Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2011
In 1985, seven thousand people, mostly gay men, died of a new disease known as AIDS. Los Angeles, the city where some of the first known AIDS cases were reported, was hit particularly hard. Rock Hudson fell ill and died in October of that year. Elizabeth Taylor was one of the few initially — and critically, perhaps the first straight ally in mainstream American consciousness — to publicly embrace not just her good friend, but to call attention to the epidemic that would devastate an entire community:

Elizabeth Talyor speaking at the 1992 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.
I remember complaining, ‘Why isn’t anybody doing anything? W“I hy isn’t anyone raising money?’” asked Elizabeth. “And it struck me like lightning: ‘Wait a second, I’m not doing anything.’” But she would. Elizabeth Taylor had a plan of action.
“I decided that with my name I could open certain doors, that I was a commodity in myself—and I’m not talking as an actress. I could take the fame I’d resented and tried to get away from for so many years—but you can never get away from it—and use it to do some good. I wanted to retire, but the tabloids wouldn’t let me. So I thought, If you’re going to screw me over, I’ll use you.” Elizabeth’s plan to use the media could only work. They had followed her every move for decades, and by attaching her name to the AIDS crisis, they would have to acknowledge it. Elizabeth Taylor would breakdown the stereotypes associated with the disease and enlighten an ignorant world. AIDS was not a gay man’s disease. AIDS has the potential to affect everyone and no one can hide from it.
Elizabeth helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and she established her own Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). By 1999, she had helped to raise an estimated US$50 million to fight the disease. She also made the red AIDS ribbon a fashion requirement in L.A.

Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in "Giant"
Elizabeth Taylor’s eight marriages to seven husbands was a source of jokes for comedians and late night talk shows, but it’s her monumental body of work on the silver screen will forever cement her legacy as an artist. When she appeared at the age of eleven in 1943′s Lassie Come Home with fellow child star Roddy McDowellMGM awarded her a contract. One year later, National Velvet rocketed her to national stardom. She somehow managed to navigate the tricky waters from adolescent star to adult star, with her 1950 hit Father Knows Best, with Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennet. She followed that the next year with her acclaimed performance in the classic A Place In The Sun, with Montgomery Clift and Shelly Winters. She appeared in the 1956 epic Giant, with Rock Hudson and James Dean, and earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for 1957′s Raintree County opposite Montgomery Clift, 1958′s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opposite Paul Newman, and 1959′s Suddenly, Last Summer with Montgomery Clift, Katharine Hepburn and Mercedes McCambridge. She won an Academy Award in 1960 for Butterfield 8, and again in 1967 for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? By the time her smash hit Cleopatra appeared in 1963 with future husband Richard Burton, she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood.
Elizabeth’s talents were entirely natural; she never received professional training. Her beauty was natural as well. One cameraman remarked that she had no bad angle. Her face was flawlessly symmetrical. And her eyes. She had the deepest, velvet blue eyes.
She died this morning in Los Angeles of congestive heart failure after a very long illness. She was 79 when she died. She is much younger than that now.

circa 1953 click to enlarge

No comments:

Post a Comment