By Wayne Harada
Violet eyes. Twinkly, bright purple eyes.
That’s the lasting memory I have of Elizabeth Taylor, the iconic Hollywood actress, who died today of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 79.
I saw those incandescent, sparkling eyes in person when Taylor starred on Broadway in a 1981 revival of “The Little Foxes,” the Lillian Hellman drama, a role that earned her a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a play. She didn’t win, but she won in my heart.
The play was performed at the Martin Beck Theatre, which became a mecca for her Hollywood pals, who flocked to see her.
For 123 performances, she was a magnet on the Great White Way!
Take the night I was there; I arrived early, sat in orchestra perhaps six or seven rows from the stage, and was able to witness a Broadway Event. First Hollywood couple to stroll into the row: actress Jane Powell (star of such films as “Royal Wedding” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” and a bridesmaid for Taylor’s first marriage) and her husband, who took the pair of seats to the left of my wife and me; a few minutes later, who should traipse in, quickly attracting folks with pens to get their Playbill signed, but actor Robert Wagner and his actress wife, Natalie Wood, who claimed the seats to my immediate right.
Imagine how exciting it was, to be in the midst of such luminaries.
I knew that Powell and the Wagners were pals with Taylor; I worked up courage to tell Wagner, “You must be accustomed to this (autograph seekers),” as he signed a Playbill of a fan. By then, spectators in the balcony recognized the celebs in orchestra, and politely turned and waved to the fans above. (This was several years after he starred in TV’s “It Takes a Thief,” and three years into what would be a six-year run in “Hart to Hart”).
To see Liz Taylor, the quintessential queen of the silver screen, made “The Little Foxes” a phenom. To be among her dear pals made it one of the moments I shall cherish forever.
Oh yeah; after a standing ovation, the Hollywood couples went backstage to Taylor’s dressing room, as we ventured to a late dinner to relive the memory of seeing Taylor.
And, of course, talk about her remarkable violet eyes.