Will Elizabeth Taylor marry Jason Winters? He's 49, black, sturdy, manly looking. For three years he's been her manager and devoted, constant companion, while she was working with interviewers on a book, and recovering from heart surgery ...
"Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of the Century" has just been published. The press releases say that Elizabeth talked with the authors, answered questions, and allowed them to use the love-letters that Richard wrote her, including the letter he wrote two days before he died.
Is it a book I'll be reading? No. The press release summaries of the story seem inaccurate to me.
I was there (with my husband, John Cullum), for much of what happened after the movie "Cleopatra" when Elizabeth and Richard fell in love. We were part of the group of Richard's friends while "Liz and Dick" were headlines in the news -- during Burton's rehearsals and performances of "Hamlet" in Toronto, Boston, and New York -- his other love affairs -- his brief marriage to Susan Hunt -- his on/off the wagon phases -- his on/off re-marriage and reconciliations with Liz -- their joint venture, "Private Lives" that they performed in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York -- his marriage to Sally Hay, and afterward -- his and Liz's ups and downs until his death.
No, we weren't hangers on. We were best friends, good friends sharing work and pleasure together. (I've written about Elizabeth and Richard in four other posts: "Socks in the Drawer," 6/10;" "Elizabeth Taylor Socks Syndrome," 6/11; "Name Dropping Lennie,"7/29; "Name Dropping,"(8/30; "Elizabeth T's Gift," 10/21.)
At 29-year-old Elizabeth's wedding to Burton in our Toronto hotel (where all of us were staying), I was uncomfortable -- Richard had invited us, not Elizabeth -- I made her uncomfortable -- not only was I slender and interesting looking, (dancer body, long red hair), but also I was an old friend from the days when Sybil was Richard's wife.
Yes, Richard had a teasing, flirty way of talking with me -- we were in rapport, but I wasn't a threat -- any woman who even temporarily distracted Richard, bothered Elizabeth. (For good reason, he had groupies following him -- groupies at every opening night -- they flew to wherever he worked.)
Over the years, at dinners at Sardi's, Frankie & Johnnies Steakhouse, limo rides, parties, my attempts at conversation with Elizabeth invariably floundered. Out came her compact and powder-puff, and effortful murmurs from me -- I can't remember ever having a real conversation with her. But I know from JC, and from Richard himself, that she's down-to-earth, educated, exceptionally articulate, a remarkably skilled actress as well as film star.
Richard's love-letters (excerpts are quoted in the "Vanity Fair" article about the book), are, for me, more than interesting -- they're brilliant, loving, harsh -- a truthful expression of the real Richard Burton.
I remember in the Toronto hotel lobby, Richard told us about the book he wanted to write about theater. Burton was a voracious reader of philosophy, history and biographies, and very eloquent -- he said things to us about his book, about Elizabeth, her talent, and us -- JC and me -- things that were keenly intuitive, almost uncomfortably accurate.
No wonder men and women fell deeply in love with him. He could sense in aflash who you really were. Was I in love with him? I was flattered, peacock-proud of the attention I got from him, but no, it wasn't love. I was married to "the most handsome man in the world," (that's what I felt from the moment I met JC), and, alas, fighting off John Cullum's groupies.
So, what about Elizabeth marrying, for the 9th time? She's said that she and Jason were engaged. She's also denied it. Back in 2007, she spoke about the home he bought for them in Hawaii, how beautiful it was, how much she enjoyed sharing it with him.
This woman has lived in the limelight practically all of her life, and she's thinking it over, telling us what's going on in the movie-star Elizabeth Taylor's head and heart.
Elizabeth T. doesn't sleep around. She marries a man if she loves him. A ninth husband is not an overwhelmingly large number for the most beautiful woman in the world.