Posts tagged ‘Elizabeth Taylor’

White Diamonds


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“I don’t entirely approve of some of the things I have done, or am, or have been. But I’m me. God knows, I’m me” – Elizabeth Taylor

I’m loathe to write about Elizabeth Taylor because there’s nothing I could write about her that’s not already been written. However, it seems a shame to allow her death to pass without commenting on it. She was, after all, the first woman to be paid $1,000,000 salary for a movie, an exorbitant amount of money for the time. Taylor was widely reported, for many years, to be the world’s most beautiful woman. She was famous for her violet eyes, her many marriages, her soap opera-tabloid lifestyle, her entrepreneurial successes, her philanthropy, and her jewelry collection.

She hastened the end of the marriage of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (let’s face it; those two would have eventually divorced anyway), and she was denounced by both the Catholic Church and the United States Senate for her affair with Richard Burton. The affair with Burton hastened the end of her marriage to Fisher, and ended Burton’s marriage to his first wife, Sybil.

But it began a new and tempestuous marriage that spanned a decade, two weddings and two divorces. It also gave us the great performances we see in, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Would a movie version of Edward Albee’s play have been nearly as fascinating with anyone else playing George and Martha? I hope we never have to find out.

For all her addiction issues and flights of excess, sexual promiscuity and sense of entitlement (she was famously demanding, spoiled, and difficult to work with), she will also be remembered for her courage to speak out against AIDS at a time when no one was doing so. She was, by all accounts, an excellent mother, and this will be one of the many parallels that cause people to compare her with Angelina Jolie. She had a sense of humor about herself and would famously poke fun of herself on talk shows and with her friends. For instance, she stipulated that her coffin would arrive fifteen minutes late for her own funeral.

She had a great love for the gay man, and what gay man wouldn’t love Elizabeth Taylor? She was an icon and a diva. She had a longstanding and close friendship with Roddy McDowell, with whom she starred in one of the Lassie movies. As a young woman she fell helplessly in love with Montgomery Clift, and even though he preferred men, they remained close throughout his lifetime. She was Rock Hudson’s friend and his champion. When AIDS was denounced as a punishment from God for being gay, Elizabeth Taylor stood up and called that viewpoint nonsense. She was, above all, a spectacularly loyal friend, and her steadfast devotion to Michael Jackson proves that beyond a doubt.

Elizabeth battled lots of continuous health issues and went to rehab more than once. In her middle age and beyond, her metabolism caught up with her, and she battled  the bulge many times. Sometimes she won, and sometimes the bulge won. But even as a woman in her 70s, suffering from pain, poor health, and mobility issues, she was still famously beautiful. If you could find anyone in the world who didn’t know who she was, they would have inevitably been struck by the thought of what a striking woman she must have been when she was young. She was the kind of woman that you literally couldn’t help staring at, at any age.

What I most remember Elizabeth Taylor for is that she shared my father’s birthday. My dad was born on the same day as Elizabeth Taylor. He’s five years older than her. He liked to say that the gap between their ages increased over the years but given her childhood stardom, I find this unlikely. It’s probably just my dad’s sense of humor. Elizabeth Taylor’s death reminds me that true beauty, like life, is fleeting. Appreciate it while you can.

April 1, 2011 at 12:31 am Leave a comment

Broadway Lullaby

Kathy Bates at the rehearsal for the 1999 Emmy...

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The high school I attended had a really excellent vocal music and drama program. It was the suburb of a big city, and it was the rich suburb of the big city. Kids I went to school with drove brand new Beemers. One kid that I went to school with hosted an after prom party at his house, and his dad was so rich that he collected rare Bibles. They had a page from a Gutenberg Bible displayed in a glass case like a museum piece, in their home.

Our high school theater was featured in Architectural Digest, and the fine arts reviewer for the newspaper of our state capital used to come to our musicals and plays and review them. We had some very, very talented people graduate from that high school, and some even went on to perform on Broadway or otherwise become working actors. I’ve seen one guy I went to high school with in at least two Richard Linklater movies, which is funny since Linklater, the director of Dazed & Confused, is part of the Austin film scene.

I was reasonably talented for a high school kid but not a triple threat. My parents didn’t have the money for the voice or dance lessons that so many of the kids I went to school with took. We also didn’t have the money to take off to New York once or twice a year and see Broadway shows, as so many of the kids I went to school with did.

