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Remembering a Hollywood icon

March 23, 2011 - Mel Toadvine
When you work in a profession like journalism or any form of the media, you get to meet a lot of well-known people. Over the years I have met many, including presidents, movie stars, foreign dignitaries and the like.

Some were humorous meetings like the night that Ella Fitzgerald walked into the living quarters of a hotel room where a few fellow editors were sitting around having a drink, laughing and having fun. She sat down and joked and kidded with us for more than an hour.

While she was a celebrity, she was no different than the rest of us. She had just performed at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), which had named its performing arts center in her honor.

It was the same with nearly all those people whose names appeared in headlines and in stories from the regular mainstream press to the tabloid rags.

I was reminded of some of those meetings, although short on most occasions. The one that I will never forget was being sent to a hotel to interview a very famous African American entertainer. I knocked on the door and he opened the door standing in the nude and apologized saying he had just gotten out of the shower. You don’t forget those moments.

But this week, I remembered a short meeting and conversation/interview with Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most popular and loved actresses of my lifetime. My thoughts went back to that day after reading of her death.

It was a short get-together, but one that left me with a good feeling because she was one of the friendliest celebrities that I had ever met. She was modest and charming.

It was when I was asked to cover a trip of a U.S. senator to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the early 1980s when I was a reporter and photographer for the big daily on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Elizabeth Taylor had come along with her husband, John Warner, a former Secretary of the Navy, in December of 1976. Warner was elected a U.S. senator from Virginia in 1978 and the couple divorced in 1982, so the chance meeting and interview had to be during the years.

It was big news for a U.S. Senator from Virginia to come across the Chesapeake Bay to visit his constituents. It rarely happened, but he was seeking reelection as I recall.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is separated from the rest of the state by several miles of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and those living on the eastern shore side were mainly potato farmers and chicken growers and had nothing in common with their brethren on the other side of the bay, those associated with the big naval base in Norfolk or the whole Chesapeake area.

But Warner had come to Virginia to campaign for reelection.

It was during a time when Elizabeth Taylor had gained some weight, but she was still a beautiful woman with a warm smile and a personality to match it. I found talking with her much more interesting than with her politician husband. She was gracious and most of the residents of that separated step-child area of Virginia were more interested in the actress than the man who was trying to get their votes.

I took photographs and they were published but were lost over the years in boxes of newspaper memories.

But as for memories, just meeting one of the most beautiful women in the world was awesome enough for this young reporter who spent some real time with a Hollywood icon.



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