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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Remembering Elizabeth Taylor
Aired March 23, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight remembering Elizabeth Taylor, the life and loves of one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood history. Eight marriages, more than 50 films, a child star from the age of 12.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ACTRESS: I guess I'm a survivor and I've been very lucky in my life.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Elizabeth Taylor's celebrity friends remember the queen of Hollywood and I'll talk to some of the people who really did know her best.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: My life has been like a yo-yo. I've been up and down so many times.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Her 60-year career, two Oscars, the first for her role as a party girl in "Butterfield Eight."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: One call I want to take personally and immediately.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And her extraordinary life off screen. Who else could make worldwide headlines with an affair on the set of the movie "Cleopatra."
Remembering Elizabeth Taylor, this is a special edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. Tonight Hollywood and the world are remembering a woman who defined screen glamour for several generations, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. For the next hour I'll talk to her friends and family, the people who knew the private Elizabeth, the woman behind the legend. We begin with Carol Bayer Sager, the Oscar-winning songwriter of classics like "That's What Friends are For." She was a close friend of Elizabeth's for many years and she's at her bedside when she sadly passed away today.
Carol, what were your feelings today when Dame Elizabeth finally died. She's been ill for a long time. It must have been, I guess, a bittersweet moment, a relief that she was no longer in pain.
CAROLE BAYER SAGER, SONGWRITER: Yes, and I mean, I went there last night to say good-bye and I knew she was going, and I hated that she'd been in hospital for seven weeks, but she wasn't in pain last night. And she wasn't really conscious when I saw her, but I was there with Liza and Maria, her -- two of her daughters and -- her two daughters, and I was able to say good-bye.
And what I want to say, Piers, is that she was an extraordinary friend, and not just for the good times, Elizabeth showed up. She showed up in my life when my marriage broke up many years ago and -- to Burt Bacharach. She was there. She's there for her friends, for her family, her assistant Tim who's been with her for 20 years when his mother died this year. She insisted that she come and stay at her home and she made a hospice for Tim's mom.
And she made a hospice for her longtime publicist Chen Sam who died a number of years ago and she died in Elizabeth's home. She was there for Roddy McDowall who she loved dearly. They were child actors together. And she held him in her arms and she knew how to show up.
She showed up for Michael Jackson when he needed support. She flew across the world to be with him years before the big case, the incident before that. I mean, she was an extraordinary, loving, generous friend.
MORGAN: Carol, how was she towards the end of your life, do you think? I got a sense of frustration about getting old and being so frail and ill all the time.
SAGER: I don't think it was about getting old. I don't think Elizabeth feared getting old. I think it was not being fully vital. I -- she was in a wheelchair for the last few years of her life and then this year she fractured both of her knees and literally had to be carried out of the wheelchair and out of the hospital bed.
So her life -- she couldn't do the things -- I mean she did. She was so brave. That's another thing I want to say. She was so brave because most of her life she endured chronic back pain and she brought all this light and love and generosity to this world in spite of the fact that often she was in pain.
And I think the last few years in -- this is just my feeling -- didn't bring her as much joy because her body was failing and she wasn't, her spirit wasn't, but her body was, and it had lived a lot and suffered a lot.
MORGAN: Carol, what do you think would be the way that she would like to be remembered? What was most important to Elizabeth, do you think?
SAGER: Most important to Elizabeth were her family, her friends, her care about AIDS research, standing up before anyone that we knew of in Hollywood stood up after her friend Rock Hudson died a terrible death from AIDS. She came out and supported amfAR and later her own foundation.
She came to the studio with me when -- when Burt Bacharach and I were putting Stevie Wonder on "That's What Friends are For," with Gladys Knight, and it's because she was there that we -- I realized, you know, we should give the money to Elizabeth for amfAR.
And I think she'd want to be known as an actress who cared very, very deeply about her friends and this world.
MORGAN: Carol, it's a remarkably personal tribute to Elizabeth Taylor. Thank you very much, indeed.
