Right on the high heels of the death of actress, icon and dame Elizabeth Taylor the folks at Architectural Digest released a small cache of photographs of Miz Taylor’s long-time mansion in the uppity Bel Air area of Los Angeles, CA.
Miz Taylor, who surrounded herself with blue-chip artworks, gigantic gems and gaggles of gays, lived and loved in a prosaic but pretty 7,000-ish square foot gated mansion with a guard house manned by an armed and Israeli security staff.
This humble and ho-hum home was an astonishingly modest real estate choice for a cosmopolitan woman who draped herself in 400 pounds of rubies and emeralds just to go to the damn terlit. Her large but architecturally ordinary abode in Bel Air, now for sale with an asking price of $8,600,000, reflects the delicious contradictory duality that defined Miz Taylor who always had a bawdy and very down home hardy yin to her Tinseltown high-glamor yang. No one, hunties, could turn it out in a ball gown and glittering sea of diamonds like Miz Taylor who, it is no secret, had a naughty potty mouth that makes foul-mouthed lady-pimp Heidi Fleiss look like Mother fuckin‘ Teresa.
The interior spaces of Miz Taylor’s residence, according A.D., were re-decorated in 2010 “in collaboration with” nice, gay and very accomplished interior decorator Waldo Fernandez.” ‘In collaboration with?’ What does that even mean? In the vaulted ceilinged living room a Hockney still life hangs with a Hals portrait and a carved stone Buddha sits in front of the fireplace flanked by built-in wood display cabinets. One one side the shelves are chock-a-block with Asian and Audubon-y things and on the other side a herd of galloping bronze horses sculpted by Miz Taylor’s daughter Liza Todd Tivey give the room a silent but inescapable rhythm.
Naturally the sprawling ranch has a trophy room full of awards and accolades and Oscars. Upstairs, in Miz Taylor’s private domain, the girlish dressing room has what we first thought was flower-printed wall paper with matching portieres and bubble valances. One of the children thoughtfully schooled Your Mama and declared the walls are actually covered in fabric with embroidered violets, which is so much better and so much more decoratively lavish that we can barely stand it. Lavender shag carpeting matches the embroidered violets and covers every inch of the floor, wall to wall. In normal circumstances the mere thought of lavender shag wall-to-wall carpeting can get Your Mama’s gag reflex to work overtime. At Miz Taylor’s house, in her dressing room, it somehow feels correct. This would never–ever–work for anyone who isn’t Liz Taylor. That means don’t any of you do it yourself decorators think it might be a cute homage to Miz Taylor to install lavender shag wall-to-wall carpeting in your own home. It won’t be cute. It’ll be awful and embarrassing. Your friends and neighbors will scoff at and make fun of you with each other behind your back and then they’ll mock you openly at the grocery store in front of your work-spouse.
These rooms appear, at first glance, rather bland. A longer look yields a quiet but definite complexity of vision and multi-layered balance. This is the home of an ordinary if exquisitely beautiful woman who lived an extraordinary life and she has, to her credit, nothing to prove to anyone. Although her near billion dollar fortune would have allowed her to live, literally, like a queen, a steroidal mansion that slaps a person across the face with its overt magnificence, grotesque grandeur and architectural melodrama would would have been hopelessly false for this woman who remained true to her sometimes uncouth self even as she became a style icon and dynamic living legend of tragi-comic and epic proportions.
The photos for Architectural Digest were done by photographer Firooz Zahedi, a long time snapper of Miz Taylor. If the children have not seen Mister Zahedi’s images of Miz Taylor from a mid-1970s visit to Iran you should. They’re magnificent. Your Mama went to see them a few weeks or months ago at the LACMA with our boozy b.f.f. Fiona Trambeau who was so overcome with rum and emotion that she collapsed into a quiet heap right there in the hallway in front of the elevators. Eventually ol‘ Fiona regained consciousness and we went and had a few cocktails to discuss and recover from the day’s drama. The pictures are subtle and snap-shotty but they are really that good.
Anyhoodles poodles, according to the photo captions in A.D., Miz Taylor’s nephew Christopher is responsible for the campy shell-shaped fountain at the deep end of the back yard swimming pool that’s sunk into a terrace tucked into an obtuse angle where two wings of the mansion come together and do the meet and greet. The children will notice the double handrails and shallow steps next to the spa that we would bet our long-bodied bitches Linda and Beverly were probably specially designed in order that a sometimes not very stable or ambulatory Miz Tayor could still take her kaftan-wearing self a dip in the damn pool.
Elaborate and terraced gardens encircle the residence. A procession of athletic but delicate arches wrapped in a stickery climbing rose sort of shades a wood bench where Your Mama wonders if anyone besides the gardener has ever actually sat. Miz Taylor’s mature gardens offer up a floral abbondanza thick with gardenias, lilies of the valley and orchids, grown in a hot house, of course. Various rose varieties dot the estate and include the Elizabeth Taylor, a hot-pink hybrid tea rose named after the silver screen queen herself. Quite frankly, we imagined the Elizabeth Taylor rose would be lavender like her eyes, but hot pink it is.
Real estate pessimists like Your Mama fear that whomever buys Miz Taylor’s 1.27 acre estate will demolish the admittedly not very exciting house to make way for a monstrous mock-Med mega-mansion that pushes the properties building envelope at every possible corner. That would be a pity. Alas, that is all to often how the real estate ball bounces in the L.A.’s Platinum Triangle. The best we can hope for, chickens, is that someone like super-agent turned high-end house flipper Sandy Gallin will purchase the property and give it one of his signature make overs to preserve what’s architecturally good. If real estate history repeats itself in that manner we could expect, Mister Gallin would install of a flotilla of stacked white towels in every bathroom and flip the beehawtcha back on the market as the new and improved Liz Taylor mansion with an asking price in excess of $30,000,000. Stranger things have happened, puppies. Stay tuned.
Additional images of Miz Taylor’s home are to be released with the printing of next month’s issue of Architectural Digest.