On Furious Love
Celebrity book excerpts are often the best parts of the book so that when you actually sit down to read the book, you find that you’ve already read the only parts worth reading. I worried that this would be the case with Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century after it was profiled in Vanity Fair. Because it was SO intoxicatingly delicious in Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair was just a taste. The entire book, chapter after chapter, it’s drama on every page, and this is no exaggeration. They were either f-cking, fighting, spending, drinking, slapping, or sexing, and this was Life for them, this was how they lived, Elizabeth and Richard – years of unapologetic excess and entertainment until it threatened to kill them both. And played out in public. I’m obsessed.
Many journalists have noted upon reading Furious Love that we’ve been deprived this generation of True Celebrity Love like theirs. Brange is the current iteration but Brange is nothing, totally nothing, in comparison. And the difference is that Brange and all the rest of them now, they’re ashamed of it, or they hide from it, or they pretend that the Fame is gross and unsavoury.
Elizabeth and Richard loved the Fame. And they courted the Fame. And they never apologised for the Fame. And even though after a while people fronted like they were sick of their Fame, no one ever got sick of their Fame. How could you be sick of what they were? How could you be sick of words like this?
“She is a wildly exciting love-mistress, she is shy and witty, she is nobody’s fool, she is a brilliant actress, she is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography, she can be arrogant and wilful, she is clement and loving...she tolerates my impossibilities and my drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her, and she loves me!... And I’ll love her till I die.”
That’s the sh-t he would write to her, and about her, all the time. And he’d back it up with gestures, jewels, goddamn the jewels – it’s pages upon pages of the bidding for the jewels, and the wearing of the jewels, and the showing off the jewels, and the upstaging of other people’s parties by the jewels. One of my favourite things about Elizabeth Taylor is her Expectation of Jewels. She expected not only her lovers but also her producers and her directors to gift her with jewels just to reward her for showing up in their movies. She’d have them picked out, she’d let them know she was waiting, she would ignore it when they told her it was going to happen. And inevitably it always happened. Because she’s ELIZABETH TAYLOR.
The same Elizabeth Taylor who, oh, sometimes, oftentimes, showed up 5 hours late to shoot. And then spent another 3 getting her makeup done. This on top of all her film demands, like not working on her period, and having accommodations paid for to house all 15 of her dogs and their caretakers and her entourage and her family and her gardener and her takeout food and personal bartender and ten thousand other “staff” members assigned to the couple on personal detail. This is when they were living on land, mind you. Half the time they spent living on their yacht from port to port. And the requirements for that were another beast entirely.
These days, for the current crop of pseudo star, you would shudder at the excess. But this is a woman who almost dies once a year. She has been almost dying since she was in her 20s. She can conjure up a near-death experience at will – yet another amazing E Taylor attribute that will send you into hysterics while reading the book. Somehow, when her back is against the wall, somehow Elizabeth always almost dies. Not on purpose (well, except for the time she theatrically swallowed all those pills in front of Richard and he had to drive like a madman to the hospital), but by apparent divine intervention. This bitch could conjure up a health crisis in no time. And every time she saw the light and turned back, by the time she got back everyone would love her again. You will note, she has also OUTLIVED EVERYONE.
So no, we don’t judge Elizabeth Taylor by those standards. This is another calibre of star that we may never see again. They are a couple we may never see again. For how hard they loved. Like they invented the motherf-cker. Like the time they broke up and made up just 2 weeks later, in Rome of course, at the airport, with the paps standing by, and Richard sitting in a limo waiting for Elizabeth to come out:
“She finally left the terminal, and the policemen made a passageway for Elizabeth through the throng of reporters and paparazzi, as flashbulbs exploded all around her.
Still, Burton sat, unmoving, until the door opened and Elizabeth was practically propelled into the waiting car by a surge of photographers. That’s when they finally had the satisfaction of seeing Richard, through the darkened windows of the Rolls, kiss her face and bury his head in her breasts, taking in the smell of her.”
Life was a movie, and the movie was life. This inevitably became the problem. But to the observer, it doesn’t get any more compelling, even when it turns tragic. Burton’s alcoholism is heartbreaking. And well documented in several biographies dedicated to his life proper. Shocking how much he drank, how much they drank, how much they carted around the world for the purpose of the drink, and that this was how they lived, all of them in that circle back then, not just the Burtons but the Society of that time, the consequence of which was that in the end there was no Liz & Dick Part 3. There’s no denying there would and should have been.
So of course he wrote to her on the day he died. Of course. It’s the one letter that she won’t show anyone, keeps by her bed every night until she’s ready to join him...
Oh my God it really doesn’t get more Fabulous. And I don’t ever use the word Fabulous. Because it’s so abused the word Fabulous. And few people truly deserve the word Fabulous. CUPCAKES ARE NOT FABULOUS!!!
But they, Elizabeth and Richard, they were SO FABULOUS. And this is a book full of Fabulous.
I had an advanced copy so I haven’t seen the final version in stores. Hopefully the final version comes with pictures because I had no pictures and this made me crazy.
Also the writing – yeah at times embarrassingly sychophantic. But then again, consider the subject. It’s not possible to over-love her. Once again, she is ELIZABETH TAYLOR.