REVIEW: ‘Liz & Dick’

Lohan has the look, but not the style, in Lifetime biopic

The train wreck that has become Lindsay Lohan didn’t start out that way. She was handily the most gifted pop princess of her incoming class, with a throaty voice that conveyed maturity; she even picked good projects, like Mean Girls, and held her own opposite Meryl Streep in A Prairie Home Companion. After all her drug and legal problems, the decision to rehabilitate (her career, at least) by doing a biopic of Elizabeth Taylor seemed like a savvy one: Both actresses were dogged by paparazzi, substance abuse and personal tragedy. Surely Lohan would bring her own experience to bear. And she looked the part, clearly. I was excited.

And now, disappointed with Liz & Dick, the Lifetime movie (airing Sunday) that was to be her comeback.

Aside from the “look,” Lohan lacks most of Taylor’s essential qualities — most specifically, the volcanic passion percolating under a slightly icy exterior. Taylor was never earthy and warm, like Ava Gardner or Rita Hayworth, but unattainable; imagine her in that white slip from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and you can see the formula of sexuality and porcelain perfection that she was — a brunetted and more talented version of Marilyn Monroe.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lindsay as Liz: The latest pix

For all you Lindsay Lohan queens out there, Lifetime just released the latest pix of the Goddess of Train Wrecks playing the Empress of Emotion, Elizabeth Taylor, and I have to say, Linds looks pretty convincing. (And check out those Egyptian slave boys!) Enjoy.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Celeb news I don’t know how to respond to

Lifetime announces that Lindsay Lohan is set to portray Elizabeth Taylor in a TV movie, Liz & Dick. It will begin filming in June. They were both troubled starlets….

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Elizabeth Taylor still giving to people with HIV/AIDS

Elizabeth Taylor, second from left, and AIDS Services of Dallas Executive Director Don Maison, far right, at Dillards at NorthPark Center in Dallas in 1996.

The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation will get a big infusion of cash this week as a result of an auction of jewelry.

Elizabeth Taylor, who died March 23, 2011, had a collection of jewelry that was estimated to be worth $20 million. The auction has already brought in $116 million.

The auction is going on at Christie’s in New York.

Among the jewels sold was a pearl purchased by Richard Burton for $37,000, which sold for $11.6 million. The pearl had once been owned by Mary Tudor and was painted in the 17th century by Diego Valezquez.

Taylor co-founded AmFAR in 1985 and began The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991, with a focus on direct service to people living with HIV. AIDS Services Dallas, Bryan’s House and AIDS Arms have been recipients of grants from that organization.

—  David Taffet

Rediscovering Puerto Vallarta

Despite warnings about the rise in violence from the drug war in Mexico, PV remains a safe and friendly haven for LGBT travelers

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

I fell in love with Puerto Vallarta decades ago. In fact, it was before I ever even visited there. It was when I was a teenager and I was reading the news stories about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton escaping there after they left Europe.

Their scandalous romance on the set of Cleopatra in the early 1960s had made them the prey of photographers and reporters from all over the world.

So still married to others, they fled to the tiny Mexican village nestled in a cove and surrounded by mountains where Burton filmed the Night of the Iguana. They bought a house in Puerto Vallarta with the hope it would be a respite from the prying eyes of the world.

Of course, the media just followed them there, and before you knew it Puerto Vallarta was catapulted into fame. And the tiny fishing and agricultural village grew to become a world-class tourist destination.

I made up my mind in those early days that I would one day also visit Puerto Vallarta. But I had a while to wait because I was only, like, 13 at the time, if that old. I think my family would have sort of frowned on that idea — as they did just about everything else I proposed.

But I eventually did make it down there, and I’ve been traveling to Puerto Vallarta for a really long time now.

I know the city well, and I certainly can still find Elizabeth Taylor’s old house. I had the good fortune to get to tour it years ago after someone else bought it from her.

This year for my 62nd birthday, I decided to return to Puerto Vallarta. Two friends — one a high school friend who now lives in Montgomery, Ala., and the other a college friend who lives in Houston — met me there.

