Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Farewell to the “last star”

When I woke up this morning, I looked over Two Dogs’s shoulder and saw the television on. Two Dogs had woken up early and turned it on, but had come back to bed. I listened, and the commentators were speaking about Elizabeth Taylor.

I froze in shock. There is only one reason why news commentators talk about old-time movie stars at the top of the hour. I listened and watched the screen even though it was blurry through my astigmatic eyes. I didn’t want to put on my glasses and read the words on the screen. I knew what those words would be.

Even hours later, it is still hard to believe. I am not ready to live in a world without Elizabeth Taylor. Even though she was seventy-nine, an age which is near the average American lifespan – and more years than she may have expected given her epic struggles with health – this is more than the death of a movie star. It is the breakage of one of the last strong threads between now and Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Ms. Taylor was a role model for me growing up, even though I had missed her heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. Reading her biographies took me away from my surroundings of unpopularity and financial struggle and into a world of glamour, beauty, fantastic wealth, and never having to worry about finding love. Back then, I thought it was fabulous to have been married so many times.

Now, multiple marriages don’t sound so “cool” to me (especially when there’s no loving spouse to be there at the end). Ms. Taylor’s life was filled with physical suffering, weight problems, addictions, and furious public disapproval as well as diamonds, gowns, and worldwide fame. Perhaps the modest joys are the best ones.

I have seen a few of Ms. Taylor’s films, some not too long ago – The Sandpiper, The VIPs, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? No doubt, I will be renting more from Netflix soon – perhaps I’ll even muster the courage to take on the four-hour-plus Cleopatra.

Take some time to think about what Elizabeth Taylor means to you – and remember a time when even great scandal didn’t eclipse great beauty and mystique. (You never opened a fan magazine and saw a photo of Ms. Taylor going to the supermarket!)

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