I was thinking that it was about time for a Garbo moment, but then I heard (thank you, TJB!) that this remarkable creature would have turned 85 today. What better reason for an Elizabeth moment?
We knew she left too soon; could we have any idea how much she'd be missed, how very much we need her raucous, mad, direct and utterly unfiltered take on what passes for reality?
The more time passes, too, the more remarkable she seems to be.
Imagine the burden of being, from earliest childhood, almost eerily beautiful - not just lovely in the way that one sees now and then, but of a beauty that recalls impossible legends, a beauty that blends earthiness and delicacy, a beauty of both bone and flesh, all at once carnal and ethereal. Add to that a quality that made her, throughout her life, somehow changeably ageless. She was more womanly at 14 or so than any 38-year-old, and more girlish at 75 than most people are ever lucky enough to be. Even as she aged, as wild living and poor health took their toll (and few have ever lived more wildly or enjoyed a more varied medical history), she remained set apart. In her last few years, however battered she might be, she never seemed diminished. And in the wake of her too-early death, we learned ever more of what we'd lost: her goodness, her courage, her infinite generosity and her sheer maddening reckless gusto for more, of whatever was on offer.
Diamonds, scandals, lashings of alcohol and excess in every form; at least one if not more mediocre-to-terrible picture for every triumph; the marriages and the waistlines and the headlines and the inexplicable attachments (the plumber? Michael Jackson?). All was forgiven, forgotten, with one look at those eyes, one chance to hear the horking laughter that seemed all the more incongruous - a fishwife's gleeful shout - coming from that perfect mouth.
It's all enough, almost, to make one forget that on top of all that, when she cared to be, she was an artist: the real thing. If all it took were beauty, we'd be hanging on the deathless career of Anna Sten or Isa Miranda. Hedy Lamarr - however much a worthy, fascinating woman in her own right - proves that bone structure on its own just isn't enough. No, Elizabeth (never Liz, please) had the spark. She was Velvet, and Amy March, Gloria Wandrous and Martha; inevitably, Cleopatra, and, God help us, Pearl Slaghoople. She endured, and her potent appeal will, I think, outlast us all. Who more outraged the easily shocked - but who left a better legacy of love and memory?
And only 85. If only. Just look at her there. I don't know about you, but it's hard to look at those eyes and not feel, somehow, improved. Maggie the Cat is alive...