I hadn’t been to Puerto Vallarta in two years because, like many people, I had been alarmed by the rise of the drug-war violence. But I decided to abandon caution and revisit the city I love.
A lot of other LGBT travelers obviously had the same idea. While I was there, I saw quite a few faces from Dallas, and I met many nice people from Los Angeles, New York City, Australia, Las Vegas and even Memphis.

One of the first treks my friends and I made was to go find Elizabeth’s old house, in the hills on a remote, cobblestoned street.

The two houses she owned on opposite sides of the street are now under restoration by a new owner, but the little pink bridge arching over the street connecting them is still there.

After that, we proceeded for days to sate ourselves on great food at the sidewalk cafes and fine restaurants the city offers, and on drinks at the many gay bars in the Old Town area, which is known as the Romantic Zone.

We also decided to get really active and went on the tree canopy tour outside of the city. This involves hiking 800 meters up a jungle-covered mountain, being attached by a pulley to a series of cables and gliding through the air down the mountain until you reach a bar on the edge of the river.

The next day we went on a boat cruise, called “Wet and Wild,” down the ocean coast. The cruise proved to be aptly named, as the crew was able to serve an amazing number of drinks in some highly creative ways on the seven-hour trip.

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning about the state of Jalisco, which includes Puerto Vallarta, but the city seems to have been spared the drug-war violence that apparently is concentrated in more remote areas.

Acapulco has been plagued by violence, but it is much further to the south on the Pacific Ocean coast.

Despite the warnings and the scary headlines, Puerto Vallarta seems to be as popular with LGBT people as it always was, and the town’s people still welcome us with open arms.

I did catch someone trying to pick my wallet out of my pocket on a street in front of a nightclub one night, but they abandoned the idea of separating me from it when I raised a fuss. The same thing could happen in Dallas, Los Angeles or New York.

Actually, it happened to me once before in Puerto Vallarta about five years ago and I lost the wallet. This time I was more alert to what was going on around me.

In a far more serious incident, a Canadian man who was married to a Mexican woman was stabbed to death in his home on May 30 and robbed of $20,000 in his safe. But again anyone who keeps that kind of cash at home is asking for trouble. It could happen anywhere.

The really good news is that Puerto Vallarta is still charming and apparently safe. What’s more, the decline in tourism has led to some really good travel deals for both airline flights and lodging. So if you have the nerve, it’s a great time to visit this fabulous city.

I’ll be going back again. I’m dying to know how Elizabeth’s house turns out after the restoration.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Taylor was early and tireless HIV/AIDS advocate

Actress will ‘stand for history on a podium above everyone else’

SANDY COHEN  |  AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES — Elizabeth Taylor was as well known for her AIDS advocacy as she was for her acting.

She was the first celebrity to speak out on the mysterious and socially divisive disease in the 1980s, calling for research, compassionate care and an end to discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.

“I kept seeing all these news reports on this new disease and kept asking myself why no one was doing anything,” Taylor once recalled. “And then I realized that I was just like them. I wasn’t doing anything to help.”

She got involved with AIDS activism in 1985 and worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness for the rest of her life, said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, where Taylor held early fundraisers for AIDS research.

“There have been a lot of incredible warriors in the fight, but she will stand for history on a podium above everyone else,” he said, adding that Taylor had seen firsthand how her friend, Rock Hudson, had lost his battle with AIDS.

In 1985, when the government had done little to educate people about the disease and nurses were afraid to deliver food trays to AIDS patients in hospitals, Taylor, along with a group of physicians, helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).

“This was long before celebrities routinely performed or worked with charities… and the cause she selected was a disease Americans were frightened about,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t just as if she took the risk of attaching her celebrity status to a cause. She picked the most controversial cause at the time. But she was like, ‘I have friends who are dying and I have to do something, and what I can do is help raise money and help raise awareness.”