SAGER: You're very welcome, Piers.
MORGAN: Joan Collins joins me now.
And, Joan, you have an interesting history with Elizabeth Taylor because of course she got this great role "Cleopatra" and you were in the running for that role.
JOAN COLLINS, ACTRESS: Yes, Piers, I was, and I was under contract to 20th Century FOX when they decided to make "Cleopatra," and I did several tests with several actors who -- well, to say that they were wooden would be unkind to trees. They didn't bring out the big guns for my tests.
And anyway, it got to the point where they were building the sets and it became very, very expensive and they decided that they didn't want little old me because I wasn't a big enough star, so they would go for -- you know, the top female of the time, female actress of the time, and that was Elizabeth, and they went to her and they offered her $1 million -- no, they didn't offer her $1 million.
She said she would do it for $1 million. She was the first million-dollar actress. And this was I think 1962, so she did it and I didn't get the part but about a year later I'm lying in bed, my agent Jay Kantor calls me and said, stand by to get on the next plain to London. I said, why? What's happened? He said Elizabeth is very, very sick, they think she's going to die. She's in the hospital in London and they want you to take over as Cleopatra.
I said, I -- I can't do that. She's a friend of mine. I would feel absolutely dreadful to do that if she's going to die that I'm going to go over and take her role as Cleopatra. He said, listen, this is showbiz, kid, you wait -- wait by the phone, do not move.
Well, of course, there's no cell phones on those days, so I sat by the phone all day biting my nails and hoping that she would get better and, of course, she did get better as we all know, and I didn't get Cleopatra. But she got Richard Burton which is another story. (LAUGHTER)
MORGAN: I mean she was a quite remarkable star, wasn't she, Joan? I mean you've been a star the length of the time that she was, but there was something special about Liz Taylor, wasn't there?
COLLINS: Well, I remember when I first saw her, everybody wanted to look like -- well, not -- when I first saw her, when she did "A Date with Judy' when she was about 15 and everybody -- all my friends, all of us at school, we all wanted to look like her. We all wanted to have the big eyebrows and we all wanted to have the black hair and the beauty mark.
And she was phenomenal and I kept a scrapbook on her which is why it was so fascinating for me a few years later in Hollywood to actually meet her at MGM in the makeup room, and she was so sweet because she -- and she was showing pictures of her children to everybody and she was very bawdy.
You know, I think that's something that a lot of people didn't know about her. She liked to salty turn of phrase but then us English actresses always did do that.
MORGAN: And apart from great acting you also shared, of course, a penchant for men and husbands, Joan. I hope you don't mind me saying that. You have 13 between you.
COLLINS: Oh no. That's true and, in fact, the last time that I got a divorce, she sent me a note and she said, I'm still ahead by three.
COLLINS: I said -- I sent one back saying, don't worry, Liz, I'm going to catch up.
MORGAN: I mean just to --
COLLINS: And, Liz -- I actually didn't call her Liz. I always called her Elizabeth because she didn't like being called Liz, and -- so I think people have a huge amount of respect for her. And the thing that was so amazing about her is that most women really liked her.
She was a gal's gal, you know. Like Carol just said, she was so one of the girls and people like -- and of course, men just fell all over themselves for her.
MORGAN: Yes, an amazing woman, an incredible actress.
MORGAN: Joan Collins, thanks so much.
MORGAN: For that insight. I really appreciate it.
COLLINS: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: And I want to bring in someone who interviewed Elizabeth Taylor more than anybody else, my predecessor, Larry King.
Larry, it must be a very sad day for you. You knew Liz Taylor probably better than most people.
LARRY KING, FORMER HOST, CNN'S "LARRY KING LIVE": It's true, I knew her since the late 1970s and as Joan and Carol have said, she was extraordinary in so many ways. If you'd look at her life, she was a great child star. Look at "National Velvet." That picture holds up.
