Remembering Dame Elizabeth Taylor: Fashionably Late for her own Funeral

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Pictured: No one made a slip look better than Elizabeth Taylor.

I’m sure most of you know that Dame Elizabeth Taylor died yesterday morning at Cedars-Sinai hospital here in Los Angeles. Tonight, she was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA.  In her lifetime Dame Elizabeth was known for being late. She kept film sets, directors and even her husbands waiting. Tonight, by her own design, she arrived 15 minutes late for her funeral.  Why disappoint everyone after 79 years of waiting for her? According to her publicist, Sally Morrison,  “She even wanted to be late to her own funeral.” What an entrance.

Years ago, I visited Fox Studios (20th Century Fox) in Century City.   Someone working there told me the studio once occupied all of what is now Century City, including the land where the Westfield Mall now sits, the area where the hotels are and all the office space.  But after Elizabeth Taylor starred in Cleopatra and the studio spent a fortune in production, and then on its release and failure, the studio was forced to sell off much of the lot to real estate developers to pay their debts.  Clearly, Ms. Taylor was no recessionista.   She was the first actress in movies to be paid 1 million dollars for a film role.  She owned some of the worlds biggest pieces of bling, including the Krupp diamond, the Taj Mahal diamond, Mary Tudor’s La Peregrina Pearl and Wallis Simpson’s Prince of Wales Plumes Brooch.  But she was also a woman who had worked and supported others since the age of 12 years old.  She lived large, but she also worked for what she had.  About her diamonds, she said.”You can’t cry on a diamond’s shoulder, and diamonds won’t keep you warm at night. But they’re sure fun when the sun shines.”

Pictured: Elizabeth Taylor in Chanel in the 1960s.

It has to be said, that while she had access to the best of everything including fashion, she was not always fashionable. When Edith Head dressed her in Hollywood, her clothes were “taylor” made to show off her best assets. Later, without the studio’s help, her choices ran the gamut from Chanel to hot pants, from Dior couture to kaftans.  “I love to be casual and comfortable, but I also love the easy glamour of wearing jewelry all the time” said Elizabeth. Surprisingly,  some of her most remembered looks on film are very simple. Like the figure hugging slips she wore in Butterfield 8 and Cat on a Hat Tin Roof.   Or the white swimsuit she wore on the beach in Suddenly Last Summer.

Just as her fashion taste’s ran the gamut, so did her taste in food.  She was famous for her love of Chasen’s Chili and had it shipped to her in Rome when filming Cleopatra. Even in her seventies, she still liked to drop by the Abbey bar in West Hollywood, where you can literally eat in bed. While she dinned at some of the world’s best restaurants, she also admitted to loving “Popeyes”  and southern fried chicken.  (Popeyes!–can you even imagine Elizabeth Taylor eating  there?)

But what I remember most about Elizabeth Taylor is her loyalty to her friends and her support of AID/HIV research at a time when no one wanted to be associated with this terrible disease. She campaigned tirelessly and even spoke at the UN urging the US and the world to do more for AIDs research. I really think that was her finest hour.  In February, she told Harper’s Bazaar, that she was “never richer than when I have scored a big check to fight AIDS.”

Pictured: Dame Elizabeth was on of my favorite social media voices via her Twitter account.

Despite being in her seventies, Elizabeth was an avid user of social media.  She admitted liking Twitter because it allowed her to communicate with her fans. I’ll miss her wonderful Tweets from her Dame Elizabeth Twitter ID.  It was clearly her authentic voice coming through the Twitter channel, although I always wondered if she personally typed it in.  It was clear from her last few Twitter messages that Ms. Taylor was thinking of moving on and reflecting on her life. Her messages became very philosophical.  Although she was no recessionista, she had some wonderful words on living within your means.  “Never let yourself think beyond your means…mental, emotional or any otherwise,”  Dame Elizabeth Tweeted on July 22nd, 2010.   Excellent advice from someone who lived well, and enjoyed the finer things as well as some fairly simple ones. Her husbands included famous actors, millionaires, a Republican Senator and finally a construction worker.

RIP Dame Elizabeth.  You will be missed.


Since 2008, Mary Hall has been the author of The Recessionista Blog, which is read by thousands of regular readers in over 160 countries. An internationally recognized expert on the art of the living the good life for less, she has been a commentator on local, national, and international radio and TV shows. Her advice has been featured in over 2,000 media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Life & Style magazine, ABC News, NBC News and now The Huffington Post, among many others.