Onward. — Elizabeth
BY Jeff Yarbrough
March 25 2011 12:10 PM ET
When I got to Taylor’s Bel Air home, I was escorted into the house through a side door. I rounded a corner to find her positioned on a living room sofa. Prior to my arrival, I had been warned that her various ailments might derail the appointment. Later I realized that she had, most likely, been wheeled or carried to the couch. She never moved (except to gesticulate wildly). Even when I left, she stayed seated, tiny feet together on the floor. As I backed out of the room — trying not to trip over her dog — she sat tight and waved.
During the interview, she was unbridled; outing James Dean, calling Bob Dole a homophobe, accusing Americans of mass chauvinism. When the preordained time frame expired, an assistant popped his head in and said, “Time’s up.” Not “Miss Taylor has another appointment,” or “Dr. Krim’s on the line.” Simply, “Time’s up.” Candor was a primary force in the Taylor camp. I grabbed my stuff, realizing Shilts’s book was still in my bag. “The gift!” I remember saying, embarrassed as the words came out. I gave it to her and pointed at Randy’s inscription. “Onward,” she read aloud. Adding, “Onward: Story of my life!” And then she laughed that crazy laugh.
Weeks later, a Taylor handler called. “How’d it go?” Then small talk. “By the way,” he said, “We were wondering if you’d consider accompanying Miss Taylor to an event sometime.” In my younger gay days I had “walked” a few society matrons — and a couple of Warhol drag queens. Taylor’s was a heady request, but also sad to me. This star, full of power and talent and compassion, had teams of people around her. In retrospect, I can’t help but think that she was always pretty much out there on her own.