A great screen actress despite her beauty. Sometimes people are so beautiful that people overlook how talented they are. She was an extraordinary actress. She changed her faith. She became Jewish. She had one of the largest breakups in movie history. She broke up a marriage. Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Retained her dignity. Married Richard Burton twice. Told me once that the great love of her life was Mike Todd who died in a plane crash.
KING: She was so giving and when she supported you -- if she liked you -- you had no better friend. There's a lot of comparisons to Sinatra and her, both icons, both said whatever they thought, didn't care what the press thought about them, when they stood up for you they stood up for you.
Michael Jackson, she was in the front row. First real star to stand up for AIDS. There's so many things about her, in fact, everything you can do in life she did.
MORGAN: Larry, I wanted to just play a clip now from one of your interviews, this one from 2006. And I'll talk to you after we've watched a bit of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is it hard, Elizabeth, or easy to work with someone you're in love with.
TAYLOR: No, I've never had a better time in my life.
KING: Than working with Richard.
TAYLOR: Yes, on "Virginia Woolf".
KING: Even though you fought tooth and nail.
TAYLOR: Well, we've got it all out on the set, and we go home, have dinner with the children, play word games with them, learn our lines after dinner, and go to sleep. KING: Did you love doing that play?
TAYLOR: I did.
KING: Because that -- that -- that's top of the crop writing, isn't it?
TAYLOR: Oh, wonderful. And wonderful words to wrap your lips around.
KING: How did you like -- was Richard a helpful actor?
TAYLOR: He was a brilliant actor. And helpful and we were like on the same being so much that we treated each other --
KING: Is that still the ring he gave you?
TAYLOR: Well, I don't throw it often --
KING: Can we get a shot of this ring because it's sinking ships and --
TAYLOR: I see it.
KING: Was this his engagement ring to you?
TAYLOR: No, it was like a couple of years later.
KING: Just a gift.
KING: A bauble that he gave to you.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Just for tiny little massive rock there, Larry. I mean --
MORGAN: It was a compelling interview.
KING: Bubbles bangles.
MORGAN: What do you think made her --
KING: Thank you. You would have loved her, Piers.
MORGAN: Yes. KING: Piers, she was a great interview because she gave you what you wanted.
MORGAN: What do you think --
KING: She knew how to -- she knew how to respond.
MORGAN: Larry, what do you think made her such a great star? I saw today that you said earlier in your view she was possibly the last of the great, great stars. What made her that?
KING: Because of the -- first of all, Piers, you've never seen eyes like Elizabeth Taylor's. They were violet. They were deep violet. She was a tiny woman. She was not tall at all. Tiny. But she had a face -- it went right through you so she had that. She had a magnificent presence and that last -- and when you say she was the last, she was the last.
There's no one could step in her shoes. We -- I was talking to today someone, I couldn't think of anyone in the film industry today who could sadly pass away, let's say -- pick anyone -- who would have the attention she is getting today around the world.
MORGAN: It's very true and she -- as I was saying to Joan Collins earlier she was married eight times. So were you, Larry. I always think the easier thing for the pair of you might have been to get together when you were younger.
KING: No, we would have had a friendship.
MORGAN: Might have saved you a lot of money, Larry.
KING: Yes, it did.
MORGAN: Tell me more about her --
KING: You would have loved her.
MORGAN: Yes, what was she like away from the cameras, Larry? What was she like?
KING: Same as she was on camera. She told you what she thought. She was fun to be with. She was -- as Joan said she was very funny. She had a great sense of humor. A great sense of herself and what she wanted.
You know, when the AIDS thing burst on the scene she was the first. She got all these movie stars to join with her. She urged the president to pay more attention to it. She was in it, you know, before Rock Hudson acquired it, she was into AIDS.
In the early '80s when we first became aware of the term and when she fought for something she fought for it vigorously. She gave it with all she had. She was so -- you know a word that fits her? Passion. She was passionate about everything.
She just soaked it up. She soaked up the room. She changed the room when she walked in it. We'll never see her likes again. Never.
MORGAN: I think the world is going to miss Elizabeth Taylor, isn't it, Larry?
