With Academy-Awards and nostalgia as my excuses, here are a few of my brief encounters with a real queen, a world queen, a political queen and a few Oscar-winning drama queens.
1956, Miami Beach
A few blocks from my house, in front of the Sheridan movie theater, 24-year old Elizabeth Taylor and her second husband, producer Mike Todd are here to publicize his movie, Around the World in 80 Days. She is often described as "the most beautiful woman in the world," but she looks more like a doll on my shelf: short, shoulder-length jet hair, purplish eyes, paperwhite skin. In a couple of years Todd will be killed in a plane crash, and Liz will find comfort with Carrie's dad, singer Eddie Fisher. But at this balmy moment, all seems perfectly divine.
I stand right behind her, roped off in the first row because I have stood for over an hour, waiting for my first brush with a celebrity. In the photo in the Miami Herald the next day, my awed young face peers longingly at Elizabeth Taylor's perfect countenance. I don't wish being photographed with a young Liz on anyone.
I am working on an early DVD project for the military as the executive producer (not exactly Mike Todd, but a bit of irony). I'm between marriages and have been living for a few years in Washington, DC with the owner of the company, but have been my own here for several months, heading the international crew.
I see Liz Taylor once again, at the Oriental hotel, at a charity event for the magical festival of Loy Krathong, where the country is alight with candles along its waterways. She is with Larry Fortensky; in two years he will become her seventh husband -- for awhile. She is overweight, over made -up. And this time I 'm not overwhelmed.
I 'm walking to a castle in Scotland, on my honeymoon, and a car suddenly stops next to us, and inside is another Liz -- Queen Elizabeth 2. Her eyes and skin are exceptional (similar to Liz Taylor's, actually). I do not see Philip, or her purse.
In 1970-71, when I live in London, I see her several times in official ceremonies, but not as close-up, or for as long, and not by chance. So it isn't as special. And she isn't aging well.
1970, Hyannis, MA
My youngest is three months old, and my first husband, Mr. Wonderful, and I are staying at a Cape Cod resort. One evening we decide to hear the singer Peggy Lee at a summer theatre.
Much buzz. Enter Jackie O and her entourage, among them astronaut and current Ohio senator John Glenn, children Carolyn and John, Maria Shriver, Ethel Kennedy and some of her brood. Jackie is married to Onassis, who is not there.
They sit up front and we observe the boisterous family interaction, and after the show there is slow dancing on the stage, and hubby and I maneuver next to Jackie and John Glenn, and all seems so casual. I don't notice any Secret Service men dancing with each other.
When we go for our car, Jackie is already waiting for hers. It is raining and we all huddle under a portico. She seems aware and yet aloof. I hope she will turn and say in that breathy voice, " Has anyone ever told you that you look like me?" But of course she just stares off in the distance -- the most famous woman in the world on a summer evening, in the rain. Finally her car comes, and she exits. Glenn holding an open umbrella, leaving the rest of us babbling and wet.
I am dining at Café des Artistes restaurant in New York, with husband and friends. We are going to Lincoln Center after, and there is a crowded rush at the doorway vestibule as theatergoers retrieve their coats, ready to leave. I am pushed from behind and turn, rather annoyed. But it is Warren Beatty pushing against me. And next to him is Diane Keaton. He is craggy handsome, she is cute, and I now thoroughly enjoy the light contact of his upper body until our coats arrive and hubby and I are off into the night.
1982, Armonk, NY
I am on line at a cider mill north of NYC, among pumpkins and kids. My sons are playing somewhere as I patiently wait for the world's best donuts, coming down an assembly line out of hot fat and plopping into powdered sugar. The smells of cinnamon, yeast and apples fill the fall air.
I stand behind a woman talking to her daughter. Her voice is familiar, and I realize that she is Glenn Close.Nobody else seems to recognize her, in her cap, sunglasses and jeans, so exurban and motherly. At one point I mumble something like, "I can't wait much longer," and she turns and smiles and says, "Yes, but they're worth waiting for." And I debate whether I should say more, and I decide not to.
She doesn't cut the line. She doesn't pull rank. She speaks sweetly to her daughter. I have liked her ever since.
2007, Greenwich Village
It has been 50 years since this star-struck girl swooned at Elizabeth Taylor, and just about every Tuesday, except in summer, at 2:10 pm I pick up my granddaughter Sabrina from her pre-school. She is three, and already has two boyfriends -- Koll, and Joe, who is Kate Winslet's son.
In the crowded half-doorway with other moms, nannys and grannys, about half the time, Ms. W is standing with us, observing the adorable children before we pick them up. She usually wears a tee, black jeans, black-rimmed glasses, not much makeup. Her hair is brownish, and she's pretty, like most of the moms, but not really prettier.
I have been warned by my kids -- who were warned by the school-- not to bother her. She feels free to pick up her son because she feels comfortable. I watch little Sabrina flirting with little Joe and Kate smiles at them and because I'm warned not to talk, I just smile at her.
I occasionally mumble things into the air (not to her -- rules) like, "Aren't they adorable?" And she does the same, but never first.
And so, for months, on Tuesdays at 2:10pm, I stand so close to this year's probable Best Actress Oscar-winner that I can smell her skin (clean), without having a single real conversation.
So I cheered her on last night because I think she deserved a win, but not with special affection. And anyway, my granddaughter Sabrina chose Koll over Joe.