Hollywood has lost a grand diva of the silver screen. Actress Elizabeth Taylor is dead at age 79. The iconic star, whose career spanned 70 years, died early Wednesday morning peacefully at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Taylor had been seriously ill for more than a decade and was being treated for congestive heart failure. She had been hospitalized for two months.
The Academy Award–winning actress, activist and businesswoman was best known for her work in such iconic films as 'Giant,' 'National Velvet,' 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' and 'Butterfield 8,' but even more than that, Taylor was a giant humanitarian with a heart that was generous to a fault.
An avid defender of civil rights, Taylor strongly believed in equality for all even during a time in Hollywood when blacks were treated like second-class citizens. She was known to selflessly donate monies to various grassroots organizations to further the cause of racial justice.
Taylor was also a longtime devoted friend to pop mega-star Michael Jackson (pictured right). Theirs was a solidified friendship that withstood all of the turbulent media lynchings that Jackson went through during the later stages of his career.
Taylor and Jackson are said to have become friends after one of Jackson's Los Angeles concerts in the 1980s. Taylor reportedly walked out of the concert because of "poor visibility," and Jackson called her to ask why. A few minutes on the phone led to three hours, and the next thing they knew, they were close friends.
Aside from their public friendship, it was rumored for years that Taylor and Jackson carried on an affair. Taylor once said about her friend Michael:
"What is a genius? What is a living legend? What is a mega star? Michael Jackson -- that's all. And when you think you know him, he gives you more... I think he is one of the finest people to hit this planet, and in my estimation, he is the true King of Pop, Rock and Soul. He is part of my heart. We would do anything for each other."
Taylor and Jackson are said to have told each other "everything" and bonded because of their tumultuous pasts and histories of being "troubled young stars." Some say that their relationship was borderline obsessive, including Jackson's alleged Elizabeth Taylor shrine in his home. They are also said to have shared nights together in Neverland, although Elizabeth Taylor claims all they did was laugh, hang out and watch a lot of Walt Disney.
In addition to her film work and humanitarian efforts, Taylor was a serial bride. Married eight times to such famous men as actor Richard Burton, crooner Eddie Fisher and millionaire hotelier Conrad Hilton (grandfather of Paris Hilton), it was strongly rumored last year that Taylor was scheduled to go down the aisle yet again with a ninth candidate, 49-year-old Jason Winters (pictured below), who is an African-American millionaire businessman, head of Sterling Winters Management and is Janet Jackson's manager.
The rumors were shot down by Taylor, though, when she said that even though she loved Winters "with all her heart," there would be no ninth marriage.
As a businesswoman, Taylor became best known for her creation of the best-selling White Diamonds fragrance, which hit the market in 1991. In the fall of 2006, Taylor celebrated the 15th anniversary of her White Diamonds perfume, one of the top-10 best-selling fragrances for more than a decade. White Diamonds, along with her other popular scents, Passion and Black Pearls, earned an estimated $200 million in annual sales.
The actress who has appeared in more than 70 films cheated death countless times: A common cold caused her to miss being on the flight that killed her third husband and movie producer Mike Todd. Taylor had medical issues that plagued her throughout her life, such as pneumonia, two hip-joint replacements, pregnancy delivery problems, a hysterectomy, serious back injuries, an appendectomy, an abscessed tooth, a brain membrane condition, a tracheotomy, stomach infection, internal bleeding surgery, drug and alcohol abuse and she even choked on a chicken bone.
The last of the few remaining film goddesses, Taylor is survived by her four children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
We will truly miss you, diva!
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