"HOW TO describe Elizabeth Taylor? She was not a movie star; she was the entire galaxy of stars in one package. That was the energy she emitted when she walked into a room. People froze. When they spoke to her, they stuttered."
That's designer Vicky Tiel describing her friend and frequent client Miss Taylor, in Tiel's book, "It's All About The Dress." This is a delicious, sexy, gossip-heavy memoir of Vicky's rise as a designer in the Swinging 1960s. It's lots of fun. It is dotted with little essays on wisdom she learned from the likes of Chanel, Miles Davis, Kim Novak, Ursula Andress, along with recipes she picked up along the way. She is candid about affairs with such disparate types as Woody Allen and Warren Beatty, as well as her own long extramarital affair with Elizabeth and Richard's makeup man, Ron Berkley, which eventually led to a marriage--one not fated to last forever. If you are at all interested in fashion and how it morphed so drastically in the 1960's, side-by-side (thigh-by-thigh!) with a new liberated society, this book will dazzle. Sometimes, Vicky's adventures become exhausting. Too much of a good thing can be enough, with apologies to Mae West. But readers will adore snippets such as her erotic encounter with Warren. During the (expert) lovemaking, Warren took a phone call from an ex, sensitively talking her down from some emotional extremity. He never lost his, ah---resolve, during this dual duty. Fun, sexy, gossipy. A good solid, witty read. (That Vicky and her partner Mia Fonssagrives creations for Elizabeth were riotously inappropriate, hardly matters. "Elizabeth never gave a damn. She was always over-the-top.")
Some various snippets: "Elizabeth's eyes were dark navy blue, like the deep sea, with an indigo light some people might call violet"..."Did she like being holed up in an enormous hotel suite with all her favorite food and wine and her favorite people flown in from all over the world? She loved it!..."The things that mattered most to Elizabeth were being Earth Mother to her loved ones, sex, food and drink, helping the unfortunate (humans and animals)..."Her fame and beauty did not matter much to her"..."She hated snobs almost as much as she hated cheap producers..."She loved losers as friends. The bigger the loser, the more she loved him. She was a sucker for a sob story, she believed everyone...."Her generosity was her foremost quality."
Burton, whom Vicky clearly adored as well, was a different breed. Although he and Elizabeth were always "deeply connected" they had "little in common" Richard hated almost everything that Elizabeth loved. He preferred solitude, quiet, reading. And he was jealous. Tiel believes the night he lost the Oscar for "Virginia Woolf" but Elizabeth won, "Richard never got over the loss, nor his childish jealously." (For her part, Elizabeth was devastated by Richard's loss.)
But there is one more Taylor story that is so "her." After Burton's death, after being barred from the funeral by Richard's last wife, Sally Hay, Vicky--who still designed for Richard's subsequent wives--was called by Sally to help her dress for the service. To Vicky's shock, Sally also tried on three elaborate evening gowns. "Now I'll finally be able to go and wear smart things," she said. Tiel immediately called Elizabeth, barred from the services, distraught in LA. "Can you believe she is so cold?" Vicky exclaimed. Elizabeth quietly replied, "Oh, no, Vicky. She must be in shock." Immediately following this book, I read the complete diaries of Richard Burton, soon due. Fascinating and rather melancholy. I tell all that, later in the week.
The real singer in trouble is Gladys Knight, who went on "The Talk" and said that Paris "needed her teeth knocked out." Support for this was not overwhelming. It's all pretty trashy, but when was it not?