USA TODAY US Edition
Can’t smile without you . . .
Barry Manilow, a longtime friend of Elizabeth Taylor, shares his personal memories of the movie star and activist. In Manilow’s words, as told to USA TODAY’s Cindy Clark:
“When the AIDS epidemic began, I was losing all of my friends to it. One of my friends, a personal assistant, left me at the time to work for Elizabeth. Eventually, he committed suicide and Elizabeth and I got very close on that day. We stayed close. She had had it with so many of her friends contracting the disease, and she decided to do something about it and have a dinner (to raise awareness).
“But nobody would help her. She called me up and she said, ‘I’m doing this and everybody is turning me down.’ She asked me to do it. I said yes and she burst into tears. I didn’t even have a band at the time. I just played piano and sang for an hour, but she had always been so grateful. For twenty years, every June on my birthday she would send me a huge thing of gardenias. And I’ve kept them all. I’ve got twenty of them down in various places around the house. . . . As she got more and more ill, it was really terrible. She was the last great movie star. . . .
“Her laugh, that’s all I can remember of Elizabeth. When she came to dinner, she walked in looking like a goddess. And out of this goddess’ mouth would come this cackling laugh. She was very elegant, a real person who looked like a princess.”