Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

The ravishingly gorgeous actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career was often overshadowed by a tumultuous life of multiple marriages, great tragedies, addiction, and various health ailments, died this morning in Los Angeles from congestive heart failure at the age of 79.

Her seven decades in front of the public’s eye is well-documented in an excellent obituary from the LA Times, but her most lasting legacy will likely be her early advocacy for people with HIV, and for additional research and destigmatization of the disease.

From the LAT:

Taylor had many gay friends and, as the AIDS epidemic mushroomed, some of them were dying. In 1985, she became the most prominent celebrity to back what was then a most unfashionable cause. She agreed to chair the first major AIDS benefit, a fundraising dinner for the nonprofit AIDS Project Los Angeles.

She began calling her A-list friends to solicit their support. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars (Sinatra reportedly among them) turned her down. Taylor redoubled her efforts, aided along the way by the stunning announcement that Hudson, the handsome matinee idol and “Giant” co-star, had the dreaded disease.

Thanks to Taylor’s high profile and public sympathy for Hudson, the star-studded AIDS fundraiser netted $1 million and attracted 2,500 guests, including former First Lady Betty Ford. Hudson was too ill to attend but used the occasion to release a major public statement about his illness.

Randy Shilts, who wrote the pioneering AIDS chronicle “And the Band Played On,” said Taylor made a profound difference.

“Elizabeth Taylor got AIDS on ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ and you can’t underestimate the value of that kind of exposure,” Shilts said. “It made the disease something that respectable people could talk about.”

Taylor went on to co-found, with Dr. Mathilde Krim, the first national organization devoted to backing AIDS research, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or AmFAR. In 1991 she formed the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which directly supports AIDS education and patient care. She denounced President George H.W. Bush, accusing him of inaction on AIDS; called for AIDS testing; and emphasized personal responsibility in prevention of the disease. “People shouldn’t stop having sex — I’d be the last person in the world to advocate that — but safe sex,” she said, “is important.”

[Los Angeles Times]

I wonder if there will be any kind of memorial outside the Whitman-Walker Clinic.

Marginally related:

Apple removes “Gay Cure” app; Exodus whines about it

I really don’t care what apps are in the store (I’m not bothered by goofy shit I don’t buy), but I do find it amusing that the Christianists behind this one don’t see *any* similarity between this situation and their fellow-travelers never-ending campaigns to get “songs with dirty words” and “bad video games” out of shops…

I went to high school with her nephew, who was killed in a skiing accident when I was a junior or a senior.

She was such a fighter. A ballsy broad, in the best sense of the word. I kinda thought she would live forever.

And let’s not forget that she was Dame Elizabeth.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Me too. I was surprised she was only 79 — she lived such an amazing life packed into those years.

@Benedick AEA, AFTRA, SAG, DG.: Oh, you Brits and your titles.

@SanFranLefty: My mom never missed an opportunity to point out that she was younger than ET – by a few days. Now she’s outlived her, as well.

@Benedick AEA, AFTRA, SAG, DG.: I couldn’t possibly. That’s her Twitter handle.

I have not seen National Velvet. Mickey Rooney gives me the creeps.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Mickey Rooney testified before Congress a couple of weeks ago that he was a victim of elder abuse.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: It’s a wonderful film. A very clever adaptation of Enid Bagnold’s strange original. I’m a great admirer of Mickey Rooney but I like low comics. He’s very good in Velvet in a rather atypical performance and Dame E is magic.

@redmanlaw: How come? Is his wife dead? I saw him a couple of years ago at the theatre, he was shushing her when she was laughing too loud.

The person who wrote her obituary for the New York Times died in 2005:

Mel Gussow, the principal writer of this article, died in 2005. William McDonald and the Associated Press contributed updated reporting.

Liz and Dick are together in a better place where they can drink, screw, fight and act forever.

Love Giant! Don’t understand the friendship with MJ — I chalk it up to young performers relating to getting chewed up and spat out.

