Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died today, surrounded by family members at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, according to a statement issued by her publicist. She was 79 years old, but the Hollywood icon lived many different lives over the course of six decades in the spotlight.
Although the violet-eyed actress will certainly be remembered for her extraordinary acting career (during which she made more than 60 films and won two Academy Awards for Best Actress), brave battles with various illnesses and many surgeries, extensive work in AIDS philanthropy, and foray into the perfume biz, Taylor will likely also be remembered for her many loves. Even by today's multiple marriage standards in Hollywood, Taylor still stands out, having been married eight times (to seven different men).
In last month's Harper's Bazaar, Taylor opened up to Kim Kardashian about her personal life:
I never planned to acquire a lot of jewels or a lot of husbands. I have been supremely lucky in my life in that I have known great love, and of course, I am the temporary custodian of some incredible and beautiful things.
Of course, no young woman or even young movie star ever expects that someday, she'll be known for "acquiring a lot of husbands." Nor would she expect that by her mid-20s, she would have already played the parts (in real life) of teenage bride, mother, divorcee, and widow! But that was the hand Taylor was dealt. “I've been through it all, baby,” she once said. “I'm Mother Courage.”
Nonetheless, I'm sure Taylor was always looking for her true love, her soul mate. There's always been speculation that her Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton (who she married twice) was that for her. Although they had off-the-charts chemistry, rumor had it that Burton's drinking problem and the combative nature of their relationship was what drove them apart. Still, she nodded to the fact that they were "meant to be" when she told Kardashian last month:
It was inevitable that we would be married again, but it's not up for discussion.
And although the most fiery and fated love story of Taylor's seemed to involve Burton, that's not to dismiss the many other loves of her life. She was married very briefly to Paris and Nicky Hilton's grand-uncle, Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, actor Michael Wilding, actor Mike Todd (who died in a plane crash and with whom she had a daughter), actor Eddie Fisher (father of Carrie Fisher, who left first wife Debbie Reynolds for Taylor), and after her two marriages to Burton, she married/divorced former secretary of the U.S. Navy John Warner and construction worker Larry Fortensky. It was rumored that she was going to marry her most recent, long-time boyfriend Jason Winters.
Although her relationships were filled with drama, tumult, and at times much heartache and even volatility, it doesn't seem like Taylor ever blinked an eye about how her love life played out. She even joked, "I'm a very committed wife. And I should be committed -- for being married so many times."
That kind of self-deprecating humor only served to show that she embraced her love life as it was. And she was okay with the fact that she loved being in love.
It's kind of an incredible illustration of how you might plan for your life to be one, conventional way. You might think you'll hold out until you meet The Love of Your Life, marry them, have children, and grow old together. But sometimes, that's just not what life has in store for you. Maybe we all have multiple soul mates? A collection of love stories?
Taylor, who recently advised, "Follow your passion, follow your heart, and the things you need will come," knew better than to try to let her plan interfere with what the universe had in mind for her. She knew the best thing she could do was let her heart be her guide. And that's certainly one incredibly valuable legacy of Liz's -- in addition to the many others -- that I hope continues to live on.
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