KING: Sure are, and even though she -- we didn't see much of her the last couple of years, she was very ill, we'll never have anyone -- think of it from --
KING: We know Elizabeth Taylor, she's died at 79. We knew her for 65 years.
MORGAN: Amazing. An amazing life.
Larry King, thank you very much indeed.
KING: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: When we come back my exclusive interview with a woman who knew Elizabeth Taylor as no one else could, her stepdaughter, Carrie Fisher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE FISHER, ACTOR: Because I'm sick of opening that door every other day and finding you boozed up, burned out and ugly. Why do you come like this?
TAYLOR: Where have I always come, Steve? At least I can be honest with you.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Elizabeth Taylor and her first of two Oscars as Best Actress in 1961 for that role in "BUtterfield 8" starring opposite Eddie Fisher.
And joining me now is Eddie's daughter, Elizabeth's stepdaughter, author and actress, Carrie Fisher.
Carrie, thank you very much first of all for agreeing to do this interview. It must be a very sad day for you.
CARRIE FISHER, ELIZABETH TAYLOR'S STEPDAUGHTER: Very sad. Especially -- I mean I lost my father this year, and not that many months ago, and actually I called Elizabeth to tell her when he passed and she cried.
MORGAN: Did she really?
C. FISHER: Which I thought was incredibly sweet. I mean she had really a sense of family even -- bizarre -- you know someone that she had been married to so long ago.
MORGAN: And what kind of person was Elizabeth Taylor away from the glare of the media coverage? What was the real Elizabeth like, do you think?
C. FISHER: Well, to me she really -- she really -- she really loved a good time. She -- I remember one time she pushed me in the pool after establishing that I wouldn't pull here in afterwards and she used to have these egg hunts at her house for all the children and she seemed to love doing stuff like that.
And she -- she just one night I went on -- we went on a double date. It was Elizabeth and Michael Jackson, and Shirley MacLaine and myself.
C. FISHER: And it was like -- no one noticed Shirley and I.
C. FISHER: But Michael had given her that. Michael gave her jewelry and she loved presents and he had given her these earrings and a necklace that night and I remember how happy she was.
MORGAN: Your father and Elizabeth famously didn't speak for nearly 40 years until 2007 but your mother Debbie Reynolds said that she spoke to her just two weeks ago and they had a very good conversation.
C. FISHER: No, yes, she -- well, yes, I mean my mother said, you know, Elizabeth wasn't feeling that well and I think like Carol said, she just -- you know, she was someone who really enjoyed having a vital life, and you know, to be sort of bedridden like that, I don't -- I think she'd rather be in bed another way.
C. FISHER: So she wasn't -- you know, she wasn't enjoying herself.
MORGAN: And for you, Carrie, what was it like growing up in the glare of such overwhelming publicity and kind of these huge stars around you all the time? It couldn't have been normal.
C. FISHER: Well, I have no idea what -- but it was my normal. You know, I had nothing really -- nothing to compare it to. But, you know, she was a very -- I mean ultimately I became friends with her and, you know, I like -- the celebrities of that time, I mean, like people were saying, the paparazzi, they would literal live in the yard. I mean, the scandal of my father leaving my mother for Elizabeth and I would spend over the years, I'd go -- I once was having a cooking lesson and the woman said to me, I hate your father. I -- you know, he left her for that woman.
People carried that scandal with them forever and they would talk to me about it in the abstract in a way.
MORGAN: And what did you think that your father ended up thinking about Elizabeth?
C. FISHER: I know what he thought. He loved her. I mean my father said -- I was talking to him one of the last times I saw him and he said she was the source. That's what he said, that she was just this -- I got -- it was this tremendous source of vitality, of just embracing life.
MORGAN: She certainly was, Carrie. We're going to take a short break and when we come back, I want to talk to you some more about your stepmother, Elizabeth Taylor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wished your mother was here.