@redmanlaw: Mickey Rourke and elder abuse? I guess he’s had pec implants, too.

@Benedick AEA, AFTRA, SAG, DG.: I dig the people who turn that stuff down, esp the Brits.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Um, yeah. I’m not sure what that Mickey Rooney fascination was about. I think they wanted him to be a perpetual film partner for Judy Garland, but she grew, and, well…

@Dodgerblue: Here here! And “screw” is exactly what I imagine their sex must have been like, for some reason.

@Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One: Unless he was unmanned by alcohol. It can happen. But maybe not to the Welsh. Benedick?

@al2o3cr: I figure if Apple pulled Me So Holy, then this harmful bullshit needs to go.

@Dodgerblue: ZOMG! Ha! That’s the best euphemism for drink droop that I’ve EVER heard.

In my estimation, Mickey Rooney is one of the ten most talented people who were ever employed in the US movie meat machine. Dazzling. Obnoxious. I saw him reduce a stage full of subsidiary talents (you should understand that almost all of us are subsidiary talents who are only there to support the star. OK. Digest that. You’ve never been in a musical, have you? You dear sweet funny people), sweating and snorting, the buttons on his shirt popped, his pants soaked in sweat, the rest of the cast crammed as far away from him as possible their hatred of him all too apparent, but sublimely funny in a manner that reached back to a fat guy and his mate smiting each other with inflated sheep’s bladders on the church porch as they burned Joan of Arc in the background. (BTW, have we seen the Dreier movie? Stunning. Seriously)

I don’t have much good to say about Burton. He never deserved Dame E. But who did? Monty? But he had a long time partner and a serious drinking problem. He liked to drink vodka out of a silver cup and wish he was straight. Lots and lots of vodka. Hence that terrible crash when she pulled his teeth out of his throat. Burton was a mere hambone. But very beautiful in his way. One of the generation of English actors destroyed by Olivier’s hamboneish ways. Not very good in Look Back in Anger and mostly terrible in the movies.

I’m unaccountably sad about her death. The OH worked with her as a producer and she is the only person I know to get him to pose for a picture. She could get anyone to do anything. The producer of The Little Foxes had her dressing room painted to match her eyes.

The one thing the theatre can teach us is the evanescence of life. It belongs to one moment in time never to be repeated. In the movies we replace that moment with beauty. Then watch it bloat and disappear. Till those who once possessed it can’t get a job. Just like the rest of us. But don’t let’s mock those who once won the lottery.

I was in a play in stock with Maureen O’Sullivan, Mia’s mother, the original Jane, and a grand and gallant woman. She was the star but I had the part the audience loved. On the opening night when, with no previews, we opened cold in Corning NY, the audience liked her but went nuts when I came out. This was a function of the play, you understand, though I was very good in it. When the audience rose with a roar to meet me, she took my hand for the call and as we bowed she said to me, celebrating my success and the momentary nature of it all “Never forget. Always remember.” As we stood upright she was smiling at the audience and as we bent for the next bow, bent double, so only I could hear, she said again “Always remember. Never forget.” And so on. We took a lot of bows and I was overwhelmed but she’d been there before and helped me get through. It’s the single most generous and imaginative act anyone has ever done for me. I hope you’ve all had the equivalent in your own line of work.

Maureen was in a class in a convent school in Ireland with Geraldine FitzGerald and Vivien Leigh. Where was Miss Taylor? She was later, I guess. but went through the same extraordinary school of hard knocks. It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t done it to understand the drudgery of filming. George Stevens, the director of A Place in the Sun was notorious for shooting thousands of feet of film to catch a glimpse of what he wanted. That means every take is perfect. Take after take. A hundred or more for each moment of film. All the props are reset, costumes put back as they were, time after time. It’s very difficult to understand the discipline and sheer strength of will involved when the studios did nothing but tell us how effortless it all was and who was visiting what pool for brunch.

