Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Would Elizabeth Taylor Do?

I just finished reading "Elizabeth: The Life of Elizabeth Taylor" by Alexander Walker.  It's a terrible book, written by a man who, I suspect, loathes Richard Burton.  But regardless of the writing or the point of view, I've learned something very important:  I love Elizabeth Taylor.  Here's why:

1.  She swore.  A lot.
2.  She drank.  A lot.
3.  She wore jewelry.  A lot.
4.  She was fired from her first studio contract at the age of 10.  Did she let that stop her?  Hell no.
5.  She believed in love.  It was her reason for being, the thing she craved most in all of life but could never keep.  But despite eight failed marriages, she never gave up.  Not once.
6.  No matter how hard a drubbing she took in the press, she never let it change her goals or how she lived her life.  She never gave up.  Not once.

In short, she survived.  And what writer couldn't use a scrappy survivor as a role model?

After she and Richard Burton decided to divorce (the first time) in 1973, she said, "It takes one day to die and another day to start living again."  I dog-eared that page of the book, knowing I'd need to come back to it when I got a particularly stinging rejection (yep, that happened this morning).  The sentiment works, no matter what it is you're pursuing.  Got dumped?  So did Elizabeth.  Got rejected?  So did Elizabeth.  Got fired?  So did Elizabeth.  Every single time, she picked herself up and kept going--one day to die, one day to start living again.  There is no better life-affirming mantra for anyone going through a rough time.

As close as I'll ever  get
to her fantastic jewelry:
holding my copy of her book.
You might also have seen the article in June's Vanity Fair, "Elizabeth Taylor's Closing Act" by Sam Kashner.  I didn't really know what the heck she was up to in the last years of her life, but get this:  did you know she was on Twitter?  I'm not even on Twitter.  Elizabeth Taylor kicked my ass.

The article also shares an intriguing story about Elizabeth, Michael Jackson, and Marlon Brando, all trapped in New York together in the aftermath of 9/11. There are two conflicting reports about what happened.  One report has Michael, Liz, and Brando driving out of 9/11 (all flights were grounded), making it all the way to Ohio, with Brando insisting they stop at a crapload of Burger Kings and KFCs along the way.  The other report has Liz staying behind, doing charitable things like visiting a shelter for displaced people and visiting Ground Zero.  Apparently, there's no proof for either story.  But isn't the first story hilarious?  How cracked out would that be if you're the drive-through worker who tosses Whoppers in a bag for Brando and Liz Taylor?  Priceless!

Here's another gem from the Vanity Fair article.  Elizabeth and Kathy Ireland (the born-again former swimsuit model) both designed jewelry. As they got to know each other, Elizabeth constantly tried to get Kathy Ireland to swear.  The article says Elizabeth offered to donate $10,000 to any charity Kathy wanted, if only she would say the word "fuck."  According to Kashner, the offer was accepted and the money duly paid out.

Okay, last funny story, I promise.  Also in the Vanity Fair article, Kashner writes that at the age of 74, Elizabeth decided she wanted to go swimming with sharks while in Hawaii.  She was wearing jewelry, of course.  Kashner describes her as spitting into her goggles "like a pro."  They took her out of her wheelchair and put her in the shark cage.  When asked by a tour guide to ditch the jewelry because it would agitate the sharks, she said, "Isn't that the fucking point?"

I love this woman.  I can only hope I'm that brave and willing to try new things at the age of 74. This attitude is summed up in one of her favorite sayings:  You might as well live.

I think my new motto is going to be:  What would Elizabeth Taylor do?