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Elizabeth Taylor Remembered by a Rabbi

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It's no surprise that after someone passes, many and various stories of their life begin to surface -- stories that haven't been uttered in ages, stories almost forgotten, if not for the moribund trigger that whisks them back into the light.

So yesterday, when I awoke to the news of Elizabeth Taylor's death, I felt an almost greedy wish to learn how she lived. The headlines in the entertainment world spoke of her stunning beauty -- that raven hair, alabaster skin, violet eyes -- as much as they told of her fiery personality; she was fierce, passionate, otherworldly. Elizabeth Taylor was, in many ways, a mad woman. Mad to live, mad to love, desirous of the world and everything in it.

As Cleopatra, she was the natural fit to star in a film with the rare distinction of having nearly bankrupted a studio. According to, the $194,800 budget for Taylor's costumes in the film was the highest ever for a single actor. It paid for 65 costumes, including one dress made from 24-carat gold cloth. When she posed for her first Life Magazine cover in 1948, according to a lovely story written by Emma Forrest for the Telegraph, the photographer Phillipe Halsman asked her what color she wanted her dress to be: "The color of money," Taylor famously replied.

As experiences with Liz Taylor go, simple sentences do little justice. To capture the color and fire of postmortem Taylor tales, I asked Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to share his favorite Liz stories. Read them in the rabbi's own words at Hollywood Jew.