The day finally came. Elizabeth Taylor died this morning of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, according to her publicist, Sally Morrison. She was 79.
Like the rest of the universe, or at least those with a pulse and a speck of passion, I have forever been in awe of this force of nature. She not only represented a superfluity of everything: more fire, more vinegar, more beauty (including bolder eyebrows than anyone), more lovers, more talent and more generosity in her high-profile championing of AIDS—and before anyone else on that level.
It was, in fact, at a fundraiser for AIDS Project Los Angeles a decade ago when I came within Dame Taylor's reach. I was a guest of MAC Cosmetics and had great seats, in part because no one was in the chair directly in front of me. Elton John asked her out on stage before the music began, an evening filled with performances by Alicia Keyes, Rufus Wainwright and his pop Loudon, and several other artists. At the sight of her, the Universal Ampitheater filled with a rumble of applause. Lights faded out. Then on. And I found my sight view of the stage completely blocked by this colossal mass of silver hair.
It was curled and fixed with so much hair spray that I was pretty sure I'd break a nail if I dared tap it.
I went from exasperation to excitement in a snap, however. It was She. Elizabeth Taylor. Within grasp, literally.
I spent the rest of the night listening to Richie Sambora strum with Elton John, Lee Ann Rimes warble her latest radio-friendly ballad, and the rest of that season's Top 40 line-up do their thing. But I cared not a bit whether I could stand the hit parade or not. All of it seemed to go over better via the filtering presence of the guest seated before me.
For Elizabeth Taylor more was not only more. It was her M.O. She lived life to the fullest.
Of course, I felt a pang at seeing the news of her death this morning. But how can we be sad for someone who walked this earth with more determination, more spirit, more beauty and lust for life than most?
She may have tripped a few times along the journey. But it was always in her own shoes.