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The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: The obsessions, Passions, and Courage of Elizabeth Taylor.

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: The obsessions, Passions, and Courage of Elizabeth Taylor * Ellis Amburn * Cliff Street Books * $25

A new biography dishes the dirt but still polishes the legend of Liz

Elizabeth Taylor must be a biographer's nightmare. Too much has been written about her already. And her life is too unusual, too idiosyncratic to hold any lessons. It's neither comedy nor tragedy--just a big, gloppy mess.

Fortunately, Ellis Amburn doesn't let any of this stand in his way. He realizes that what you really need in a bio of Liz is good dish--and plenty of it. Over and over again he manages to find the most embarrassing moment, the cattiest comment, the sleaziest sexual detail. In The Most Beautiful Woman in the World he's made room for them all.

Amburn's tragedy is to recount Taylor's amazing life--child star, great beauty, home wrecker--harridan, Joan Rivers fat joke, saintly survivor--in terms of her behavior, which, according to the author, is even worse than her acting in the V.I.P.'s. And Amburn claims he knows just what the problem is: addiction. In fact, she's addicted to so many things--drugs, pills, liquor, food, sex, jewelry, shopping--that he hardly knows what addiction to follow next. My favorite was sex. She used to yell at Eddie Fisher, "I want you to come and fuck me!" right in front of reporters. And she and Larry Fortensky were going at it constantly. (I must admit I understand Fortensky's brutal appeal. But Henry Wynberg? Remember him? He was the use-car salesman she was dating, and nobody could figure out why. Amburn reports he was extremely well-endowed, which certainly clears up that mystery.)

Amburn doesn't really offer much that's new. Even his assertion that Taylor's great love, Richard Burton, was bisexual comes from a previous Burton biography. (More interesting is the suggestion, made in the book by Frank Taylor, producer of The Misfits, that Burton and Laurence Olivier were lovers.)

Often the anecdotes Amburn has culled from various sources seen contradictory. The parallels between Liz's life and the lives of the gay men she championed in the early days of AIDS are not explored in the depth they deserve--how odd that the moral redemption of this great hetero sex symbol should come from her defense of homosexuality.

But no matter. Amburn's mixture of solid research and National Enquirer attitude, plus a little 12-step scolding, have produced a book that adds to the Taylor legend. We read of her excesses, and not only do we forgive her, we are thrilled.

Plunket is the author of My Search for Warren Harding and Love Junke.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Plunket, Robert
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 6, 2000
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