My parents were also not big contributors or supporters of the parents’ group for performers that forked out the cash for our little productions, probably a big reason why I stayed in the chorus or got the tiny roles in school plays. The kids who starred almost always came from deep pockets. I never got the connection back then. A friend and I were talking recently about how naïve we both were on that score.

When it came time to go to college I wanted to study theater, but my dad said that I could study anything I wanted but theater, and that if I was going to study theater then I was on my own. I was in no way prepared to be on my own, so I stayed home and majored in English Education, which later was changed to just plain English.

However, even though my Dad was right that I was eventually proud that I graduated from college with my degree that I paid for myself by working my own way through school, and without any student loans, I still hated the fact that I didn’t get to major in what I wanted to study or get the chance to go to a more prestigious school that might have opened doors for me with just a name. Even though I’d sort of moved on and decided that I wanted to go into ministry and study at a seminary, I still had that niggling little thought that I’d been cheated out of a dream. I resented that my parents didn’t support me in my dream. Other people’s parents did; why not mine?

Well, last Thanksgiving when I went home for a little holiday visit we were sitting around the breakfast table when my dad congratulates himself on the fact that I was free to become whatever I wanted in life and that he and my mom never forced a profession on me. And I thought, seriously? What revisionist history! I mean, no, I wasn’t forced into a specific profession, but I was barred from my chosen profession. So, I sort of pipe up about what a lie that is and challenge them on it.

This is when my mother pipes back with the fact that so few actors are really working actors. She actually tells me that they were afraid that I’d fall into prostitution if I pursued a career in acting. What? No waiting tables or folding t-shirts at the Gap? Just straight from the cattle call to crack whorehouse?

As if that weren’t insulting enough, she then tells me that I didn’t have the looks for acting, and adds that not everyone can be Kathy Bates. It doesn’t even occur to her that she’s insulting. That’s the worst part of it.

I won’t claim to have given a beauty like Elizabeth Taylor or Angelina Jolie a run for her money, but when I was younger, with the right makeup, wardrobe and lighting that movie stars get, I could have taken on Meg Ryan at least. Jeez! Kathy Bates.

It was a long time ago. My mom said that if I wanted it that badly then I should go pursue it now. Then she tells me that I should perform in community theater. And honest to God, I just decide that she’s entirely clueless. I don’t want it badly enough now to bother, but she thinks that community theater would do it for me? My mother is a nurse, and perhaps the only analogy I could make that would get to her would be if I told her that instead of going to nursing school she should have just volunteered with the Red Cross as a weekend phlebotomist.

And what is my point with all this drivel? I love my parents dearly, and I know they love me. They did a pretty good job of raising me. I’m a functioning adult, well, mostly functioning. On a recent phone call home somehow this very subject came up on whether or not my mom was a good parent, and I said that I thought she was and I knew that she’d done the best job she could and that she did much better than her own mother had done. And then I said that I always thought I would have made a good mother.

And silence.


More silence.

I said, “Gee, thanks.”

My mom responded. “Well, what did you want us to do? Lie?”

I won’t ever be a mother, so there will be no chance to find out. But I like to think that if I had any children I would at least encourage them in their dreams and instill them with the self-confidence necessary to be successful at them. I wouldn’t have asked my children to sacrifice their pursuits so I could pursue my own dreams, as my mother’s college education inflicted real financial hardship on us growing up. My mom makes a very comfortable living now, but I didn’t benefit from it. One other thing I wouldn’t do: I certainly wouldn’t assume that a bright and attractive young woman raised with good values would succumb to prostitution! I would give my kid more credit than that.

January 3, 2011 at 11:37 am 20 comments

Carrie Fisher Emailed Me!

Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking played at Stu...

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Okay, that’s a lie. But I got your attention, didn’t I? Actually HBO emailed me. Okay, that, too, is not true. The real truth is that I got an email from some guy who works for some internet consulting firm that’s probably been hired by HBO in order to drum up some grassroots publicity for Carrie Fisher’s HBO documentary, Wishful Drinking. Apparently he’s under the mistaken impression that I have some influence on the general public, all five members of the general public who faithfully read my blog.

