Actress Elizabeth Taylor, the star of such movies as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Cleopatra,” died today in Los Angeles at the age of 79. She was recently hospitalized in Cedars-Sinai Hospital with congestive heart failure.
Taylor, one of few real movie stars left, was the face of a thousand magazine covers. She played to the fantasies of moviegoers worldwide. She never fit into the Hollywood image once crafted by studio executives; Elizabeth Taylor was more … she became an icon.
Born to American parents then living in London, Taylor began her film career at age 9 in “There’s One Born Every Minute.” In “National Velvet” her dark hair and famous violet eyes had made her a superstar. Often called “the most beautiful woman in the world,” as a teen and later as an adult, she became a man magnet.
Taylor was a gay advocate early on, becoming friends with openly gay actors before it was socially acceptable to do so. Her “Giant” costar Rock Hudson was a great friend to Taylor, and his death would inspire her to found the American Foundation for AIDS Research along with fellow AIDS fundraiser Elton John and, most famously, her dear friend Michael Jackson. Fiercely loyal to Jackson, Taylor is godmother to two of his children and defended his legacy even after his death.
Married eight times to seven men, including playboy Nicky Hilton, actor Michael Wilding, Michael Todd and most famously Richard Burton — they ultimately became the most famous couple in the world — Elizabeth Taylor had three children during her marriages.
In 1983, after a family intervention, Taylor became the first celebrity to enter the Betty Ford Center, battling her addiction to alcohol and painkillers. Her addiction came as a result of having over 50 surgeries, and the actress began to rely on the substances. She later entered the Center again, where she met a new husband, construction worker Larry Fortensky. Michael Jackson walked Taylor down the aisle for this marriage at Neverland Ranch.
In 1999, Queen Elizabeth annointed her a Dame Commander of the British Empire. Elizabeth Taylor also became an entreprenuer; her famous fragrance White Diamonds consistently sells among the top ten perfumes in the world.
As a Twitter follower of Taylor’s, I noticed in October when she tweeted, “Dear Friends, My heart procedure went off perfectly. It’s like having a brand new ticker. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes. I know they all helped. Love you, Elizabeth.”
Taylor will be remembered as a real broad, a sex symbol, a film legend, a style icon and an AIDS crusader. She was the last real movie star.
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