The year was 2005 and Elizabeth Taylor had just returned from a shark-cage diving holiday in Hawaii.
“My son called me just after I’d come back,” she told a reporter. “He said, ‘I’m in the supermarket and there’s a headline that says ‘Liz fading fast’.”
She rolled her eyes. “Now do I really look like I’m fading fast? I’m determined not to fade at all!”
But not even Hollywood legends are immortal. In the end her heart, stricken by congestive failure that had seen her admitted to Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles in early February, gave up.
The violet-eyed actress, an icon of a golden era of Hollywood, once regarded as the most beautiful woman on Earth and famous for her many marriages, passed away at the age of 79 with her children by her side. Her kids – Michael and Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd and Maria Burton – were her best friends, she once said.
She’s also survived by 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, as well as her beloved dog,Daisy – the pooch she convinced a friend to smuggle into her hospital room during her last weeks.
“Liz’s room was like Grand Central Station sometimes,” a hospital source says. “People were coming and going all the time.”
News of her passing spread around the world like wildfire. Within an hour photo agencies had posted pictures of her throughout the ages on their websites – a beautiful 12-year-old in National Velvet; the sultry star of Cleopatra; a milky-skinned pin-up.
But there were also pictures that spoke of a life as plagued by demons and pain as it was characterised by fame and fortune – Liz in the grip of alcohol and drug addiction; puffy and pale in a wheelchair; Liz with bloodshot eyes in too-tight clothing on a night on the town.
Obituaries had been posted before you could say Richard Burton. And while they all mentioned her eight marriages, her two Oscars (for Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and her health problems, they also mentioned her humanitarian qualities.
After her lifelong friend, actor Rock Hudson, died of Aids in 1985 she threw herself into raising money and awareness of the disease, donating millions and founding the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.
She used her celebrity to good effect, just as she used her famous eyes and love of bling to capture attention to the end. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times recalls seeing her at a party not too long ago.
“Many celebrities were trying to blend in. Not Elizabeth Taylor. Dressed to be noticed, her fabulous eyes accentuated, huge diamonds on her hands, she knew she was a star and relished, even cherished, her position.”
Read the full article in YOU, 31 March 2011. Use the tag reader app to snap the tag in the magazine to see a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor in her heyday.