't even have a very clear image of Elizabeth Taylor, only remember her White Diamonds scent. Your post makes me want to go see her films :-)

  16. Trish, what a great story -- swapping jokes with ET.

    Banjo, I think what interests me is that she became a part of our culture.

    Kaori, you need something diverting, light and funny. Let me pull something from my stash of 30's comedies this week.

  17. Elizabeth Taylor...according to an interview on Piers Morgan show she didn't like to be called of the most beautiful women in the world (even though Sophia Loren was more beautiful to me)...I believe a great actress (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Place in the Sun being two of my all time favorites)...and even though she lived a very scandalous, racy life...a very kind and generous person. I've admired her for years for standing by her friends who were scandalized in the press...starting with Rock Hudson and Roddy McDowell. And while I believe her faith in Michael Jackson was misplaced, I admire her tenacity to stand by him as his friend. She was one of a kind.

  18. Liz was irresistible. As Carrie Fisher said about her father, Eddie, after Mike Todd died in an air crash, "My dad flew to Elizabeth's side, making his way slowly to her front."

    I'll always be grateful to Liz for changing the rules on dog quarantine in England. At an awards ceremony in London, she explained that she rarely came back to the UK because she couldn't bring her dogs. Soon after, the law was changed so dogs and cats can travel with us.

  19. A lovely tribute indeed. She was one of a kind - a looker with passion and compassion (and perseverance through a multitude of husbands and health issues). How many of our shallow Hollywood starlets today can boast the same?

  20. She was larger than life and yet she apparently managed to stay human. I loved her spunk. I think she would've enjoyed drinking a scotch with you, Hiker.

  21. "we always seem to be saying goodbye" - A Place in the Sun

  22. I can see you weren't born with a sense of loving celebs like Liz Taylor. Understandable. But suddenly you like her. A fan maybe?

    Better late than never I suppose. Wanted dead or alive.

  23. thought this was a dog abuse tale at first. Shew....

  24. My first real crush in life...
    I finally lost that crush when she started hanging around with Michael Jackson...
    Very nice tribute!