The term “movie star” is easily tossed around these days. Anyone who is a consistent cover girl on Us Weekly can be deemed a movie star, but very few of the starlets of 2011 can compete with the true divas of yesteryear: Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Marilyn Monroe and, one of the originals, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Yesterday we lost Taylor, the last great Hollywood star. As the cliché goes, it’s an end of an era.
After years of medical problems, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor died on March 23 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 79. Born in London in 1932, she became a superstar at only 12 years old with 1944’s National Velvet. She won two Oscars, married eight times and is best known for films such as Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Butterfield 8 (1960) and 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Most important, Taylor was a ferocious advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially after her close friend Rock Hudson died of complication from AIDS. At a time when President Ronald Reagan refused to mention the disease on camera, Taylor single-handedly used her celebrity to lead the charge for HIV/AIDS awareness before it was en vogue.
“La Liz” refused to be a damsel in distress or a casualty of Hollywood. Unlike Judy Garland, Monroe and Dandridge, she wouldn’t let the good old boys in suits make her another Tinseltown tragedy. Taylor was a survivor — a star since childhood — which must have been a huge reason that she bonded with the late, great Michael Jackson. My first memory of Taylor is seeing her in Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone” video.