Farewell to a Class Act

Elizabeth Taylor

They don’t come along very often, but when they do they make a splash and they leave a mark.  They’re beautiful, sophisticated, graceful, benevolent, and completely in a class of their own.  Ladies like Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn, and the one and only Elizabeth Taylor.

Although not surprised – Elizabeth Taylor perpetually fought an assortment of ailments – I was sad to learn of her death on Wednesday.  Her passing leaves a void certainly not to be filled by the likes of any contemporary Hollywood miscreant.

She was a rare holdover from a time when Hollywood was actually special – the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s – the era of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, and Lana Turner.    A time when movie stars signed exclusively with one studio.  A time when Las Vegas was what it should be – a small desert city of cocktails, gambling, and hookers, run by the mafia and certainly no alternative to Disneyland for a family vacation.  And yes, a time when one could  use the word “broad” and not necessarily be acused of using a pejorative term. 

Taylor’s seemingly excessive connubial experience may be the first thing that comes to mind for many, but there was so much more to this multidimensional woman than eight marriages.   Her tireless philanthropic efforts benefit millions around the world, some of whom might be unfamiliar with her name or do not recognize that beautiful face.

In 1982, I was a Boy Scout (um…I know, I know – can you imagine me camping?  I suppose stranger things have happened.)  In May of that year, my Scout troop was ushering the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade.  At one point, I stopped to watch some of the parade as it traveled up north Meridian Street.  Each convertible Camaro pace car carried a different celebrity – some of whom I recognized, and some I didn’t.  The card in the front window of one car read “Elizabeth Taylor – General Hospital.”  I glanced at the woman in the back of the car waving to the crowd and thought to myself You mean the broad who played Helena Cassadine on General Hospital is Elizabeth Taylor?  I recognized her from the show and I knew the name, but had never drawn a connection.  I certainly didn’t understand what a star she was.    

She had a beautiful face and she was a talented actress.  But perhaps more importantly – something for which there is no Oscar, bravo to her tireless crusade to raise funds for AIDS research.  She was the first celebrity to lend her name to that cause, at a time when it wasn’t chic to do so.  In fact, some speculated she would tarnish her legendary image by aligning herself with the cause. 

Many public personalities lend their names to different causes, but few to a cause as controversial as this was in the 1980s.  One of the things I admired most about her is that she wasn’t too concerned about what people thought.  Doing what’s right and doing what’s popular are not always the same thing. 

Her name certainly raised the profile of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR.)  Through AMFAR and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, this amazing woman leaves a legacy that far outshines her Hollywood star, as bright as that was. 

Dame Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky – one class act, for sure.   

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation    
AMFAR    

…And so it goes…
Peace be with you,
JCD

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40 Responses to “Farewell to a Class Act”

  1. Walter Aldorisio says:

    Jim,
    Hope you are well. I did not realize that Elizabeth Taylor was on a soap opera. Take good care.

  2. Deette Durbin says:

    I think you captured her quite well, Jim.

  3. Tracy says:

    I am giving her a run for her money with all the last names…..love you James. She was an amazing broad. And I totally agree about Vegas AND the Indy 500. Family sections at the speedway….yuk….bring back the snake pit. Children don’t belong everywhere for God sake. Call me, lots of juicey gossip. Love Tracy

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