Was there ever a man Elizabeth Taylor wanted but couldn’t have? None that she can think of. At 19, she almost fell for Montgomery Clift, her costar in A Place in the Sun, but she somehow sensed his “situation” – his homosexuality – even before he did. “I don’t know how,” she says. “Because I was so young, and very puritanical, and I didn’t know much about life. But somehow I sensed it. And we loved each other so completely and unconditionally that I just accepted that as part of what he was. It was really fortuitous, because I could have very easily have fallen in love with him, and had a massively broken heart.”
When thinking back on the old days, Taylor is not one of those misty-eyed stars who remembers Hollywood as a kinder, more humane place than it is today. “No!” she says. “It’s exactly the same. It’s a dog-eat-dog town, and always has been. When I was a young movie star, I think it was even more vicious than now.” Working under contract for a studio, she says, amounted to “slave labor,” especially for women. “They had the right when you were pregnant to put you on suspension-there were things that today are undreamt of.” Nostalgia hasn’t clouded her memories of early childhood, either. “As a kid, the only time I was truly happy was when I was riding my horse,” she says. “And if I could ride now, that would still probably be the case. I love animals. You can trust them.”
Signs of that affection are evident all over the house. Although the living room is adorned with a Hals and a Pissarro (along with a now infamous Van Gogh, which Taylor bought at auction in the Sixties and is currently being reclaimed by the descendants of a Holocaust victim who allegedly owned it), what grabs your attention is the five-foot-long aquarium, loaded with fish and coral of every color. Shelves along one wall display a collection of bronze horses, sculpted by her daughter Liza. A stained-glass portrait of Sugar, bow in her hair, hangs against one window. Three cats scamper in and out.
The house often fills with human beings too: Taylor’s assistants, her household staff, her nurse and, right now, her visiting 19-year-old grandson, Quinn. And every year at Easter, Taylor invites all her friends over to spend an afternoon by the pool. “It’s very festive, with lots of sunshine and balloons.” There’s a petting zoo for the kids, along with circus performers and a tattooed lady.
Taylor also hires a psychic for the day, but that’s really for the guests. Despite the scores of the amethyst crystals that crowd her coffee table, and her past dabbling with the occult, Taylor doesn’t seem too preoccupied by the supernatural these days. She does pray sometimes, though. “I consult with God, my maker,” she says. “And I don’t have a lot of problems to work out. I’m pretty squared away.”