I I had one of the most remarkable experiences of my life when, probably about 2-3 years before Meredith was born, I decided to go to the Redlands Bowl Associates gala as Elizabeth Taylor. I had noticed that I had a few facial similarities to her, and studied her Cleopatra makeup carefully and did my best to duplicate it. The eyebrows took forever.
Like all those who grew up in my time, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were “the” couple. I knew the shocking story of how she stole Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds, whom everybody loved. Who would know that years later, Carrie Fisher, the daughter of Debbie and Eddie, would become another film icon?
Regardless of her extremely stormy personal life, I always had respect for Liz – she always married the guy! She said she truly loved Mike Todd, but lost him in a terrible plane crash. Then came the dreadful upset with Eddie Fisher, and then Richard Burton. News has come out that while married to Eddie, whom she got by cheating, Liz began cheating with Richard Burton, and he dropped her — then, she took sleeping pills and nearly died.
This seemed to have worked, because she got Richard Burton to return, and they were in each others’ orbits for the rest of their lives.
What did I learn as a personal and shocking lesson by my “dress up as Liz” adventure?
Blondes do have more “fun,” if fun means light-hearted, non-threatening attention. People treat girls with dark hair horrifically. First, I had done such a good job that no one recognized me, except a couple of my friends. One of them actually went as Cleopatra, where I didn’t go full-on Cleo. I just wore a dark wig and a purple halter dress. This dress was one of my $15 specials and I had it for quite a long time – the wig, too. When I realized that people truly weren’t recognizing me, I decided to play along, and didn’t open my mouth for most of the whole evening. They weren’t going to recognize me, I reasoned, as long as they didn’t recognize my voice or my distinctive laugh.
Not just one, but several of my friends’ husbands acted completely differently from any way they ever had before. They knew I was married, the same as they were. We were all in the same age group, and these folks all had great families, and before that night, I’d thought they were the nicest, most respectful family men ever. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were interested in only one thing, and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t speaking. The black wig had turned them all into – what’s the technical term? – randy horndogs. I have never lacked for gentlemanly attention, but this was a new experience. Genuine “sex object” – nothing else whatsoever. After about 3 hours, I’d had enough. I took off the wig and they were all very embarrassed, apologetic, and of course I looked like hell because I’d slicked down my blonde hair to put the infernal wig smoothly over it.
Why did this pop into my head? The National Enquirer is covering a new book about Elizabeth Taylor that alleges she tried to commit suicide when Richard Burton broke things off with her early-on.
The story includes the trailer from the 1965 “epic” The Sandpiper. This was a movie version capitalizing on the real-life spectacular romance of Taylor and Burton. I’ve only seen parts of it on TV, because it truly is horrible.
The trailer is mercifully short, but Liz makes a heartfelt plea to Richard Burton along the lines of “I’ve been passed along from man to man all my life. I don’t think a man can ever truly love a woman like me. . .”
Now, Walter Chow (see above) is right that The Sandpiper is a pretty awful movie, made even more awful by its attempt to portray Liz as a “hippie” in total designer “hippie” clothing, while Richard Burton as a stuffy Episcopal priest is just ridiculous, plus – as Walter points up – WTF was the guy doing cheating on Eva Marie-Saint in the first place? Well. Eva Marie-Saint was a lovely blonde lady. La Liz? “I’ve been passed along from man to man . . . ”
Just look today at beautiful Rihanna – how Chris Brown treated her! It’s not skin color, it’s hair and probably eye color (my eyes aren’t purple like Liz Taylor’s, but they are an unusual shade of blue and probably looked really dark with all that Cleopatra makeup).
If you love La Liz and Richard Burton as I do, here’s a great rundown of the DVD collection of all their movies, from the sublime (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) to the ridiculous (The Sandpiper) and the mind-boggling (Cleopatra). Blondes do have more fun. Just not the way that people think.