Sunday, December 11, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor had a lot of jewels, doo dah, doo dah

Last weekend I made a quickie trip to Manhattan to view Elizabeth Taylor's mind-boggling collection of jewels, designer clothes, and all sorts of STUFF before they went on the auction block.  I think today is the last day of the exhibit, as a matter of fact.

At any rate, here is a brief writeup on the exhibit:

Originally, I was going to take my Mom with me for this exhibit. My friend Colleen was interested too and in fact I bought three tickets. My Mom didn't go, and it's a bummer because she would definitely have appreciated this. She's a decade younger than Liz Taylor and Liz was "the it girl" during my Mom's younger years. She even has a coat very similar to the one Liz wore in Butterfield 8 (and now I have it).

I had hoped to get up early enough to make it back down to City Bakery for a care package of their pretzel croissants. I was going to take a half dozen home with me. Alas, I woke up about the time I had hoped to be walking out the door. Plenty of time to make it to Christie's, but not enough to go down to 18th street and then back up to Rockefeller Center.

When we got to Christie's (across from the Rainbow Room entrance at Rockefeller Center) the line was already starting to form. We were third in line but it quickly grew behind us. One lady a few steps behind us was all dolled up like Liz Taylor in her middle years. Not the caftan years, a bit slimmer than that. Bouffant hairdo, lots of makeup, and wearing a sort of evening gown with a black "mink" coat. Visions of a Star Trek convention briefly passed before my eyes...

The exhibit starts with all of her jewelry boxes (or rather, all the ones they were auctioning, no doubt there were many more). A LOT of jewelry boxes. She was much loved by a lot of wealthy people! As we waited to go upstairs to the start of the main exhibit, there was a continuous loop playing of snippets of her movies and a few of her gowns were on display in the lobby. Keep in mind - Christie's used ALL of its display space for this exhibit. This was museum quality. Very well lit, well spaced, descriptions for everything (which of course it had to be, this is the exhibit before the actual auction).

The exhibit then started upstairs with her many different gowns and some recognizable clothes. For instance, they had the daisy applique "hot pants" ensemble she wore on the plane when visiting her first grandchild for the first time (age 39). Yes, Hot Pants Gramma. I saw the photo (online) and she even had white go-go boots for the trip. No, the go-go boots were not there.

They grouped her clothes together, for instance, one room was for the "caftan era". Yes, I know she was not in the best shape during this time, with many health issues and overweight. These caftans were just stunning, and made by a variety of designers. I'd be more than happy to wear many of them. Some of her clothes in this exhibit were in appallingly bad taste (even though very expensive and "camp"), but most of them were fabulous. One set was a layering of a dress and other items, all in different flower prints. And pleated, IIRC. Just, ugh. But that was the exception rather than the rule I'd say. Oh yeah, and the sequined jacket with her Cleopatra face in various angles all over the back of it. Not her finest hour (and I think that jacket was from a famous designer, too). They had her two wedding dresses to each marriage to Richard Burton, for instance. GOR-GEOUS. Just beautiful. I wonder, now that I think about it, if I saw anything from the Larry Fortensky years. Shudder.

There was a small room which was designed to look like a replica of her walk in closet for her handbags. SOME of her handbags, correction. Just how big was her house? or houses? Where did she put all this stuff? What if she wanted to wear a certain pair of shoes and it turned out to be at her one coastal house and she was at the house on the other coast? Awk-ward!

There was a huge pile of her Louis Vuitton luggage. Many of them had her special luggage tags: lavender, with the word MINE! on each one. Wouldn't her steamer trunk look lovely in the living room?

There was a collection of her Chanel items - handbags, belts and suits. There was the outfit she wore when she was awarded her OBE. Yes, the one she wore before the Queen. A lavender pantsuit. One room had an assembling of a handful of her director's chairs. OK, I WANT a director's chair that says Elizabeth Taylor! There was even one that said Richard Burton.

Her jewelry went on for room after room. Mostly (if not all) bespoke jewelry - don't forget that. Van Cleef and Arpels. Bvlgari. Boucheron. Cartier. This was absolutely jewels fit for royalty and it's utterly amazing that one person owned all of this. I have to ask - is there ANY celebrity today who even comes close to this? That kind of glamour has gone out of style with celebs, hasn't it? Or not? And no, I'm not referring to the Kardashians (shudder).   The friend who went with me has friends who work for auction houses and they told her that these jewels would disappear into the Persian Gulf, never to be seen again.  I believe it, once they get bid up, who else could afford them?

There was yet another room with her various artwork. A Van Gogh (Vue de l’Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy) was my favorite. I hope it doesn't go to a private collection, never to be seen again.

And I have to point out that a portion of the proceeds is going to her charity, ETAF. This isn't all for her estate.

I am so glad I went. This was the last chance to get even a glimpse of the life of one of Hollywood's legends - and I say that even though I'm not an E! watcher or a People magazine reader (OK, OK, except when the Sexiest Man Issue comes out). She had a hand in planning for this auction, and you felt somewhat like you were at her wake - but a happy wake, not one where everyone was sad and crying. A celebration of her life. She definitely Lived Life Large.

I only wish I could take a day off and head up to watch the actual auction. Talk about people watching extraordinaire.  I should have mentioned one thing I wish I did: I didn't step back from the exhibit and just watch. I was so intent on viewing everything, and reading various placards, that I didn't just stop and watch the people. Obviously I saw the people hovering near me, and heard snippets of conversations... but I should have stepped back and let the room flow around me for a while.

And there you have it! 

One photo from the weekend (none were allowed in the exhibit, of course):

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