|Elizabeth Taylor won an Oscar for "Butterfield 8."|
|Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in "Giant"|
Although her movies weren't shown at the university cinema--the "star" system was frowned upon and we saw exclusively Fellini, Jean Renoir, and Martin Scorsese--we watched the DVDs of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and her comparable great movies.
Then there was her AIDS work.
When she died, I was sad. So my husband got me C. David Heymann's Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor.
It's a very fast read, very absorbing.
The first chapter is almost shockingly frank. It begins with her rehab in 1983 at the Betty Ford Center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. She was forced to share a room and share the cleaning of the unit. In her journal she wrote,
"Nobody here wants anything from anybody else except to share and help. It's probably the first time since I was nine that nobody has wanted to exploit me. Now the bad news. I feel like hell. I'm going through my body. I can almost see it, rushing like red water over the boulders in my pain-filled neck and shoulders, then through my ears and into my pounding head. My eyelids flutter. Oh God, I am so, so tired."Peter Lawford, the actor, a friend of Liz, entered the Betty Ford Clinic at the same time. He ran away into the desert, looking for a liquor store. He contacted a drug dealer who leased a helicopter and landed near the center. A comedy of rehab.
Everybody who has been in rehab, or visited someone in rehab, will recognize these scenes. Somebody is cured, but somebody else is kicked out for smuggling in cocaine. These places are far from pristine, so I'm not surprised about Peter Lawford. Plenty of good people have a drug or alcohol problem. (Not I: I'm a "non-addictive personality," apparently meaning I don't drink or take drugs.)
The photographs in this book are gorgeous. Liz is glamorous, but somehow human. Doesn't she look charming on her Acapulco honeymoon with Mike Todd in 1953? Yet she isn't perfect. It's not an air-brushed picture.
She died on March 23 of heart failure. Still lovely after all those years.