Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered for her movies, her men, her rocks and, well, her eating. The voluptuous star lived life to the fullest on the set, in the bedroom and at the table--and the excesses of the latter too often showed up on her much-photographed figure. Gossip mags and comedians gorged on her excess.
“Is Elizabeth Taylor fat?” Joan Rivers was once quoted as saying. “Her favorite food is seconds.”
On “Saturday Night Live” in 1978, John Belushi hilariously parodied Taylor choking on a chicken bone, which actually happened as she campaigned for her then-husband No. 6, John Warner, in Big Stone Gap, Va. (Warner won the race, becoming a Republican senator from Virginia. But Taylor didn’t take to D.C. life, and her unhappiness bloomed along with her weight.)
Taylor’s food indulgences were so legendary she even made it into “The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink” for her “legendary demands for Chasen’s chili” while on the set of “Cleopatra.” Rumor has it she had “buckets” of it sent from the legendary Los Angeles restaurant to the set in Rome.
But as much as she overdid it at times, Taylor’s true love of food shined forth. Watch her in 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” as the boozy whoozy Martha, expertly salting and stripping bare a leftover chicken drumstick while sparring with George, played by husband number five, Richard Burton. There’s sheer joy in the eating as in the acting, and she didn’t care who knew it. How refreshing that is to see given all of today’s naysaying about food and total obsession on size zero figures.
Elizabeth Taylor ate, ok? Get over it. She did.
In her 1987 diet book: “Elizabeth Takes Off: On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self Image and Self-Esteem,” Taylor was frank in what Barbara Haber, author of “From Hardtack to Home Fries,” called the star’s “fat narrative that goes on for fully half the book and is organized around her first five marriages.” For Haber, Taylor’s diet book epitomizes what was “so appealing about the actress apart from her startling beauty--her directness, her resilience and zest for life and her wonderful good humor.”
As an example of that humor, Haber quotes a passage in which Taylor writes about Debbie Reynolds, from whom Taylor stole husband number four, Eddie Fisher:
“Someone told me that Debbie Reynolds kept a photograph of me taken during my fattest period on her refrigerator door. She said it reminded her of what could happen if she charged into the icebox. During the initial stage of my diet I thought, well, if it works for Debbie, maybe it will work for me . . . If you think a picture of me as Miss Lard will inspire you, go ahead and put it on your refrigerator. I have no objection.”
Now that’s class.