|Taylor-Made: Elizabeth Taylor’s captivating looks fated her to be a star and a doll.|
For many of us who collect celebrity memorabilia and film totems, that macabre thought does pop up every now and then. I know that during the days of Pee-wee Herman’s publicized arrest for being a little too touchy/feely (with himself!), I had the same post-felony curiosity: Gee, will my Pee-wee doll and playhouse set double, triple, or possibly quadruple in value? And, like Cameron, I immediately felt a sense of embarrassed cupidity.
Was I collecting to make money, to get a healthy return on my investment, or was I acquiring for adoration and amusement? And can the two sides of the “coin” go hand in hand?
Cameron and I chatted about this, and used his Liz dolls as our conversational launch pad. A devotee of Liz for her off-screen charity work with amfAR and her celluloid roles (he really loves her in “A Place in the Sun”), we estimated that Cameron has spent close to $2,000 on different dolls that captured Taylor in all phases of her career. “No matter the age, no matter the role, no matter her size—she was beautiful inside and out,” he maintains.
And that’s what is so fascinating about the life of Elizabeth Taylor—actress, wife (eight times in that capacity), mother, tabloid fodder, activist, perfume pusher—she never held back. Taylor is as well known for her lusty appetites for love, drinks, food, and friendship as she is for her performances in “National Velvet,” “Father of the Bride,” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Because she was known to be so genuine and earthy when the cameras weren’t rolling (she liked to hang out with the film crew and learned all of their names), she has a fascinating spot in the pantheon of old Hollywood gods and goddesses. She was like a fallen angel: a woman who could have had it all but always seemed to be missing the last piece of the puzzle to make her happy and whole. That vulnerability in a movie star who should have been invincible, and untouchable, is what touched her fans and endeared her to millions around the world. Though she was married eight times (twice to the same man), one got the sense that she was never as happy or as well-cared-for in real life as she was in her film incarnations. It’s sad that “Father of the Bride” might have been her most joyous walk down the aisle.
“I don’t feel right about thinking of selling my Elizabeth dolls,” Cameron went on, “because it would be like betraying her. And she was betrayed by men her WHOLE life. I just couldn’t do that.”
I agreed with my fretting friend. If the thought of putting his dolls up for auction was going to give him ulcers, what would be the point? He should not let himself be eaten alive with guilt over trying to get some pocket-money gelt.
As we corresponded about the legacy of Elizabeth Taylor and if her star will continue to shine (remember, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Elvis Presley are all earning more money posthumously), we heard on the radio that Taylor’s estate is being reported as between $600 million and a billion dollars.
“Hmmm, she did quite well for herself,” Cameron opined. And then he added: “I imagine if we looked like she did, we’d all do well too.”
But that’s not true, Cameron. In fact, one of the essential reasons for Taylor’s clout in Tinseltown was that no one else really looked like her. There were studio wannabes (Joan Collins was paraded around as “the poor man’s Liz”), but nobody matched Elizabeth for those violet eyes, creamy white skin, heart-shaped face, raven locks, and itty-bitty waist. As Cleopatra, she looked every inch the regal empress, and she made 20th Century Fox executives bow down and reach deep into their pockets to pay her to accept that part. She became the highest paid actress in the history of the world, circa 1963. She cashed a $1,000,000 paycheck for that role, and became an icon for her looks, her bold attitude, her blossoming love affair with Richard Burton, and her unapologetic hedonism. Taylor became so entwined with the antics of the real Cleo, the literary interpretations of the Queen of the Nile, and her own misbehaving during filming that her appearance in the movie continues to be the stuff of legends and lore. If she had done nothing else in her profession, that role alone would have enshrined her with fans AND demonized her with detractors. (Look at the number of Cleopatra dolls made by companies and by repaint artists. It is staggering. And look at this example of the Real Liz and her doll version as Cleopatra. Hint: the doll has the black background. This is a woman who was like a walking/talking porcelain doll. Perhaps that is why she was so fragile in life. China dolls aren’t meant to be handled so roughly and so fully. They are destined to break.)
On March 23, 2011, a flesh-and-blood woman passed away. To her legions of admirers, film scholars, and memorabilia collectors, her memory and her beauty will live on. Though she aged (as we all do) and her health had declined noticeably over the last two years of her life, she continued to crusade for what she believed in. And that’s what Cameron liked most. And to honor her memory, he has sold two of his Elizabeth dolls and donated the proceeds to amfAR. “I think she would have liked that,” he said. And I agree. There’s an extra White Diamond sparkling in the sky tonight, Cameron, and it’s for you.
Elizabeth Taylor and a one-of-a-kind Elizabeth Taylor doll, with 27 individual diamonds set in platinum. Picture: AP/Kevork Djansezian. Source: AP
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The Jones Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon one recipient per year. This award was created in 2002 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the teddy bear, with the first recipient being Steiff, a German-based plush toy company known for its high quality and prices.
The Lifetime Achievement recipient must be or have been involved in some aspect of the doll and/or teddy bear field for a minimum of 25 years. The recipient may be an individual, partnership, corporation, company, author, artist, marketer, historian or any other industry professional. Lifetime Achievement Award nominations may be made by previous recipients or members of the LAA committee.
To qualify as a nominee, entrants must meet the following criteria:
The Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented to the following individuals and companies since its inception:
2003 Hildegard Gunzel
2004 Alexander Doll Company
2005 R. John Wright
2006 Wendy Lawton
2007 Virginia Turner
2008 Toy Shoppe
2009 no award presented
2010 Helen Kish
2011 no award presented
2012 Maggie Iacono
2013 Heidi Plusczok
2014 Jack Johnston
August 8, 2014 - Blackall Associates Inc. is proud to announce the winner of its Summer Heat Photo Contest. The contest drew entries from around the world. Masterpiece Doll collectors sent in a special photo showing how their Masterpiece Dolls were enjoying the summer heat.
You haven’t seen a toy show until you’ve seen this one. Six buildings! Over six hundred exhibitors! Exclusively toys and dolls and children’s playthings on display everywhere! This is the show everyone always says they intend to visit, and now is the time to do just that. Collectors say the Chicago Toy Show really is the largest in the entire world. They are correct. Collectors say they find toys at this show that are never seen anywhere else. Correct again.
19 April 2014 – 5 October 2014
A special exhibition will take place at the Toy Worlds Museum Basle to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Swiss diplomacy and friendship.