Check out the email:


December 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm 4 comments

Wishful Drinking

Cover of "Wishful Drinking"

Cover of Wishful Drinking

Last week I finally got around to reading Carrie Fisher’s first official memoir, Wishful Drinking. I say first official because it’s a fact that her novels are mostly her life with the names changed to protect the guilty. Sounds suspiciously like my blog, huh? Wonder where I got the idea. Huge sections of Wishful Drinking use the same situations and clever turns of phrase that were present in her last novel, The Best Awful.

The Best Awful is the account of the aftermath of Carrie’s relationship with Bryan Lourd and her subsequent mental breakdown. Mr. Lourd, though he turned out to be gay and to have forgotten to mention that fact, cannot be blamed for her mental illness. Carrie is bipolar, an illness that is discussed, along with her alcoholism, at length in this book.

A lot of people my age and younger would recognize Carrie Fisher primarily for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga. These same people would not recognize that Carrie Fisher is the product of, as she calls it, “Hollywood inbreeding.” Fisher is the daughter of Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain and Tammy) and Eddie Fisher (Butterfield 8, Mr. Elizabeth Taylor). Okay, maybe that’s not entirely fair to Mr. Fisher. He was also a very successful 50s era crooner.

Fisher’s book shows a look at the life of the child of a celebrity. What you can read into it that is not spelled out is just how lonely that childhood is. When you are the child of celebrities, the natural tables are turned, and instead of the focus being on the child, the focus, instead, is on the parents. This is not a book, however, that does the whiny poor, poor little rich girl turn.

She acknowledges that she has had advantages that other people have not. For instance, she was able to attend the Royal Dramatic Academy. She performed with her mother on stage from the age of 13 to 17. Her likeness has been made into a blow up doll and a Pez dispenser and lots of other things in between. She got an entire book deal while she was in rehab (her first stint) because she gave an interview to Esquire magazine which the publishers found witty and humorous.

I’ll never be interviewed by Esquire, let alone get offered a book deal because of my funny interview with Esquire. So, while her book makes light of many, many tragedies, you also get the sense in reading it that Fisher realizes how blessed she is in many ways to have the life she lives, even if it doesn’t remotely resemble The Normals from Scottsdale, Arizona.

I’ve always loved Carrie Fisher. I liked Princess Leia instinctively (but I think this was true of my entire generation), and when she came out with her first book, Postcards from the Edge she really cemented that likability for me. This was way, way lo many years before the revelation occurred to me that I had my own substance abuse issues. However, I’m convinced that alkies manage to recognize their own kind.

When I was drinking many, many of my friends had their own substance abuse issues, and I found that this was true across the board, regardless of whether or not I “partied” with them. I was the type that did most of my drinking in isolation. Nevertheless, the friends I socialized with were alcoholics themselves with few exceptions. My affinity with Carrie Fisher is no accident. I recognized a kindred spirit.

Her book is exceptionally funny, with some great plays on words, some insider information about her marriage to Paul Simon and some of the great music that resulted from that doomed union. There’s also a very funny anecdote about Cary Grant that illustrates how any of us can be tongue tied by the effects of celebrity, even a product of Hollywood inbreeding who was once the stepdaughter of Elizabeth Taylor and Connie Stevens.

I don’t want to ruin it for you, so you should buy your own copy or go to the library and check it out – if you like very funny women and insider information on Hollywood or if you’re a Star Wars geek or if you’re an alcoholic or if you’re bipolar. If any of those things describe you, then I think you’ll be able to relate. It’s a quick read. I finished it from cover to cover in just under two hours.

November 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm 1 comment

The Marriage Manifesto

I have a lot of opinions about marriage, a subject on which I am a qualified expert by virtue of my having never been married. Like a teenager knows everything, you should listen to my opinions on marriage because I said so.

You think that a person who’s been married happily for a long time is the person to ask? Think again.

Maybe you think that the person who’s been married many times is the better person to ask for advice, since they can undoubtedly tell you what to avoid doing. Kind of like, ask Elizabeth Taylor what to do and then do the opposite. You would be wrong.

You should listen to me, the woman who’s never been married. I’ve been close, though. And by that, I don’t mean that I’ve ever “shacked up” with anyone. What I mean is that once when I was in college an Indian draftsman named Prakash made me a very earnest marriage proposal. And once for about six weeks I had a fiancé who was a pathological liar and a trysexual. [] Clearly, Dr. Phil has nothing on me when it comes to dispensing marital advice.