TAYLOR: She is here. She's inside me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Velvet, you'll be disqualified at the end when they find out you're a girl. You'll have to forfeit the prize money and even send you to prison for fraud. And if there's any trouble you tell me --
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was Elizabeth Taylor in the role that made her a star, "National Velvet."
And back now is Elizabeth's stepdaughter, author and actress Carrie Fisher.
Carrie, there's something absolutely mesmeric about Elizabeth Taylor on screen. I've been showing the clips from the films all day today. I've just been watching almost in awe at her beauty. The sort of radiance she brought to a screen.
What was your impression of her as an actress?
C. FISHER: Well, I mean she glowed. I mean if she was on screen, you didn't look at anyone else. Perhaps with the exception of Montgomery Cliff. In a way they sort of looked alike and they had become very close friends and she -- he'd gotten in a terrible accident leaving her house and she actually saved his life.
She pulled his teeth from his throat, so she just -- and she loved her -- she loved acting. She actually -- I wrote something, this bizarre cheesy TV/movie called "These Old Broads," and it starred my mother and Elizabeth and Joan Collins and Shirley.
And my mother and Liz -- Elizabeth had this scene where they basically were talking about my father, referring to him as Freddie, I believe, something subtle like that.
MORGAN: She obviously had many passions in her life. She was quoted as saying that life's about having passions, and whether it was acting or her work for AIDS charities, you could see that driving her every day, but the real passion it seemed to me was always men. And she had all these amazingly charismatic male figures in her life.
Tonight we've heard from Joan Collins and Larry King, two different names put forward as the great love of her life, one, Richard Burton, the other Michael Todd.
What do you think?
C. FISHER: Well, I think when I spoke to her about -- I said to her one night, you know, did you -- did you love my father? And she said, we kept Mike Todd alive.
C. FISHER: My father and Mike Todd had been best friends. And subsequently my father actually adopted Liza Todd.
And I said to her, so, Mike, he must have been extraordinary. And she said he was amazing. He just -- you know, there was no one like him. So, you know -- and their relationship was obviously, you know, cut short by his terrible plane accident.
So, you know, with Richard, they -- you know, their relationship went to its natural conclusion and then began again. But with Mike, it was, you know, interrupted. But I do believe that those were the two men, maybe Rich -- She and Richard had more time together, but that sense -- you know, losing someone the way she did, and the plane was called "The Lucky Liz." You know, that was horrible for her.
MORGAN: The other great thing that she had was this extraordinary empathy for people who were suffering, particularly if they were addicted to something, destroying their live. You went through a painful addiction and she did too herself. What was it about her that enabled her to have that empathy, do you think?
C. FISHER: Well, I think I always call it sort of rampant empathy. You know, you're sort of susceptible. Everyone gets on your grid. And, you know, in a way, you're trying to mute your experience to keep all of that out. I mean -- and I think she was just susceptible to other people's energy.
And also I think a lot of her -- you know, with her, it was alcohol. And when I was -- I mean that thing -- when I was young alcohol, people drank alcohol looked like this to me, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. And I think Elizabeth was one of those people that looked like that.
MORGAN: How would you like to remember her, Carrie? How would you like the world to remember Elizabeth Taylor?
C. FISHER: She was this incredibly vital -- and she had a great, great sense of humor. And I think, you know, that's something that I don't think people saw enough of with her. And at one point, she'd asked me to give her this award for her empathy and her -- you know, all of her charity work.
And I -- I thanked her for getting Eddie out of our house. And she thought that was hilarious. And she just had the -- she and my mother ended up laughing really so much about that -- those times all those years ago. So I think -- I think she should be remembered as a woman who really loved life and whatever was part of that, men and her -- you know, her acting and her friends and her family, certainly.
MORGAN: Carrie Fisher, it's been a real pleasure talking to you on this very sad day for your stepmother, Elizabeth Taylor. And I really appreciate you taking the time.
C. FISHER: Good to talk to you too.
MORGAN: Thank you. >
Coming up, there wasn't much that could separate Elizabeth Taylor from her jewelry, but her devotion to one cause that had her sell a precious ring. More on that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: Skipper is dead and I'm alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maggie.
