On this incredibly windy March day, I’m sitting at my desk and thinking about the passing of Elizabeth Taylor. I knew she’d been rather ill for the pass week or so, but I was shocked to hear that her illness had actually claimed her. What can say that a million other people haven’t already said? Liz Taylor was a class act. All I can try to do now is tell you what Elizabeth Taylor meant to me.
I first became interested in classic movies when I was a teen-ager and often would stay up all night watching grainy crime dramas or bathed in the garish glow of old Technicolor musicals. Even that young, I had an old soul and was fascinated by people and events that had come before me. To me, the 80's and 90's were all sharp and harsh angles while I craved nothing more than the muted, genteel colors of a MGM spectacle for a simpler, kinder time.
I think the first Liz Taylor film I ever saw was A Place In Sun. I liked it okay, but I wasn’t that impressed. I next saw Raintree County and really liked that but I didn’t really, truly fall in love with Liz until I saw Suddenly Last Summer also starring Montgomery Cliff and Katharine Hepburn.
If you’ve never seen the film and you’re gay, shame on you. The subject matter deals with hidden homosexuality, mental illness and cannibalism, pretty risqué stuff for a film in 1959, I might add. I saw Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and thought it was brilliant but I never have a desire to see it again. It’s a very hard film to watch and stomach if you know what I mean... The best way to describe it is to say that Richard Burton and Liz Taylor constantly swill vodka, swear, fight, slap and scream at each other non-stop and oh yeah... they run up and down the staircase often. It’s brutal; you’ll cringe and groan the entire time.
Elizabeth Taylor also meant compassion to me. She was one of the first Hollywood stars to stand up and offer her support to people infected with the AIDS virus. Being as I am a gay man living with HIV, that means the world to me.
When I lived in DC, I even received my medical care from the Elizabeth Taylor/ Whitman Walker clinic on 14th street.
Liz, thank you for your courage in campaigning and fund-raising for an issue that many people wanted to sweep under the rug at that time.
Ya’ll be good. Hug somebody or something, okay.
(yes, i have this album)