I’m going to write this advice, assuming that you are, like me, a woman that wants to marry a man. That is in no way indicative of my views on the subject of gay marriage. I’m all for it. []

First off, ladies, stop confusing a marriage with a wedding. The wedding is one day in your life. Your marriage is the rest of it. Every day after that, for the rest of your life. The wedding industry in the United States is a multi-million dollar business. The average bride in 2009 spent nearly $29,000 on her wedding day. That does not include the honeymoon. How do we justify spending this kind of money on one day in our lives? We simply can’t.

Listen, I like Vera Wang dresses and butter cream frosting and ice sculptures and tons of presents just as much as the next girl. But…I’d rather have a happy marriage than a happy wedding. And one of the ways that I can help to ensure a happy marriage is by not bankrupting myself, my parents, or my husband. Do you really need a $10,000 princess cut diamond set in platinum? Somehow I think you’ll live without it.

As for the presents, if you’re young and just starting out, they’re meant for you and your husband to build your marital home together in comfort. Go register. Keep them. Use them in good health. But if you, like so many other brides out there, are older, someone who’s been on her own for a while and gotten an education and had a chance to experience the real world, shame on you if you are pressuring your friends and relatives to buy you that fancy steamer or rice cooker or bread or ice cream maker when you and your husband already have perfectly good household items for two households that you will now be combining.

If you’re a Christian, then you should be doubly ashamed. How about asking the loved ones attending your wedding ceremony to make donations on your behalf to a worthy charity? Or asking them to donate their time and services towards decorations or food? Or asking them to provide a setting in which to get hitched? That way, you don’t start your married life together in debt or spend the first five years of it “living in sin” and saving for your “dream” wedding.

Needless to say, I feel strongly about the commercialization of weddings. It is an important day. It is special. You should enjoy it. But don’t make everyone you love miserable, staging, “Bride: The Musical.” Your husband will resent you for it because he’ll be wondering which is more important to you: him or your special Princess day? Remember that scene in the first Sex and the City movie? The one where Big stands up Carrie at the altar? ‘Nuff said.

Secondly, know this, going in: love is a verb. What do I mean by that? I mean that in our culture, especially when it comes to romantic love, we usually think of love the noun. Love — that thing that gives us butterflies in our stomachs and causes us to do irrational things. Love the feeling. But when we get married, we are dealing with love the verb. We must show our husbands that we love them in words and in deeds. Be kind to one another.

There will be times in your married life when you must love your husband when he has hurt you or angered you or when you actually hate him. There will even be times when you must love your husband when he inspires no feelings in you but boredom and apathy. There will be times when you must love your husband when Dan in accounting is actually the guy who give you the butterflies. And it is in these times when you must fake it ‘til you make it.

And you must keep these feelings to yourself. Just because you have a feeling doesn’t mean that you have to share your every feeling with your spouse. Ask yourself. If I told my husband in plain language just exactly how I’m feeling, would it belittle him? Would it make him feel less important? Would it wound him? Men’s egos are much more easily shattered than ours are.

Share that feeling with your best girlfriend or a therapist, if you must. DO NOT, whatever you do, share it with Dan in accounting who gives you butterflies. I don’t recommend downright deception, but discretion and deception are two different things, and there will be times when practicing discretion in your marriage is the loving thing to do.

Why must you love your husband when you don’t love him? Because love is big; love is like an ocean. It will ebb and flow. And, to add another lame cliché, love is like a garden. Plant a tiny seed, and if you water it regularly many fruit will sprout. Stick it out. Make an effort. That old feeling will come back. You won’t feel it every day, but you will feel it sometimes, and it will be enough to sustain you. And I am convinced that your life will be measurably richer for it.

Speaking of fake it ‘til you make it, we come to the subject of sex. Sex is good. Sex is important. Starve your marriage of sex, and see your garden wilt and die. I’ve had more than just a few good girlfriends who had “issues” with sex, for whatever reason. Maybe they were abused growing up or they were raised to see sex as dirty and shameful or they have real physical problems with sex.

Let’s face it. Most of us will marry men who want to have sex more often than we do, even those of us who are really enthusiastic about sex. If my good girl and guy friends who are married are any kind of indication, the vast majority of married men are sometimes starved for sex.

There are a couple of recommendations that I’m going to make on that front. When I say “fake” it, I’m not recommending that you imitate Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. What I mean by fake it here is that sometimes there will be times when we don’t feel like having sex when we should go ahead and have it anyway.