TAYLOR: Maggie the cat is alive. I'm alive. Why are you afraid of the truth?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truth!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was Elizabeth Taylor in one of her greatest ever roles, "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof." Now I want to talk about her legacy, the cause that was closest to Elizabeth Taylor's heart, her work in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Here with me now is Mathilde Krim, founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and Kenneth Cole, the fashion designer and chairman of AMFAR.
Mathilde, let me start with you. When Elizabeth Taylor got involved in AIDS, it was incredibly unfashionable for her to do that. It was dangerous. It was a huge risk for as a big star to be doing this. Wasn't it?
MATHILDE KRIM, FOUNDER, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR AIDS RESEARCH: Now, I don't think it was a risk for her because she has had all the strength and the courage and the dedication to do what she was doing, that nobody could touch that. And she really was -- as the film we just saw said, had a say. She was never afraid of the truth.
MORGAN: That's certainly true. Kenneth, that was a great driving thing about Elizabeth Taylor, was she didn't care really what people thought. She would do what she thought was the right thing.
KENNETH COLE, DESIGNER: She had a genuine sense of social justice and appropriateness. And she was undeterred. And she had -- could not understand why everybody didn't realize how -- how critical the need was for appropriate funding and resources to address this critical AIDS crisis.
And this was in 1985, when she and Dr. Krim founded AMFAR. And it wasn't until '87, to put just a -- to paint the times, until Ronald Reagan, who was president then, mentioned aids publicly, and until 40,000 people had already died. And he did it, ironically, at an AMFAR event.
But she was steadfast devoted to this message. And she was an extraordinary messenger of it.
MORGAN: Mathilde, although you say she didn't see it as a risk, everybody else did. It was a huge deal for a Hollywood star like her to be going after this kind of cause. What effect do you think that Liz Taylor had on -- I must call her Elizabeth Taylor. She hated being called Liz, even though everybody else did -- Elizabeth Taylor had on AIDS, on people, you know, wanting the treatment? What tangible effect did she have to improve people's live, do you think?
KRIM: She had two effects. I think one is that she was delivering an expression of solidarity for people at risk with the disease, which had enormous importance, because the despair in that community was tremendous. And I shared the despair and was very upset by the situation.
And at the same time, very encouraged by somebody like Liz Taylor, the courage to speak publicly and speak the truth.
Secondly, she had a similar impact on people at large, many good people in this country who would have liked to do something perhaps, or would have liked to know something they did not know. And there was terrible lack of resources invested in fighting AIDS.
And the most important resource lacking was understanding and empathy. And she made the correction there. And we have had a public that is much more understanding and supportive since she became involved.
MORGAN: Kenneth, she came out with this phrase "we all have AIDS," and that had this huge impact around the world, because it was Elizabeth Taylor saying it. You know, what she made fashionable was it was OK to support the gay community and to support AIDS research, and to raise money for AIDS in a way that nobody had really been able to force through into mass appeal.
COLE: She -- this campaign that you're looking at right now was actually inspired by her message, her bigger message, that, in effect, AIDS was not an American problem. We were originally the American Foundation for AIDS Research. We evolved into the Foundation for AIDS Research, because she was adamant that AIDS wasn't an American crisis. It was a global pandemic.
If it existed anywhere, it essentially existed everywhere. If anyone was infected, everyone was affected. This was -- so she somewhat inspired this campaign of everybody coming together holding hands, wagons circling around the importance of communicating this critical message.
MORGAN: Mathilde Krim, Kenneth Cole, thank you both very much.
KRIM: Thank you.
MORGAN: Coming up, more memories of Elizabeth Taylor from a co- star and someone who had an early encounter with her and never forgot it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: Anyway, I married the SOB. I had it all planned out. First he'd take over the history department. Then when daddy retired, he'd take over the whole college, you know. That was the way it was supposed to be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting angry, Betty?
