“I was so drunk I thought I was Peter O’Toole.” - Richard Burton
Hands up anyone who is staggered to realise that Elizabeth Taylor is still alive. I’m one of them. With all of her supposed health issues I expected her to pop her clogs years ago, but like a limpet clinging to the bottom of a boat, she’s hanging in there. Personally I think she’s waiting to be crowned the new Queen of England; she couldn’t do a worse job than the last one.
Taylor is famous for a number of things. She was the first actress to be paid a million dollars for a movie, Cleopatra (horrid, no matter how you look at it), and won an Oscar for a sub-standard performance. The common theory is that she got the Oscar because she nearly died, indeed during the filming of Cleopatra her tracheotomy scar is on full display. She did do some good movies though, but the bulk of her film career is littered with more shit than the average kitty litter tray. Possibly the most famous thing Taylor is known for isn’t her brilliant violet eyes, it’s the many marriages and star crossed affairs that she’s had.
Her first marriage, to Nicky Hilton wasn’t anything to write home about. And yes, Nicky Hilton was one of the famous Hilton type people, indeed the current Nicky Hilton, sister to Paris ‘Man Hands’ Hilton, was named after the original Nicky. Say what you want about the new Nicky, but she doesn’t appear half as trashy, or ugly, as her notorious, very untalented and unsexy, sister. From there Taylor spent five years with Michael Wilding before divorcing him in favour of Michael Todd. And that’s where things got really interesting.
Todd was larger than life; indeed he was larger than larger than life. When people were releasing movies in CinemaScope, producer Todd went for his own, Todd-AO. His magnus opus was the classic movie, Around The World In Eighty Days, in which David Niven gives one of his best performances, but is overshadowed by the star spotting and playing second fiddle to a Mexican bullfighter. Still, Niven made more than his fair share of crap, and like Taylor, a lot of Niven’s movies are so bad that they’re not even worthy enough to be played as the mid-day movie in Tarcoola, or even as Thursday afternoon fare on community TV. However in 80 Days Niven showed that he could carry a movie and Todd showed that he was a producer to be reckoned with. Just as Todd was standing on top of the world and about to really break through he died in a plane crash. This would have upset Taylor no end as she was denied another divorce, but became a widow – any excuse to wear black!
Two of Taylor-Todd’s friends with Eddie Fisher and Debbie ‘Tammy’ Reynolds. If you’re under the age of 60 you won’t remember either of them, although Debbie had a career, as did Eddie, and they did produce Princess Leia as a daughter. Most people these days confuse Reynolds with Debbie Boone and are possibly convinced that Reynolds sang You Light Up My Life, a crime that would see anyone locked up in certain countries. Still, Fisher tolerated Reynolds, as his memoirs would later show. “It wasn't so much an old-fashioned shotgun wedding as it was a flashbulb wedding,” Fisher remembered. “Maybe it was much more of a business decision than an expression of love.” On such bedrocks of foundations true love wilts. Still, Fisher was a romantic, or so he wanted people to believe. “Until my marriage to Elizabeth, my singing career was more important that the pursuit of romance, but after that ... after that women became my addiction ... I chased romance my whole life." He might have chased it, but it took him decades after that to apparently find it.
When Todd died Fisher and Reynolds were there to lend a hand and a shoulder for Taylor to cry upon. At the time their own marriage was on the rocks, but this wasn’t public knowledge. As a result Fisher lent Taylor more than just his shoulder to lean on, he also allowed her to access other parts of his body. The result was Eddie left Debbie and moved in with Liz.
Things happen, life goes on, but not in the 1960s. Taylor was branded a home wrecker and any sympathy that the death of Todd had given her evaporated overnight. Fisher was branded an idiot and a bastard, for leaving his poor wife and Princess Leia and shacking up with a widow. Reynolds came out of it smelling like a rose... Nine months later the divorce of Fisher and Reynolds was finalised, and around four hours after that Fisher and Taylor were married. As Fisher recalled, it was a romantic event. “I divorced Debbie and married Elizabeth the day I finished my run at the Tropicana ... It was a typical two-rabbi Jewish ceremony. As usual, Elizabeth was late for her own wedding. We invited very few people, among them our parents and some friends. Mike Todd Jr. was my best man. We were married under the chuppah, a canopy, and as is traditional, at the end of the ceremony I stomped on a wineglass.” The went on a honeymoon to Spain and Taylor prepared to enter the next phase of her life, which included the movie Cleopatra and the opportunity to act alongside one Richard Burton, who was playing Brutus. Rumour has it that when Burton found out he was cast as Brutus he went on a bender – no great shock there – and was heard to exclaim, “Oh well, time to don the breastplate and act alongside Miss Tits once more.” Such was the regard Burton held for Miss Tits.
It made no difference. Miss Tits and Burton had an affair resulting in Fisher being dumped. It wasn’t the first time Fisher had been dumped, as he was dumped from his own television show and lost a lot of respect and contracts. Still, even though he was cast over as he once cast over Reynolds, Fisher maintained that, “Elizabeth, she was the love of my life. Even though our relationship started unhappily, hurting Debbie and all, and although it ended unhappily with me getting hurt, there was a lot of love in the middle of our relationship. We were happy for a while until the cad came along." Still, the cad did what Fisher couldn’t; he married Miss Tits twice (you think he’d have learnt the first time around) and remained the one major love of her life. Self-confessed romantic Fisher went on to hook up with Connie Stevens, remarking that, “"We started arguing when we landed in Puerto Rico and basically didn't stop until we separated and divorced." After that he married twice more, memorably to a 21 year old when he was aged 47. That marriage lasted long enough for the bride to get custody of the cake.
But without such weddings we’d never have such documents as these restraining orders, which Fisher, the ole soft romantic that he was, lodged against Taylor. Good thing too, if Burton had really hit the piss he might have come after him, the cad!