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March 23, 2011

Remembering my few, valued moments in the presence of Elizabeth Taylor

Not to make this about me -- honest -- but I couldn't help get a flashback today after receiving the terrible news of Elizabeth Taylor's death.

Like her zillions of fans, I was struck by her beauty and her skills as an actress. As a kid, I wasn't allowed to see her in her steamier movies, but I sure remember adults talking about them.

Later on, I enjoyed exploring her film work and was particularly struck by her performance in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", an achievement I've come to appreciate more and more over the years. I also was enormously grateful to her early campaigning on behalf of people with HIV. Her brave stand, her passionate commitment meant so much to so many.

I never imagined I would ever be able to say that I once shook Miss Taylor's hand, started into those incredible violet eyes and received the most delicious greeting from her, but it happened. It's the sort of star-struck moment you don't forget easily.

This was in the mid 1970s, during my earliest years in the journalism biz, when I was a humble freelancer covering the arts for a chain of newspapers surrounding Washington, DC. In that capacity, I was invited to ... 

a press event for Wolf Trap. Miss Taylor had recently become involved with that wonderful arts park, having married Virginia Sen. John Warner.
She was involved with a gala night that kicked off the Wolf Trap season. This particularly press reception may have been to announce the gala program or the whole summer season; that detail is unclear now in my mind.

On a spring day -- late morning, I think -- we press types gathered in someone's lovely Georgetown home. It wasn't a terribly large place and the arts press crowd wasn't terribly numerous, as I recall, so it seemed an almost intimate gathering in the front room when I got there.

Shortly afterward, a car pulled up outside and Miss Taylor emerged. When she entered the house, the electricity was really something. She made a point of meeting and greeting everyone there, even this young, relatively green critic who couldn't think of a thing to say.

It was her graciousness, along with those penetrating, sparkling eyes that has stuck with me all these years since. The next year, the same event was held more formally; she walked out to a podium and addressed us and was gone.

So I'm doubly grateful that I was there on that more personal first occasion, and that I got to enjoy a small, indelible brush with with one of the most beautiful and gifted of all stars.


Posted by Tim Smith at 2:02 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


Now in these days we cant find like this Actress.She was such a great Actress.

Thanks for this personal remembrance, Tim. This definitely trumps the time I got Debbie Reynolds' autograph at a theater performance! (This was post-Eddie Fisher.)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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