TAYLOR: That was the way it was supposed to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Elizabeth Taylor won her second best actress Oscar for that role in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Actress Morgan Fairchild worked with her on a television miniseries "North and South." Nick Clooney met Elizabeth Taylor when he was a teenager, never forgot that moment. And Dick Cavett got to know her very well over the years. And all three are with me now.
Dick, what's your favorite memory of Elizabeth Taylor?
DICK CAVETT, AUTHOR, FORMER RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: My favorite memory is totally unlikely. I was doing my magic act some years ago at a big party. And I thought I saw someone in the audience who looked like Elizabeth Taylor. And as I was cutting my rope trick, doing my rope -- I said I've had this dream that Elizabeth Taylor would come up and help me.
And this lighting beauty of a figure came up. And Elizabeth Taylor was standing there. And I didn't know what to do. I got off a dreadful joke. She had to cut the rope seven or eight times and she had a little trouble. I said just think of it as the marital knot. And I heard later that she found that funny, but didn't let me know at the time.
But she -- she was everything they say. It's a crime she did not write a book on her mastery of screen acting. She just knew it all, and probably had -- knew more than ten other actors have forgotten. Burton, on a show of mine, once talked about how generous she was in teaching him things that he didn't know. Imagine.
And she was heroic in her illnesses. And she was fabulous with the AIDS thing when it was not to her advantage to be so, when the idiots who were in power.
And it was just on that subject -- and she was very energetic. She had a gutsy laugh, a great sense of humor. Once at a thing she was standing talking with a bunch of stagehands at a benefit. And they said -- one of them said I understand you have not been feeling well, Miss Taylor. How do you feel now? And she said as good as you can with diarrhea. Everybody --
MORGAN: Nick Clooney, let me turn to you, because you know a thing or two about good-looking people in Hollywood. What was your memory of meeting Elizabeth Taylor? It's apparently stayed with you ever since. Sounds good.
NICK CLOONEY, AMERICAN UNIV. SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATIONS: Yes, the problem is you run into -- when you start, it's all cliches. You know, they just keep pouring out. They talk about the eye, talk about the face.
I was 19 years old. I was visiting my sister Rosemary on the Paramount lot. And of course Elizabeth worked for MGM, but she was working at Paramount doing a film called "Elephant Walk." And the purchase, Thad Asher (ph), was a friend of mine, asked if I would like to go over and meet -- it was a closed set. Should I go over and meet Elizabeth Taylor.
Well, I fell over all the furniture getting out the door, of course, got there as quickly as I could. And you are mesmerized by her. You look at that face, at that moment in time, and it was paralyzing. And I was paralyzed.
I was introduced. I stumbled over everything. Finally, Dan Asher took us over to the commissary, eventually, for lunch, and she -- one of us tossed a little off-color joke, and she had this raucous laugh. And I said to my 19-year-old self, my God, she's a natural person. I was stunned by that. absolutely shocked by it.
I tell you, what I think that's been a problem for her -- was a problem for her for a long time. I think the critics themselves were mesmerized. You remember how she was just eviscerated by critics for many, many years who said that she was a terrible actress. Of course, she wasn't.
She was a maturing actress and became absolutely wonderful, I thought beginning with "Place in The Sun" that Joan talked about a little bit earlier. I think a lot like you, Dick, that she became a suburb film actress.
CAVETT: Don't you think it put -- sorry, man, it's your show.
MORGAN: I'll come back to you in a moment. I wanted to bring in Morgan here because you worked with Liz Taylor. What was it about her that set her apart? Because there's no doubt that there's a lot of truth to this feeling today, I think, that in terms of the global impact of her death, Elizabeth Taylor was probably the last of the great movie stars. Why?
MORGAN FAIRCHILD, ACTRESS: You know, Piers, there was just something so special about her. Having grown up watching her movies, it was, as Carey said, she had that star quality. When she was on the screen, you couldn't see anything else. You couldn't take your eyes off of her.