Taylor, as chairwoman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, visited Capitol Hill to demand that the government live up to its promise to spend nearly $1 billion a year to help people with AIDS with the Ryan White Care Act. She and other stars befriended Ryan White, a teenager from Indiana who, as a hemophiliac, got HIV through a contaminated blood transfusion, was expelled from school because of his infection and became one of the disease’s most prominent early victims.

AmfAR leaders on Wednesday called Taylor “one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS.”

“She was profoundly instrumental in helping us identify the resources which have led to the research that has improved and extended the lives of those with HIV and AIDS,” said Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive of amfAR, which has invested more than $300 million towards AIDS research. “She served actively on our board up until the day she died,” Frost said.

Taylor testified on Capitol Hill in the early 1990s and convinced legislators to care about the disease, Thompson said.

“Every senator showed up. The rooms were packed and people were spellbound,” he said. “She connected HIV and AIDS to a generation that felt itself immune, the over-50 folks. Because Elizabeth Taylor was talking about it, people like my mother were reading about HIV and AIDS.”

Taylor put a public — and beloved — face on the disease.

“At a time when most Americans thought of HIV/AIDS as something that didn’t affect them, her commitment to the issue and considerable star power helped to take the fight against HIV/AIDS right into the mainstream of American society,” said Don Blanchon, who oversees the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., which named its main facility after Taylor in 1993.

Magic Johnson, who put his own face on the disease when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, tweeted his gratitude to Taylor on Wednesday.

“Elizabeth, thank you for all your help in the battle for HIV and AIDS,” he wrote. “You will be missed by the world.”

In 1991, the actress founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which has given more than $12 million to organizations across the country that provide direct care and services to people living with the disease.

Elton John praised his fellow AIDS advocate and entertainer as “a Hollywood giant … and an incredible human being.”

“She earned our adoration for her stunning beauty and for being the very essence of glamorous movie stardom,” John said in a statement Wednesday. “And she earned our enduring love and respect for her compassion and her courage in standing up and speaking out about AIDS when others preferred to bury their heads in the sand.”

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign said Taylor didn’t just fight for those with HIV and AIDS; she fought for equality for all.

“At a time when so many living with HIV/AIDS were invisible, Dame Taylor fearlessly raised her voice to speak out against injustice,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “Dame Taylor was an icon not only in Hollywood, but in the LGBT community where she worked to ensure that everyone was treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve.”

The group recognized Taylor with its Vanguard Award in 2000. “What it comes down to, ultimately, is love,” she said in accepting the honor. “How can anything bad come out of love? The bad stuff comes out of mistrust, misunderstanding and, God knows, from hate and from ignorance.”

Taylor died Wednesday from congestive heart failure. She was 79.

—  John Wright

Liz’s favorite pub

The tribute to Elizabeth Taylor at her favorite pub, The Abbey in West Hollywood

Beloved icon Elizabeth Taylor was laid to rest today in a private service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. — the same cemetery where her friend Michael Jackson was buried — a day after she died of congestive heart failure. The service caught most people off-guard, a blessing since it means that the whack-a-doodles from Westboro Baptist had no chance to get to Glendale to protest at the funeral like they said they planned to do.

Dame Elizabeth’s family has said there will be public memorial service for the star at a later date, but the tribute began at her favorite hangout in West Hollywood since news of her death, at age 79, became public on Wednesday. And that favorite hangout, by the way, is a gay bar.

Taylor first started hanging out at The Abbey about five or six years ago, and according to this report in The New York Times, she told the owner it was her favorite pub. The bar, in fact, had become something of a tourist attraction because people knew that she was a regular.

Since her death, the Abbey has set up a memorial tribute to Taylor that is drawing a crowd of mourners. The tribute, set up in what the bar has long called the Elizabeth Taylor Room, includes the huge framed portrait of herself Taylor donated to the bar, several floral arrangements and, on a nearby table, a Blue Velvet martini, made with vodka and blueberry schnapps and named in honor of her 1944 film National Velvet.

—  admin