We lost a legend yesterday. Early yesterday morning Dame Elizabeth Taylor passed away at the age of 79 after more than a month long hospitalization in Cedars Sinai due to congestive heart failure. Liz’s contributions to the film world are legendary. She is in an elite class of women who have won TWO Academy Awards, one for Butterfield 8 in 1960 and the other for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1966. She is likely most known for her performance in Cleopatra where she worked with Richard Burton, who she later married – twice.
Beyond being a screen legend, Liz has also been the subject of tabloid fodder throughout the years, with a grand total of eight marriages (Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher (who at the time was still married to Debbie Reynolds, but it appears they eventually buried the hatchet on that one), Richard Burton, Richard Burton again, John Warner, and Larry Fortensky). She is survived by her four children (Michael Howard Wilding, Christopher Edward Wilding, Elizabeth Frances “Liza” Todd, and Maria Burton), ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. She joins her dear friend Michael Jackson, who she supported throughout his trials and tribulations, but sadly he predeceased her.
Ideally, the Dame will be most remembered for her AIDS work. In 1985 she worked with Mathilde Krim and a small group of doctors to create the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Later, in October 1991 she created the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and has continued to work tirelessly to fundraise for her causes. Many say that her dedication came from the great guilt she carried after the death of her dear friend Rock Hudson. Regardless of the truth in that, she has truly carried the torch for AIDS research, without her we would likely not be nearly as far as we are today, for that we must say thank you.
A woman of many talents, The Dame also has perfume and jewelry empires. Her perfume collection includes: White Diamonds, Black Pearls, and Passion – together they bring in an estimated $200million/year. That is no chump change. Throughout her life Liz has also been known for her jewels: the Krupp diamond (at 33.19 carats), the Taylor/Burton diamond (pear shaped – 69.42 carats), La Peregrina Pearl (50 carats), and many more. Her extensive collection was chronicled in the 2002 book, “My Love Affair with Jewelry,” that included photographs taken by New York photographer John Bigelow Taylor. Liz designed jewelry in The Elizabeth Collection for Piranesi that sells at Christie’s, bringing her love of beautiful things to the masses.
Throughout her life The Dame has lived in many wonderful places, to date she owns homes in California, Hawaii, and Switzerland (Chalet Ariel). Up until her death she was still making money through her jewelry and perfume lines, not to mention the continuing royalties for her work in film. With four children, most of separate marriages, an attorney might wonder how complicated her estate is likely to be. There have been reports that there was tension between her children over her estate when she entered the hospital in February, whether or not this is true is certainly a family matter, but one cannot deny that many complicated transactions will likely take place. She simply had too many assets for it to be otherwise; furthermore, what separates those in the entertainment industry from us mere mortals is that their estates can continue to make money long after they are dead. There is such great value in the intellectual property of stars, as well as their continuing image, and the royalties that must continue to be paid!
According to one report, the Dame intends for her manuscript to be published after her death. If this is true it will certainly be interesting to see. Stay tuned for more information as news comes out – even if all of the parties remain amicable, it will still be a very complex estate. The Dame is dead, long live the Dame!