I used to fantasize that I would grow up to be a beautiful woman-a movie star like Elizabeth Taylor. She was my idol, and I loved to catch glimpses of her on the news during the scandal with Eddie Fisher. One day as I sat in the reception room in a medical office while my mother was in with the doctor, I became so excited because there on the table lay a magazine with an article about Elizabeth Taylor. I quickly scanned through the pages, and there was a full-page close-up of my favorite star with a scar on her throat she called my “life scar.” It had resulted after she had pneumonia and a tracheotomy was performed to save her life. When asked during the interview if she was embarrassed at having a scar in such a visible place, she said, “Of course not! Without this scar I would not be here today!” I secretly began tearing out the page as quietly as I could. I knew my mother would not have approved, but I just had to have this picture of my idol. I folded it neatly and tucked it in my purse.
Looking as this picture over the next few years helped me to have hope and dare to dream of a life beyond this farm. It would be five years later before I actually experienced one of my life’s greatest joys. I went to New York City on my senior class trip in 1964, and at that time, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were starring in Cleopatra. Our entire class went to see the film. It was so exciting, but I never could have imagined the next thrill. As we walked out of the theatre and got in a cab, the driver said, “If you kids want to see them in person, you need to go to the stage door entrance to Hamlet at ten o’clock tonight. You will see Elizabeth Taylor arrive in a limousine to pick up Richard Burton.”
We secretly made a plan to sneak out of our hotel and make our way to Times Square. We were not sure of the way, so we asked strangers on the street. Before we realized it, we had an entire entourage in our wake, following us to get a glimpse of the famous movie stars. When we finally arrived at the theatre, the streets were lined with fans also waiting for the limousine. The police had put up barricades to control the crowds and protect the stars. My classmates, knowing my excitement, immediately pushed through the crowd and hoisted me up to stand on one of the barricades.
I did have to wait long. Right on schedule, just as the cab driver predicted, there she was. She actually got out of the limo and waved at the crowd. I was completely spellbound, and to this day, I remember exactly what she wore-a turquoise flowered dress and a big straw hat with the identical fabric to match her dress. Her stunning violet eyes and signature heavy dark eyebrows were clearly visible from across the street.
Richard Burton emerged from the stage door as the crowd screamed and cheered. He looked like a knight or prince walking up to claim his princess. Once at her side, he kissed her and took her hand. The two waved, climbed in the limo, and made their way through the excited fans and onlookers. The moment is locked in my memory and after all these years, I can still see every detail clearly in my mind’s eye.