Of course, the scandals, the marriages, all of those things sort of loaded up on it, too. But there was always that magnificent screen presence, a total professional, a funny lady, a nice lady, a down-to- Earth lady, who had her own share of problems, which sort of -- in a way, those vulnerabilities made the public care more about her, I think.
The fact that she did have weight problems, that she did have sometimes the alcohol problems, that she had these different foibles in her life, and yet seemed to rise above it.
Carrie also talked on when they had to shut down "Cleopatra," when she almost died and pneumonia and had a tracheotomy. A lot of people under 30, under 40 here, may not really realize how absolutely breathtaking she was, and how absolutely mesmerized the world was by the scandal, the Burton-Taylor entourage, the paparazzi following them everywhere.
It was sort of the beginning of that whole paparazzi stakeout kind of thing that we sort of know with a lot of the younger stars now. But it was insane with that. I remember when we flew on David Walper's (ph) jet to Charleston to shoot "North and South." and I was used to having a lot of the paparazzi, a lot of media attention. But, I mean, we opened the door to the plane and it was madness, absolute madness.
She took it all with great equanimity. And she was lovely to be around on the set. I didn't actually have scenes with her, so I didn't get to work with her. But I always remember the first time I ever saw her. Burton was doing "Equus" on Broadway, and I had gone to see it. And the murmur went through that Elizabeth was in the audience. You're looking and looking. And finally I saw this turban. She was wearing turbans a lot back in the '70s. And she turned and that face -- I have to say, she was the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen in person. The screen did not do her justice. Just gorgeous, gorgeous coloring, the profile. Everything about her was just drop-dead gorgeous. That was the first time I saw her.
MORGAN: Dick, let me turn to you there. There's a real sense today of an end of an era. You interviewed some of the biggest movie stars of all time. Do you feel that? Do you feel like today we've really lost a generation?
CAVETT: Yes. This is not a plug, but I looked at a DVD set of my old shows. And there were Hepburn and Betty Davis and Robert Mitchum and Fred Astaire and Groucho Marx and Orson Wells and Marlon Brando. And I thought, when Taylor died, this may be the last of the Redwoods, the last -- the smaller trees are left.
We have great actors now, of course.
May I say something that may alter the tone slightly? You would agree, I'm sure, that millions of people think I would have loved to have had their lives. Wow, I would trade my dreary life for either one of theirs. I would caution people from frustrating themselves that way, to think of the fact that as great and gifted as they were and all the stuff they had, they were also two drunks, two heavy smokers, reckless with their health, reckless with their careers.
Burton dead in his 50s. And if you really envy them, you've got to be nuts.
MORGAN: Interesting point there. Nick Clooney, your son is obviously a huge movie star. And I've interviewed him on this show and talked about the pressures of fame and everything. Being a huge movie star is often not all it's cracked up to be. And Elizabeth Taylor suffered a lot, actually, for her celebrity status.
CLOONEY: That's absolutely true. What most of the people, including George, are very careful to point out is that they don't want to whine about that. They are in a position of power. They have a lot of money. They have the lives that most people want or think they want to live. And so if you feel bad about that, shut up about it. Just stop whining. Don't think about that.
You have entered the language. As Dick just pointed out, the last big light just went out in Hollywood, that bridge to what they call the golden era. That is now gone. Everything grew from television thereafter. And this is a moment that will not come again.
MORGAN: Nick, Dick, Morgan, thank you all very much indeed.
CAVETT: I commend you for getting seven minutes out of the three of us so deftly.
MORGAN: Thank you. When we come back, our final thoughts on Elizabeth Taylor.
MORGAN: I would like to thank all my guests this evening for paying such heartfelt tributes to Elizabeth Taylor, who sadly died today. Before we go, I would like to turn to some final words on her, words from Elizabeth Herself. Listen to what she said to "Entertainment Tonight" in 2007 when she was asked how she would like to be remembered herself.
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TAYLOR: That I was a fighter, that if I fought for something I believed in, I could get something accomplished. But I had to fight.
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