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"Tell Mama All"


Camille Paglia loved Elizabeth Taylor's body:

To me, Elizabeth Taylor's importance as an actress was that she represented a kind of womanliness that is now completely impossible to find on the U.S. or U.K. screen. It was rooted in hormonal reality -- the vitality of nature. She was single-handedly a living rebuke to postmodernism and post-structuralism, which maintain that gender is merely a social construct. Let me give you an example. Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids Are All Right" is a truly wonderful film, but Julianne Moore and Annette Bening -- who is fabulous in it and should have won the Oscar for her portrayal of a prototypical contemporary American career woman -- were painfully scrawny to look at on the screen. This is the standard starvation look that is now projected by Hollywood women stars -- a skeletal, Pilates-honed, anorexic silhouette, which has nothing to do with females as most of the world understands them. There's something almost android about the depictions of women currently being projected by Hollywood.

Kevin Sessums procured the following tidbit out of her about James Dean, which Kevin didn't publish at the time:

"I loved Jimmy. I'm going to tell you something, but it's off the record until I die. OK? When Jimmy was 11 and his mother passed away, he began to be molested by his minister. I think that haunted him the rest of his life. In fact, I know it did. We talked about it a lot. During Giant we'd stay up nights and talk and talk, and that was one of the things he confessed to me."

Another tortured soul with whom she worked was Montgomery Clift. There was a quality to her AIDS activism that was not only warrior-like but also maternal, and I confessed to her myself that afternoon that it was as if she were turning to all of us who were HIV positive and saying, as she did to Clift, in A Place in the Sun, in the cinema's most famous closeup, "Tell Mama..."

She touched my hand and stopped me. She leaned forward. "Tell Mama all..." she finished the line for me with the most fervent of whispers.

(Photo: Flowers are placed on actress Elizabeth Taylor's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 23, 2011 in Hollywood, California. By Michael Buckner/Getty Images.)