It Seems Like Yesterday

Liz, Larry, Nellie@Harry Benson 1992

Elizabeth Taylor is probably the greatest film star who ever lived. She certainly believed in marriage. There was no one more glamorous or, for that matter, more controversial.

Let’s start with controversial. I remember rushing off to Rome in 1962 without even stopping to pack a bag and found the entire Fleet Street press entourage on the same plane. I was on another assignment at the time and was told to drop everything, go straight to the airport, and get to Rome. The Pope had issued a statement saying that what was going on between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton while she was still married to Eddie Fisher was a disgrace to the “Holy Sacrament of Marriage.” I can’t remember any story in my career in journalism causing more of a sensation nor another Pope making a comment like that.

(Eddie and then-wife Debbie Reynolds had been comforting Liz over the death of her husband, Mike Todd, when Liz and Eddie decided to get married, but you remember all that.)

I arrived in Rome and started looking for them. No more than two or three  nights afterward “Liz and Dick,” as the press called them, appeared on Via Venato going from sidewalk café to sidewalk café, revealing themselves to the paparazzi. The hunted became the hunters. They were flaunting their relationship and reveling in the attention. During the day, they continued filming Cleopatra, which was at the time the most expensive extravaganza ever made.

  Over the years, I photographed Miss Taylor with husbands Michael Wilding, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton, Senator John Warner, and Larry Fortensky—and again in the hospital after her brain surgery (I chose to turn down her invitation to go into the operating theater.) 

I enjoyed every encounter with Elizabeth and will remember her as she was—full of life and love and laughter.