In light of the recent passing of Hollywood screen icon Liz Taylor, we asked legendary Hollywood producer and Jamboroo contributor Robert Evans to join us to share some of his fondest memories of the actress. Take it away, Mr. Evans.
Few people know this, but I was once married to Elizabeth Taylor. Baby, it's true! Old Evans was once the unofficial ninth Taylor spouse. Nicholson was the unofficial tenth, but that wedding took place in what is now Northern Sudan and was never actually made official. Nicholson told me they fucked so hard out in the desert that the natives credited their screams of ecstasy for bringing rain the next day.
She was a gorgeous woman back in her time. Curvaceous? YOU BET! Smart as a camel? YOU KNOW IT! I met her all the way back in 1944. She was the brash young star playing Velvet in National Velvet, and I was the back half of Pie, the prized steed that Velvet won in a Michigan town lottery. We didn't use real horses back in those days, because real horses often commanded higher prices than most actors. And so I was tapped to occupy one of the three custom-made horse costumes used in the film. My costume (and that of my costumemate, Phillippe) was adolescent Pie. The casting director thought my natural swagger gave the young thoroughbred a cocky hindstride that read well on screen. Nowadays, of course, the horses are all drawn in using midgets and motion capture technology. But real cinephiles know a finely-crafted horsie costume has an unmatched depth and texture.
Anyway, we were finishing shooting one blistering hot day and I was about to faint in the heat. Mickey Rooney was a known horse sadist, and he often spent time between takes beating my costume-mate and I with a bamboo pole. He often shouted racial epithets at us while doing it, which made no sense to me. "TAKE THAT, YOU SURLY FOUR-LEGGED GOOK!" he'd scream. Well, the day is near over and I've had just about enough of this. I took off my horse keester and was sipping water when Rooney came and knocked it out of my hands. And I was just about to slug him when darling Liz came over and got between us. She loved animals, even pretend ones. And she told Rooney to take a walk. And thank God she did! If she hadn't gotten in the way, it could have cost Evans his career!
"Thanks," I said.
"No trouble at all," she said. "You looked awfully hot in there."
"One day, baby, it'll be ME hitting those horse actors and screaming TRACK ARAB at them."
Then she put her hand on her hip and gave my body a long look over. "Well, I ain't no jockey. But I know what I like to ride."
She was just 12 years old at the time, and I was just 14. But we both knew true love when we felt it. From then on, we were inseparable around the set. We'd play hopscotch together, and go pick wild flowers, and discover the joys of prescription medication by raiding Rooney's trailer and swilling all the colon tonic. I was young and stupid and poor, but it was the happiest time of my life, I tell you!
One night, we were laying in a hay loft (actually, it was a set for a hay loft, which was a concrete floor varnished with whale urine), and I told her I wanted to marry her.
"Oh, Evans! You're a cutup. We're barely children!"
"Yes, but I love you. And I always will, baby. No matter what. No matter how big I get. No matter many starlets throw themselves at my $600 Risso loafers. I can't imagine loving anyone else, darling."
And so we wrote a crude little marriage certificate on a piece of paper and signed it. I even had one of the stray dogs on set stamp his foot on it as a witness. She was my little wife, or so I thought.
I think you know how this story ends. The shoot was over, and suddenly word around town was that Liz was about to become the biggest star the world had ever known. She was surrounded by producers and agents and shrinks and Persian men. She said she'd write to me after the shoot ended, but I never got anything. Not one peep. One year I was sent a cake in the shape of a uterus, and I thought it was from her. But it was from Hopper. I really should have known better.
Two decades later, I was the boy genius running Paramount and Liz was the toast of the American paparazzi. I finally caught up with her for the first time since the Velvet shoot. We were both drunk at Billy Wilder's house. And while Wilder was out back shooting arrows at the help, I made my move and cozied up to her.
"Evans, darling!" she screamed. "I'd know that bronzer anywhere!"
"How come you never wrote me, Mrs. Evans?"
She blushed and told me that she HAD written me. Dozens of times. Hundreds, even. But she gave all the letters to her manager to mail (Up until her death, Liz was still unsure of how to properly place a stamp on a letter), and the manager burned them all. THE CHARLATAN!
"We could have been together, baby."
"I know. We could have. But so much of life is ‘could have,' now isn't it?"
I swear I could have scooped her up and thrown her in the bedroom after she said that, but then Richard Burton waltzed in and whisked her away. I never liked that Burton. Loved the "best boys," if you catch my drift.
After that, I saw her at several industry functions. Oscars? YOU BET! The Arbor Day Tennis Elbow Telethon? ALWAYS. Old age and the usual ailments began to take their toll. The last time I saw her, she thought I was Buddy Ebsen. But I didn't care. To me, she was always the gorgeous 12-year-old I fell in love with all those years ago. You see beauty like that, and it never fades from your memory. Not a lick. It's a curse, in a way. It defines you so long after you've lost it. Well, unless you're me. NO ONE LOOKS BETTER IN A CRISP LINEN SUIT THESE DAYS, MY FRIEND.
It's a sad day here at Woodland. I've lost a dear friend. And I've lost the only woman I ever truly loved. Oh, I could have loved her. I could have shown her things even SHE wouldn't dreamt of seeing! Kissinger's summer cottage! Peter Fonda's salvia farm! THE SECRET ORGY BASEMENT AT THE FLAMINGO! She never would have needed eight husbands if she had just had one Evans. Sure, we had some good times in old age. One time, we hid Michael Jackson's favorite stuffed moose behind a toilet and he nearly committed suicide. (Actually, I was the one who hid it. Man, that was funny). Or the time we had a young Emilio Estevez rob the back of CVS for us. Or the time she confessed to me that White Diamonds had peyote in it. Ol' Liz was always a blast. We even tried finally doing the deed about 15 years ago. It didn't go well. I needed Levitra and she needed sunglasses.
I'm an old man now. I realize now what I lost with Liz all those years back. I wish I had a time machine, so I could find the young me and tell him to write her every day, to seek her out on the street and take her away from all those horrible sycophants around her. I wish I had known that your power to love that intensely goes away over time. I figured love that strong was always just around the corner, but it never was. I wish I'd fought for her, and made love to her when she still secreted natural vaginal lubricants. Alas, it was never meant to be. Maybe it's better that way. Maybe she was always best remembered as a fantasy.
So that's what Liz will always be to me. The most intense love, the most ravishing beauty … it always seems to go away so quickly. And then you spend a lifetime trying to bring it back to life. That's why I always keep this abstract painting Liz made of her own vagina on my mantelpiece…
So long, my dear. I bet Heaven ain't half as lovely as you once were.