Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #293

A dose of glamor on for a gray winter's day. When I was a kid, I thought Elizabeth Taylor was silly. Always with a cigarette and/or drink in hand, wearing loud caftans and gaudy jewelry, getting off planes or boarding yachts. Then I got into classic film and came to appreciate her as an actress, rather than a celebrity. I also understand now that much of the over-the-top public behavior she exhibited had to with addiction to pills and alcohol. Her much publicized trip to rehab may have saved lives. The same for her AIDS advocacy. And so I consider these 13 facts something of a tribute.

1. Her full name was Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Warner Fortensky. She was married 8 times, divorced 7, and widowed once. She outlived five of her seven husbands and had four children and 10 grandchildren.

2. While I'm an unabashed fan, it's true not everyone was. In the early 1960s, the Vatican denounced her for "erotic vagrancy."

3. She was 10 when she made her first movie, There's One Born Every Minute. She made more than 45 more. She was nominated for four Oscars and won two. 

My favorite Liz movie moment
4. Her first Oscar was for Butterfield 8, a movie she hated. I think she was fabulous in it. During the first 10 minutes, not a word is spoken. Her character, Gloria, wakes up in a strange bedroom. She wanders around in her slip, trying to remember how she got there. She comes upon her torn dress on the floor and is alternately disgusted and turned on by the memory of what she did last night. She's about to slip into a coat she finds in the closet so she can go home when she spots an envelope with her name on it. It's filled with cash and the note says, "Is this enough?" She's furious. Gloria may be a slut but she's no prostitute. She takes her lipstick and scrawls "NO SALE" on the bedroom mirror. We learn that Gloria is self destructive and has poor impulse control and makes bad decisions, just by watching her facial expressions, how she moves and what she does. No dialog. I believe Elizabeth Taylor was an underrated actress.

5. She became a published author at age 14. Nibbles and Me was about her pet chipmunk. She wrote it herself and in longhand.

6. She was the first actress to earn $1,000,000 for a single film. One million in 1961 would be $9.5 million today.

7. The money she made from her films was dwarfed by the profits made from her fragrances. The first actress to introduce her own perfume line, she was the most successful by far. One of her scents, White Diamonds, remained one of the world's best sellers for 20 years.

8. The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has donated nearly $40,000,000 to patients living with AIDS. Today, 25% of the profits her estate collects for her likeness goes to the foundation.

9. Before she started her own foundation, she worked extensively with AmFAR, an organization devoted to AIDS research and prevention. In 1990, she testified before Congress on behalf of the Ryan White CARE Act.

10. In 1992, she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair holding a condom. Today it looks quite tame, but at the time it was controversial. The press coverage it received got people talking about safe sex, which was exactly what she wanted.

11. She was born with an extra set of lashes and very thick eyebrows. Cinematographers attributed her beauty to those lush lashes and brows.

12. She helped get rid of pay toilets. She first encountered them while campaigning with then-husband, Sen. John Warner, in the late 1970s. When she learned they were quite common all over the country, more often in ladies room than mens, she convinced Warner to sponsor a law banning them in airports and bus and train stations.

13.  She began taking pain killers for chronic back pain in the 1950s when she was in her 20s. She went into the Betty Ford Clinic in 1983, where she admitted she was addicted to pills and alcohol. She was the first celebrity, after the former First Lady herself, to publicly discuss her rehab at length. In 1988, she relapsed and returned to the Center. She hoped her candor would help educate the public.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by MC Beaton. Agatha is a successful London PR exec who retired to a quiet village in the country. She's bored and lonely for romantic companionship. She has a crush on her neighbor, but he seems uninterested so she turns her attention to the handsome new vet. He's as strange as he is good looking, though. He's a vet who doesn't like cats or dogs. No one seems sorry when he turns up dead. The police declare his death an unfortunate accident, but Agatha decides it's murder and sets out to prove it.

Agatha is funny heroine for a cozy mystery in that there is nothing cozy about her. She is bossy and surly and, even though she made her living in public relations, has no talent for dealing with people. I'm enjoying my second outing with this lusty old girl.
2. What did you recently finish reading? Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo. In the 1950s, Ann Woodward had it all. Blonde and beautiful, she married into one of New York's top banking families. She found herself in the world of the social register, with a showplace in Manhattan and a weekend place in Oyster Bay she whimsically called The Playhouse. Then, one awful night (Halloween weekend, no less) she found herself in a deadly scandal and she lost it all.

Truman Capote was extravagantly talented and prolific. He was writing short stories, novels and even a Broadway musical. His star was on the ascendant. He ran into Ann Woodward, no longer welcome in New York, in St. Moritz. They disliked one another on sight and exchanged heated words.
Twenty years later, when Ann was virtually forgotten and Truman's career had peaked, he needed material for his next "non-fiction novel." He made Ann the subject of his roman a clef. Terrified of renewed and very harsh public scrutiny, she committed suicide before the excerpts were published in Esquire.
Ann Woodward was not the only New York society woman Truman Capote exploited in his short story. Once Esquire hit the stands, his phone stopped ringing. In no time, he was a pariah, just as Ann had been. Losing his place in cafe society devastated him. He never finished the novel that was excerpted. In fact, he never published another book, finding refuge in drugs, drink and playing court jester at Studio 54. While it took him longer to kill himself, his end was just as final as Ann's.

This well-written book is about talent, money, and privilege. It's about dreamers who are willing to sacrifice to make their dreams come true. It's the tale of two tragedies, and I was riveted.

3. What will read next? I don't know.