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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12
Movie star/AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor dies
Arts & Entertainment
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Movie star/AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor dies

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Hollywood icon and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23. She was 79.

In the often treacherous world of Hollywood, she earned a reputation as a loyal friend.

She stood by Michael Jackson, for example, throughout the twists and turns of his career, appearing at his 2005 trial to offer moral support. Jackson's funeral in 2009 was her last public appearance.

It was her friendship with Rock Hudson, however, that changed her life.

The two met on the set of Giant in 1956, and remained close friends for almost 30 years.

When Hudson announced he was dying of AIDS in 1985, Taylor became interested in combating the disease. With Hollywood friends Burt Lancaster, Burt Reynolds, and Shirley McLaine, she organized a 'Commitment to Life' benefit to raise $1 million for AIDS research.

Hudson died only two weeks after the event. Taylor went on to devote much of her time and substantial money to fighting AIDS.

At a time when then-president Ronald Reagan could not even bring himself to say the word 'AIDS' in public, Taylor helped found AmFAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research) in 1985.

AmFAR remains one of the leading AIDS research organizations, providing funding to researchers for early-stage projects and enabling young researchers to build careers studying HIV/AIDS.

In 1991, she endowed her own foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. By 1999, she had helped to raise some $50 million to fight the disease.

In 2006, Taylor commissioned a 37-foot 'Care Van' equipped with examination tables and X-ray equipment and also donated $40,000 to the New Orleans AIDS Task Force, to help care for people with HIV/AIDS in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Taylor played a number of memorable roles, winning two Best Actress Oscars for Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

She was also nominated for her work in Raintree Country, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Suddenly Last Summer.

Although she was a goddess of the film industry, her personal life was turbulent and often unhappy.

She was married eight times to seven different husbands - twice to Richard Burton.

Their 1966 performances as an embittered, drunken, and self-destructive couple in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was said to mirror their volatile real-life relationship.

Taylor also suffered from chronic health problems for most of her adult life.

A fall from a horse while filming National Velvet in 1944 led to a lifetime of back pain, which contributed to her addiction to painkillers and alcohol.

A rare strain of pneumonia almost killed her in 1961. In the 1990s, she endured two hip replacement operations, another near-fatal bout of pneumonia, and surgery for a benign brain tumor in 1997.

In 2004, she announced that she was suffering from congestive heart failure, the disease which finally killed her.

Taylor's death was marked by tributes from her son, Michael Wilding, from her many show business friends - including Elton John, Joan Collins, and Michael Caine - and from the HRC, recognizing her work as an advocate for people with HIV/AIDS.

In a sense, Taylor wrote her own epitaph, however.

'I don't entirely approve of some of the things I have done, or am, or have been. But I'm me. God knows, I'm me,' she once said.

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