Machado adored the creative side of being a fashion editor, particularly working with Avedon, who, she says, made every subject feel at ease and “like the most beautiful person in the world.” Two memorable portrait sittings: Elizabeth Taylor’s and Judy Garland’s. Machado was thrilled at the prospect of working with Taylor yet fretted over how to dress her. When Taylor showed up, her conversation—“What a mouth: “Everything was ‘What the f--- is it,’ ‘Get this c---sucker…’”—was startling in contrast to her dowdy appearance, Machado says. “She had this big head, this big chest and two little legs that came out at the bottom—she looked like a robin. [But] put her in front of a camera, make her up, and suddenly there was magic.” To do her part in creating that magic, Machado placed the actress in a feathered Halston headdress. Garland, whom Machado had met through Kay Thompson (author of the Eloise books, and Liza Minnelli’s godmother), also had a nonmodel body type—tiny, “with tits that hung down to her knees. I almost died. She had nice legs. I think we put a black sweater on her and leggings or something, so she could cross her legs or something.”
It was Thompson who provided Machado the invitation to one of the most memorable parties of her life. The two had met, with Thompson’s “taking a fancy” to Machado, she says. One day Thompson called to inquire about possible venues for a party that she wanted to throw for Noël Coward, and Machado suggested Avedon’s studio on Broadway, at 53rd Street. The guest list included Garland, Lena Horne, Lenny Hayden, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Tammy Grimes, Christopher Plummer and Roddy McDowall. Thompson installed two grand pianos in the space, facing each other. “Kay played the piano, and Lenny Hayden played the piano. Lena Horne gets up and sings,” Machado says, delighting in the memory. “Judy Garland gets up and sings. Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier begin to recite Shakespeare. In my life I have never been to a party like that again. I’m sorry I didn’t write down everybody’s name. I was in such awe.”
While Machado loved socializing on her own terms, she did not take to the increasing expectation at Harper’s Bazaar that she should be “going out with all of Seventh Avenue.” With her contract expiring and her interests veering more toward television and film, she left the magazine and went on to a myriad of endeavors. She produced fashion TV shows, including one for NBC called The Wonderful World of Pizzazz, as well as runway shows around the country, and worked as a costume designer for several films.
In 1988 she was lured back to magazines by Frances Lear, who, flush with millions from her divorce from TV producer Norman Lear, wanted a project of her own. Though Machado initially had zero interest in returning to editorial, she thought Lear’s concept of a namesake publication for “the woman who wasn’t born yesterday” was a terrific idea and, after much courting, took the job. The magazine faced enough challenges—for one, convincing photographers to shoot women over 55 (Lear’s original entry point for models)—without having to deal with an impossible boss. But unfortunately, Lear quickly gained the reputation of being, as Machado puts it, “the craziest woman in the world.” It would come out later that Lear had long suffered from manic depression.