With eyes that dripped molten amethysts from feathery kohl-rimed lids, she beguiled the world. Elizabeth Taylor was with us for what felt like always, but somehow shepherded away too soon. I’m not going to ruminate on what Elizabeth Taylor meant to the world; it’s been said many times this week, and by greater people than I. Today I’m going to tell you what she meant to me.
Elizabeth Taylor didn’t try to be the grandiose star—she simply was a grandiose star. Her passions made her proud. Whether it was procuring husbands or iconic film roles, her zeal made her legendary. Her love of animals leapt from the screen like Pie himself (whom she shared the limelight with in National Velvet). This simple on-screen sincerity charmed me as a child, and warmed my old soul.
The sincerity of her emotions and how she parlayed them to those of her characters is what made her great to me. The fearlessness of exposing the raw nerve and naked pain of love, or physical calamities, or prejudicial peacocks only made her work more intense. As Maggie, the insanely gorgeous yet frustrated wife in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, she made us all feel every feeling a young Elizabeth Taylor ever had. As Leslie in Giant she showed us her distaste for racism, classism—any “ism.” Her Oscar-winning act in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf was nary an act at all, showing us the darker side of booze, brawling and relationships—things Taylor was adequately schooled in. To sum up her career, it was so good because she lived so well.
Beyond her unparalleled beauty and unbridled enthusiasm for living, I admire her for her unflinching loyalty to her friends and their causes. Whether it was standing by a broken and defeated Montgomery Clift at the end of his life or famously and fearlessly fighting for AIDS research and recognition in the Hollywood community when it was still being shamed in the spotlight, Elizabeth Taylor was a tireless defender of her friends. From Michael Jackson to Kathy Ireland, she has come to her friends’ aid and sheltered their backs without regard to reputation, backlash or earning potential. I learned from her that disloyalty to a friend or loved one is a most shameful thing. Speak out. Fight back. No fear.
I recently read of a white dwarf star named Lucy in a constellation far, far away—fifty lightyears from Earth to be exact. This dwarf star is the carbon and oxygen left after a star has burnt out. The chunk of crystallized carbon that remains (all five million trillion pounds of it) is basically a diamond—a ten billion trillion trillion carat diamond—even larger than the Taylor-Burton Diamond. Once upon a time, this diamond shone like our sun. Now, Lucy has grown dim—a dead star—yet still it pulsates in the sky above. I’d like that Lucy be re-named Elizabeth, for who else should own the galaxy’s biggest diamond but the world’s biggest star?
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