It wasn’t effortless. And Edith Head did those clothes for Sun.

@Benedick AEA, AFTRA, SAG, DG.: Dreier movie?

It’s good you remember, and never forget, so the future can remember too.

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: I second that. After all, who among us can remember the Pharohs, save for Benedick, with his carefree tales of school? And what would happen should the black plauge rise again? What would we do, but turn to Benedick, with his wisdom and homespun remidies? The night air causes the megrims and the collywobbles. Who did I learn that from? Benedick, repository of the wisdom of his youth, the wisdom, dare I say, of the ages. The long, long, long, long, long-long, far-ago ages.

Party line telephones. Nevar, nevar forget, my dear Benedick.

@Benedick AEA, AFTRA, SAG, DG.: Thank you. Wow. I have reread your comment like 5 times.

@Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One: And you, my dear, should thank your lucky stars that you are so fucking adorable and cute, because this saucy intemperate sassing of Benedick is bordering on disrespectful.

And I will sell tickets for the day you two meet IRL. Because I’m one of the lucky ones who has met both of you (I believe Cynica is the only other one) and you two are both separately so adorable that together it would be a head asplosion of theatre bitchy sassiness.

@SanFranLefty: The secret here, of course, is that I envy both his profession and elegance. He is what I want to be, and what I fear I will never become, though that is between us, Lefty. And I am more than a little afraid of meeting him. How blinding that light must be in person, when it flashes so brightly across wires and through cold glass.

But don’t tell him. He’ll bring it up when we are arguing about Shakespeare or something, and God knows I need every edge I can get when that happens.

@Benedick AEA, AFTRA, SAG, DG.:
“The one thing the theatre can teach us is the evanescence of life. It belongs to one moment in time never to be repeated.”

the TRUTH bell just rang loud in my head. i’d elaborate, but you know how i feel about the theater, so i get that, my dearest dearest benedick, the mum i always wanted. everyone loves you as much as i do.
i have been faithfully lurking. i’m very down by, oh..the WORLD.
karenmarie commented that she doesn’t know why she gets out of bed. well i don’t. get out of bed that is. i take in all the news, which is harmful to an empath like me, then come here to digest it all from the most like minded people i know. this is a corner of sanity and intelligence and camaraderie and the funny i am so grateful for. so thanks. just THANKS.
and LOVE, yes, i love you all.
/crawls back to bed

@Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One: Yeah, but you have the edge in all things Marlowe, amirite?

@baked: We know you’re hanging out in bed until the dog thinks otherwise…

i know you know my love, because i bend your ear over the scrabble board. was just going over to the sandbox to take some pressure off you and dodger and spread my depression around. or not. manchu just posted kermit singing “hurt” hilarious and helpful to describe what i’m going through. i think i may be on the rebound. was in the driveway just now playing ball with Bella and feeding my outdoor cats. we have sparrow hawks squatting on the roof who have taken to swooping down and scaring the shit out of all of us. there i was in pajamas, 3 days old, shaking my fists at them and screaming FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!!
rat came out with a big smile and said, “she’s back!!!”

The pompous was strong with me last night. Oh well. Not for the first time. Nor, I daresay, the last.

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: The Dreier film is The Passion of Jeanne D’Arc which I saw for the first time the other day. Superb. I’d always heard of Falconetti’s performance and she really is as good as they say. It’s on DVD but we saw it via TCM. It’s silent but a choral piece has been put onto it. It’s lovely music though I’m not 100% convinced it’s the best choice. But a very very beautiful and moving film.

@Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One: I’ve come over all queer.

@SanFranLefty: See above.

@baked: You know what’s a good way to cope with what’s going on? Angry Birds.

@Benedick AEA, AFTRA, SAG, DG.:
yes! my own Angry Birds have reminded me that i’m down, NOT out.
aren’t i full of love today. after bottling up so much anger, just opening my mouth here has alleviated much of it.
“those who really hurt, do not speak”
—ancient chinese proverb

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