Remembering Elizabeth Taylor
1985, EIC was still more vision than reality. Having just been recognized by President Reagan for our national star driven (Bill Cosby- the extraordinaire, Donna Summer- songstress, Bart Conner – Olympian gymnast) radio public service campaign in partnership with McDonalds, we took the currency of this success and parlayed it into the predecessor to the PRISM Awards, the Nancy Reagan Awards. Over 1,000 celebrities and executives from the entertainment industry rallied to support Hollywood’s answering the call to steer our nation’s youth away from drug use…all respecting the phone call from MCA Chairman, Lew Wasserman (our first awards Chairman) to show up and support Mrs. Reagan and EIC… “because it was the right thing to do.” Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first to respond that she would attend.
As the Ballroom doors opened, I stood with our show producer, the phenomenal TV special impresario Gary Smith. We commented on the months of work and how it would all be over in a couple of hours. We breathed relief that we accommodated (on short order) our emcee for the evening, Frank Sinatra, who requested during rehearsal, “More strings in the orchestra in order for me to perform.” Did that mean he would not perform if we did not hire more strings? No time to ponder. Mr. Sinatra had spoken and the violins were rallied just in time!
I marveled at the hundreds of celebrities that came out to represent…as the sound of the orchestra filled the ballroom I noticed a couple on the dance floor, all alone…yet you could sense their presence, as guests stopped to watch their steps. As I looked closer, my mind raced to assimilate the images of Elizabeth Taylor and Jimmy Stewart perfectly in step, smiling at each other and oblivious to the rest of the room. Iconic stars caught up in a moment of music, friendship, dancing …brought together to support an event that in some way was familiar to both.
James Stewart was renowned for portraying Elwood P. Dowd, a middle-aged, amiable individual whose best friend is an invisible 6’3.5″ tall rabbit named Harvey. Elwood has driven his sister and niece (who live with him and crave normality and a place in ‘society’) to distraction by introducing everyone he meets to his friend, Harvey. His family seems to be unsure whether Dowd’s obsession with Harvey is a product of his (admitted) propensity to drink or perhaps mental illness.
Elizabeth Taylor in 1983 acknowledged a 35-year addiction to sleeping pills and painkillers. She was treated for alcohol and drug abuse at the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Elizabeth Taylor, in Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1966 (nominated for 13 Academy Awards in all eligible categories), had deep sensitivities to substance abuse. The film brought to her a second Academy Award for Best Actress as she portrayed the alcohol fueled Martha.
Elizabeth Taylor gave us so much to cherish through her craft as an actor and as a caring spirit. Her personal charitable work to help bring HIV/AIDS to the fore front by co-founding The American Foundation for AIDS Research, and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and her tireless efforts to help others touched millions of people worldwide. Elizabeth Taylor was generous and often profound. “If not to make the world better, what is money for? It is all about hope, kindness and a connection with one another.” That was Elizabeth Taylor.