By Dennis J. Freeman Commentary
Another film and Hollywood starlet has left us behind. Nearly a month after the passing of movie star Jane Russell, the storied life of famed actress and philanthropist Elizabeth Taylor has been permanently interrupted at 79 years.
Perhaps the last of the Great Ones, Taylor was Hollywood’s totality embodiment of glamour, fame, allure and well-skilled acting. She had the acting chops to become a megastar on the big screen and the right looks to become a global symbol of international beauty.
A couple of years ago, I attended and covered a fashion gala sponsored by Macy’s in Santa Monica, California that was geared to raising money for people afflicted with HIV/AIDS. I attended the event largely to get an opportunity to see Taylor up close.
The best I could do was plot down on some benches where the main event was held. I never did work myself behind the scenes to see the legendary actress up close and personal, which was a huge disappointment to me.
Icons like Taylor, who garnered worldwide attention due to her thespian craftiness, star appeal and stunning beauty, don’t come around often. That’s like catching lighting in a bottle. When you do have the chance to be in their presence, it’s surely a good idea to do so.
Though I wasn’t able to make it around the mass bodyguards and fillers surrounding Taylor, who was stricken at that time, I was nonetheless eagerly excited to see her come on stage and give a brief speech.
Like the folks in the audience, when Taylor made her entrance, we all treated the moment as if we were witnessing royalty at its finest. And Taylor surely was Hollywood royalty with landmark starring roles in “Cleopatra,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Giant” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
As a young man growing up, I was a fan lot of older movies, films that dated way back to the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were the queens of those movie eras.
I remember always being mesmerized by the dignified beauty and class of those women. Taylor, of course, always seemed to stand out because of the total package she brought to the table as an accomplished actress, earning two Academy Awards. Her presence on the screen is undeniable. She was it. She was Hollywood.
Several thousand people showed up that September evening in 2009 at the Santa Monica hangar as monies collected from the event were given to children and families afflicted and dealing with HIV/AIDS.
The cause was the 27th annual Macy’s and American Express Passport event, which turned out dozens of celebrities, including Sharon Stone, Davey Jones (The Monkees), Eva LaRue and fashion model and industry insider Nicole Murphy, Eddie Murphy’s former wife.
All the star-gazing, however, was fixated on catching a glimpse of Taylor, even for a brief moment. When Taylor, who developed a strong bond with the late Michael Jackson, finally her appearance on stage, the hero idolatry of one of Hollywood’s greatest leading ladies, was felt all around the building. As a veteran news reporter, I don’t get star-struck when I see a celebrity.
But Taylor was much more than a celebrity. She was what every woman wanted to be. Her unmistakable beauty was something all women wanted to have; it was what men thirsted for. Taylor’s classiness and elegance was one that all could appreciate. I was just happy to be part of that moment.
And for a moment, I was swept along for the brief, exhilarating ride that it was, leaning forward to hear Taylor’s every word as she spoke about HIV/AIDS, a subject that had been dear to her for a long time. Taylor has long been a staunch advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS, constantly speaking about the issue.
Her appearance at the event was definitely the highlight of the evening. For many people it was the highlight of a lifetime.
Fighting a cold, Taylor called on everyone in attendance to help her in the fight against the disease.
“As my beloved friend Michael (Jackson) said, “We are the world,”’ Taylor said.”It is up to us – it is our responsibility to take care of those who are sick and dying.”