Elizabeth Taylor was nothing if not enigmatic. Until her death Wednesday (March 23) at age 79, she was the living symbol of Hollywood’s golden era. The last of the truly larger-than-life glamorous, iconic women who, like Marilyn Monroe, left a lasting impression on generations of film fans.
But while most of her contemporaries — like Jane Russell, who also recently passed away — retired from the spotlight as their careers wound down, Taylor remained in the public eye. She was a tireless activist and fundraiser for AIDS research. She was also one of the first celebrities to launch her own fragrance — her White Diamonds, Passion and Black Pearls earn an estimated $200 million a year, according to FragranceNet.
And, in the past couple of years, Taylor became a constant on Twitter — sending out inspirational messages from @DameElizabeth, she kept up a dialogue with her fans and weighed in with her usual grace on tragic events, like the death of close friend Michael Jackson.
Taylor’s final message to her 321,513 followers alerted fans to her Bazaar magazine interview with Kim Kardashian. That was Feb. 9. She was hospitalized on Feb. 11).
In July 2010, when Taylor heard about a rumored project about her relationship with two-time husband Richard Burton, she tweeted:
No one is going to play Elizabeth Taylor, but Elizabeth Taylor herself.
Not at least until I’m dead, and at the moment I’m having too much fun being alive…and I plan on staying that way. Happiness to all.
“Happiness to all.” Classic words from a classic woman who, rather than retreating behind a wall of privilege and fame, remained a vital and very present member of the cultural zeitgeist.