Elizabeth Taylor’s fierce commitment to the fight against AIDS was without question.
An outspoken advocate for people with HIV, she raised millions of dollars, and was one of the founders of amfAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research).
A new report reveals she was even more hands-on than anyone knew: The violet-eyed Jewish siren was reportedly running a ‘Dallas Buyers Club’-like secret network out of her Bel Air mansion to get medication to people with the HIV virus.
Like Ron Woodroof, whose smuggling of experimental pharmaceuticals was enshrined in the movie’s Oscar-winning performance by Matthew McConaughey, Taylor opened up her home in the early 1990s to get yet-to-be-approved drugs to the sick and dying.
Taylor’s heroics were revealed by actress and model Kathy Ireland in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
“Talk about fearless – at her home in Bel Air,” Ireland said. “It was a safe house. A lot of the work that she did, it was illegal, but she was saving lives. She said her business associates pleaded with her, ‘Leave this thing alone.’ She received death threats. Friends hung up on her when she asked for help. But something that I love about Elizabeth is her courage.”
Taylor got involved in advocacy for AIDS research after the death of her friend and Hollywood icon, Rock Hudson, in 1985.
Taylor died in 2011 at the age of 79.
Ireland, an advocate for HIV awareness, made the revelation while discussing actor Charlie Sheen’s recent announcement that he is HIV-positive.
At the Jewish Museum’s “Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz & Marilyn” exhibit September 24 pre-opening reception a woman looking at Monroe’s conversion document exclaimed: “I knew Elizabeth converted but I didn’t know Marilyn Monroe did too!”
For Taylor and Monroe fans this show is a nostalgic treat. Struck by a huge display of 40 movie magazine covers from the late 1940’s through ‘60’s of the two screen goddesses, it reminded me of my teenage correspondence with Taylor in 1945 after being rejected as a hopeful for MGM’s “National Velvet” casting search which called for someone who could ride a horse and spoke British accented English [I did neither]. When Taylor landed the role, I sent her a congratulatory note and received a hand-written reply from her accompanied by an autographed photo.
I finally met Taylor in 1981 when she was honored with Emunah Women of America’s “Freedom Award” at an SRO event at Manhattan’s Milford Plaza Hotel. It was noted that following her conversion and becoming a “Jewish daughter” in 1960 she had purchased $100,000 worth of Israel Bonds.
Arriving through the kitchen doors surrounded by a phalanx of body-builder bodyguards, Taylor made her entrance in a flowing red chiffon gown, bouffant hairdo, double string of pearls and blinding diamond earrings. At her side, her then husband Senator John Warner and Maureen Stapleton, her co-star in the Broadway production of “The Little Foxes.” In their rush to “touch” her, one woman was pushed against a buffet table, tripped and her sheitl (wig) fell into a bowl of coleslaw.
In her inimitable whispery voice Taylor spoke of “My love for Israel… my love for children… our children are our future, our tomorrows.” Accepting the plaque from then Emunah National president Shirley Billet, Taylor concluded in Hebrew with “Hazak ve ematz”.
In 1991, C. David Heymann, author of biographies of Jackie Onassis [“A Woman Named Jackie”] and Barbara Hutton [“Poor Little Rich Girl”] was then working on a Taylor biography and told me that in January 1983, Elizabeth took a trip to Israel from her villa in Gstaadt, Switzerland seeing herself “as some kind of peacemaker between Lebanon and Israel.” On the way to Ariel Sharon’s house in the desert, her Mercedes limousine crashed into another car. “Many were seriously hurt,” said Heymann, “but Elizabeth got the press coverage. She was taken to Hadassah Hospital, treated for whiplash, a broken finger and strained ligament… She met with Menachem Begin who was surprised that despite her injuries she would travel to see him. According to those present the two chatted and Mr. Begin later remarked that it was ‘a much more rewarding meeting than with others who only gave him lip service’.”
As for Marilyn Monroe — I met her briefly at a photographers’ reception in 1953 when I worked at the American Society of Magazine Photographers. In the January 1953 edition of the ASMP’s publication “Infinity”, photographer Ben Ross described his first encounter with Monroe in a piece titled “My Date with Marilyn.” He wrote: “I was lying down on Monroe’s bed nursing the remaining half of my head when the little girl with the big blue eyes walked in. As I weakly attempted to rise, Marilyn assured me it was all right to stay there… being a gentleman of the old school I courteously exited.”
While retyping Ross’s piece, I inadvertently transformed exited into excited! Corrected before publication, Ben later told me my malapropism was a more accurate description of his then reaction to Monroe.
The wedding dress worn by film star Elizabeth Taylor for her first marriage to hotel heir Conrad Hilton in 1950 will go up for sale next month, auction house Christie’s said on Friday.
The simple, but elegant garment created by Hollywood costume designer Helen Rose for the then 18-year-old Taylor is an oyster shell-coloured, floor-length satin gown with a fine silk gauze off-the-shoulder illusion neckline.
The dress, which was a gift from MGM film studios, has a top estimate of 50,000 pounds ($75,300). Rose also designed Grace Kelly’s wedding dress for her marriage to the Prince of Monaco.
By the time Taylor married Hilton she was already a veteran actress and was just a year away from her Oscar-nominated performance in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “A Place in the Sun”.
The A-list of old Hollywood - Greer Garson, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Esther Williams, and Van Johnson - were among the many stars who came to congratulate the bride.
The star of “Cleopatra” surpassed Michael Jackson as the highest-earning deceased celebrity in a survey released by Forbes in October 2012, with her estate pulling in $210 million, much of it from a 2011 auction of jewels, costumes and art work.
The auction of Taylor’s jewels took in $116 million, more than double the record for a single collection, and set new marks for pearls, colourless diamonds and Indian jewels.
Taylor, who died in 2011 at the age of 79, was married eight times, twice to actor Richard Burton, and had a career spanning seven decades.
She first gained fame in 1944’s “National Velvet” at age 12, and was nominated for five Oscars, winnning best actress for “BUtterfield 8” (1960) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966), which also starred Burton.
TV journalism matriarch Barbara Walters will be hanging up her mic in May 2014.
Over her 52-year career, she’s interviewed every US President and First Lady since Richard and Pat Nixon, Hollywood icons, world leaders, dictators, Justin Bieber, and even a member of the tribe or two.
Here’s a look back at some of her top interviews.
1. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat
In 1977, Walters convinced Begin and Sadat to sit down together for their first joint interview ever. Watch her talk about how she managed it.
Who was more Jewish — Elizabeth Taylor or Richard Burton? This question was the basis for squabbles between the married Hollywood superstars, according to Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger’s “Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century.” Taylor was a celebrated convert to Judaism, but Burton was proud of having a Jewish maternal grandfather in his native Wales. Burton further argued that the Welsh are the “Jews of Britain,” referring to ethnic stereotyping directed against his fellow Welshmen. By contrast, he told his wife, “You’re not Jewish at all. If there’s any Jew in this family, it’s me!”
Further evidence of Burton’s sympathy for Yiddishkeit is to be found in the newly published “Richard Burton Diaries.” (Yale University Press) Burton’s entry for June 6, 1967 reads that a friend had advised him that “war had broken out between Israel and Egypt and other Arab idiots.” On June 12, Burton noted with some hyperbole and underlinings, “The Israeli war is over. The Israelis completely destroyed the forces against them in 3 days with what seems a mopping-up action of two days… That clever idiot Nasser resigned and then ‘at the behest of his people’ returned to office 16 hours later.”
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