America's first true celebrity--iconic actress and pop culture phenomenon, Elizabeth Taylor--died this morning at age 79.
Taylor's every move was chronicled long before the days of TMZ, People magazine and Entertainment Tonight. Women wanted to be her; men wanted to be with her.
Taylor first drew notoriety for National Velvet and went on to star in classics like Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the latter two which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. She starred alongside friend Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun, my personal favorite. And, of course, she was Cleopatra--a fitting role for this stunningly beautiful actress.
Her off-screen romances were many--she was married eight times, two of those were with Richard Burton. Their romance was fiery, tempestuous and very, very public.
Taylor's eclectic mix of friends ranged from Michael Jackson to Elton John to Barbara Walters to Montgomery Clift to Paul Newman. She was a humanitarian, deeply involved in the fight against AIDS/HIV, and can be credited for using her celebrity to raise the public's awareness of that disease.
Elizabeth Taylor is the first person that I can remember as a celebrity. She was of my parents' generation and her movies and appearances on TV were memories from my youth. I was always struck by her beauty but also by the way everyone seemed to want to be close to her and know more about her.
It would be easy to say that a pop culture legend has died. But, somehow, that seems to minimize the impact that Taylor had on her craft of acting, and on the world through her humanitarianism and care for others.