Who's afraid of Liz Taylor?

There are images of her beauty. It’s gone. It was slowly going away, except for those speaking eyes and tranquil mouth. These were skin-deep. I don’t know if Elizabeth Taylor was among the greatest as far as her acting prowess goes. Larger-than-life she was and it was only fitting that she portrayed Cleopatra.

But it was not as the haughty queen with those outsize headgears that she shone. It was in languid repose as she half-crossed her legs in a seduction ritual that she did. It was a ritual; she was playing the queen beckoning the mighty, yet she was wallowing in her own sensuality.

This wallowing was most evident in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I had already read Edward Albee’s play, had soaked it, torn through it and in some ways it is still lodged inside me. I can well imagine how Liz Taylor might have had to strip herself, her ego and her vanity to enact Martha, whose drunken whiplashing tongue was also her vulnerability.

It isn’t fair to judge people by the characters they enact, but from whatever I know of her, Martha she seems to be. Martha married to George, a history professor. A partnership where both are bound by an imagination – a child that does not exist. This is not a review, but Liz did have mythical ideas and her relationships of convenience were many. They were convenient for her loneliness and it was convenient to those who found in her loneliness space for theirs. Of course, it was also about money.

How she used her money, especially later in life. Without taking away any credit from the humanitarian causes she supported, she wore big hair that surprisingly highlighted her limpid eyes; she already had big breasts and these on her rather small frame did appear like she was caricaturing herself, telling the world that some things always remain large.

She was among the first major stars to come out with a fragrance: White Diamonds. I have it but rarely use it. It’s much too strong for my taste. And I don't like the bottle. Fake diamonds encircling the neck of a shapeless glass dispenser. The only thing is that it has been around for a few years and still smells the same.

Her worst personal move was to marry that truck driver guy, not because of his lack of economic and social stature but she did not need toy boys. She needed lovers, people who would woo her. And if she had to spar, it would have to be with an equal. Some Larry was not the guy.

Think of the devastating line Martha delivers to George during one of their brawls: “I swear, if you existed, I would have divorced you.” George is not up to much but he has an intellectual aura about him. Her denying his existence, therefore, added weight.

And in the dark shadows when the light struck her face and the deep lines, there was so much embedded within their folds. So much left unsaid even as she spoke. There was beauty in that, a beauty that has no name.

If you could feel Martha, and Elizabeth Taylor, then to her question, “What do you take me for?” like George we might reply, “Much too much”.

- - -

I read somewhere that the NYT carried an obit piece that was written four years ago and the writer had preceded her. It is supposedly common practice by newspapers but I can't help wondering about how mercenary it is.


  1. May be she had had enough of intellectual equals. Escapism is not such a bad thing.

  2. Escapism is not a bad thing, Hitesh. But the real-life persona wasn't only about intellectual equals...who knows, Larry must have been a closet one. Here it was escaping from the self.

  3. Escaping from the self is what one looks for often.

    Self is really created, polished and nurtured by the demands and adulations of the society so escaping it helps you to escape it all...

  4. "Khud ko bhi hum ne mitaa daala magar
    Faasle jo darmiyan the reh gaye"


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.