You might be surprised. It might be like smiling. Sometimes we don’t feel like smiling, but our work demands a positive attitude. Pretty soon you find that after faking it for a while, you don’t feel as crabby as you did before you started smiling. The physical act of smiling produces chemicals in our brains that actually change our mood in a positive direction. Sex can work like that, too. And if it doesn’t, where’s the harm? You took a few minutes out of your day to do something that didn’t hurt you and was really important to him.

If it does hurt you, then that’s a different thing. I’m talking about waiting the six weeks for your episiotomy to heal after the birth of a baby. I’m talking about those women for whom sex is emotionally traumatic. I’m talking about those women for whom sex is actually physically painful or those women who, for whatever reason, are completely incapable of feeling sexual desire. Don’t “submit” to your husband in these circumstances. You’ll just resent him for it later, even if it was your idea.

Instead, give yourself time to heal or find a treatment or a cure for your dilemma. Be diligent. Let your husband help you. Don’t just do it for your husband. Do it for yourself. A happy sex life is fulfilling. You deserve to live your life to its fullest, in every aspect. If the first doctor or therapist doesn’t work, then keep on trying until one of them does.

Still on the subject of sex, because its importance cannot be overstressed, we come back to the “faking it” of the Sally from When Harry Met Sally variety. It’s best that you don’t, ever, if you can help it. This is being deceitful, and if you’re doing it on a regular basis, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

Something in our culture in recent years has really shifted in placing the responsibility for a woman’s sexual pleasure plainly and squarely upon the shoulders of her male partner. And while it’s an improvement over the days when women were expected to lie back and think of England, your husband isn’t Atlas. He may buckle under all that weight.

Little boys know how to please themselves sexually from an early age. We should know how to please ourselves, too. We should take responsibility for our own orgasms. I’m not saying that your man can’t please you. Show him how. Help him out. Give him encouragement. Guide him. Don’t play drill sergeant. Just take his hand or his whatever and show him some enthusiasm when he does something that you like. Your man wants to please you.

That being said we all know that there are times (much like when a man fails to get or sustain an erection) that our bodies fail to cooperate, even for ourselves. Make sure that your guy gets that sex is pleasant even without an orgasm. Because it is. An orgasm isn’t the sole goal of sex. If it were, then every woman would buy a vibrator and no woman would ever have sex again.

When it comes to money and children, these are topics of concern that you should have addressed in detail way before you ever walk down the aisle. You should be in agreement or at least in collaboration. If you can’t agree, then at least compromise to be like the most bipartisan senator the world has ever known. Nothing will ever get passed in your house, otherwise. You will always be hurting for money or forever arguing about the kids. Or worse yet, one of you will be seething at having missed the opportunity to reproduce or bitter about having been saddled with an unwanted burden. And children should never be anyone’s burden.

With children, the currently prevailing theory that they should always come first is complete bullshit. The best thing you can do for your children is to have an excellent, primary relationship with your spouse. Your kids will feel secure in the knowledge that their parents love each other as well as their children. And you’ll be doing your kids a favor in modeling the kind of relationship that they will want for themselves one day.

Disciplining children is something that you should be in agreement about as well. Unless there’s an actual abusive situation, back your spouse up. If you feel that your spouse may have made a mistake or gone too far, don’t ever confront him about this in front of your child. He should give you the same consideration. Present a united front. Don’t allow your children to divide and conquer you. And rest assured, they  will try. Children are manipulative, and they like to test their boundaries.

When I was growing up, it was like a running joke between my brother and me that we could never get my parents to give us permission to do anything. To ask my father was to be confronted with the answer, “If it’s okay with your mother,” and to ask my mother was to be told, “Go ask your father.” You and your husband should be like this. Your kids won’t be able to get away with ANYTHING.

And finally, this one, most important thing: forgive. Forgive your husband on a daily basis. Forgive, forgive, forgive again. Be like the Kathie Lee Gifford, the Hillary Clinton, the Elizabeth Edwards of forgiveness. What do I mean by that? Well, certainly not that you should put up with persistent philandering. What I mean is this: that Jesus said to forgive your “brother” not seven times but seventy-seven times. How much more often do you think we’ll have to forgive our husbands?

August 23, 2010 at 11:13 pm 3 comments

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