Thursday, March 24, watching the news and a stunning juxtaposition was presented. This was the day after Elizabeth Taylor died, and a retrospective on her life showed an incredibly beautiful woman having lived a wild but profoundly interesting life. Next, the report on Lindsay Lohan. No glamour here as she sat morosely in a court room learning which sentence would be imposed on her.
That is the end of the story, but the beginnings of these two acknowledged stars had a commonality that is so similar it is almost spooky. Each were child phenoms. Each had a mother that was wedded to show business. Each was a child star in major and successful movies (Taylor in National Velvet, and Lohan as a Disney regular). Each had meteoric careers, and added other ventures to their portfolio – both with fashion labels. Lohan mostly clothing; Taylor largely in jewelry and fragrances. Both made a huge amount of money. And both had issues with drugs or alcohol. But there, the similarity pretty much ends. And the reasons are worth exploring.
The image of Liz Taylor sitting in a courtroom ready to go to jail is incomprehensible. The woman carried herself as a star should – with grace and beauty. Lohan, on the other hand can be crude and rude. To me this is mostly emblematic of the times we live in. I grew up in the glory days of the “star system” when the studios essentially controlled a large part of their star’s lives – especially those portions relating to public relations and image. Moreover, they also had a cooperative press. Yes, affairs were often whispered, and rumors abounded (some of it contrived to peak interest in the star or perhaps a project). No longer, in our media-infused world. As the song says: “now anything goes”!
Liz had a wild marital life: 8 different husbands. From it, she got a fascinating history, not to mention a king’s ransom in magnificent jewelry. A piece from Richard Burton was reported to have been purchased for $1 million. Lohan, on the other hand, got some of hers by allegedly walking out of a well known jewelry store with a $2500 necklace. The thought of Liz Taylor doing that, to use the same word, is incomprehensible.
Taylor did have her issues with alcoholism briefly in the 80’s. She dealt with it and apparently licked it early. Lohan has also had addiction problems, and apparently has never overcome them. She has had numerous run ins with the law, including several DUIs. Somehow, I cannot imagine Liz Taylor being hauled over of driving under the influence.
Back to the similarities, both these actresses are talented, have had turbulent lives, and in their own ways are surely entertainment “stars” by whatever definition. But the differences in their outcomes are what make the comparison so interesting. I am not sure what explains it. Again a lot are the times we live in now, as compared to the years that Taylor forged her career. Perhaps it is just nostalgia, but the times today are much less “user friendly”. Language is cruder. Violence greater. News is too immediate. The media is too invasive. Personalities are under intense scrutiny (Lohan and others have complained constantly about the paparazzi). There are elements among the younger set in the entertainment world that they are above obeying conventional laws, and many others have also been in court on a variety of issues. Some just got too rich too fast. Liz, on the other hand, decided she could use her fame to do something useful and good (mostly with AIDs), and that is how she invested her notoriety.
In the end, as an “old timer” comparing the lives of Liz and Lindsay is a metaphor for the times we live in. I guess the conclusion can best be summed up by the trite but useful phrase: “they don’t make them like they used to!”