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Whitney Houston dies at 48.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, has died. She was 48.

Publicist Kristen Foster said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unclear.

At her peak in the 1980s and ’90s, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry and one of the world’s best-selling artists.

Among her hits were “How Will I Know,” ”Saving All My Love for You” and “I Will Always Love You.” She won multiple Grammy Awards including Album and Record of the Year.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies like “The Bodyguard.”

But by the end of her career, drug use took its toll as her record sales plummeted and her voice became raspy and hoarse.

Readers: For more on Whitney Houston on this blog, click here.

Elizabeth Taylor in costume as “Cleopatra,” from the 1963, 20th Century Fox production of the same name

Yet another iconic item worn by actress Elizabeth Taylor is on the auction block – a wig she wore in the 1963 film, “Cleopatra.” Ms. Taylor wore many different hairdos in the movie and British wigmaster Stanley Hall made three wigs for each style. The wig for sale is made of real human hair, medium brown, and is adorned with hanging braids and gold beads.

Elizabeth Taylor is photographed with some props from the 1963 film, “Cleopatra.”

In the movie, Ms. Taylor’s character wears this particular wig when she tries to convince Julius Caesar, played by Rex Harrison, to accept supreme control of the empire. (1) The wig is being sold by Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas, and is set to fetch around $11,000.

Elizabeth Taylor in the arms of Richard Burton, from the movie, “Cleopatra,” 1963.

It was during the 1962 filming of “Cleopatra” in Rome that 30-year-old Elizabeth Taylor fell madly in love with her other male costar and onscreen lover, Richard Burton, 36, cast as Mark Antony. The two were both married to others at the time.

At the time, Ms. Taylor was already a big film star being paid the unprecedented amount of a million dollars to play Cleopatra. Mr. Burton, however, who was Welsh, was a Shakespearean stage actor largely unknown outside of England.

Richard Burton (l), talks with Eddie Fisher and his wife Elizabeth Taylor on the Cinecitta set in Rome, early 1962.

When people began to whisper that perhaps Ms. Taylor and Mr. Burton were conducting an illicit affair, the couple denied the accusations. So uncontrollable was their love and lust, that their affair was

“bloody obvious,” to use Burton’s term – so flagrantly on display. (2)

When the director of “Cleopatra” shouted “Cut!” at the end of love scenes, Taylor and Burton would continue to kiss.

They carried on on the movie set, film lot, in their private villas, and took their love to town – to the Via Veneto. But they were not safely in America, where  there was a time-honored tradition not to pry into the private lives of public people and where the studio would have squelched any unflattering press. They were in Rome – the land of the paparazzi.

The Italian “paparazzi” were a new style of journalist. These young, Vespa-riding photographers with cameras with zoom lenses slung around their neck were hungry for a money-making photo that would reveal the affair to the waiting world. With a pack mentality, they were ruthlessly intent upon snapping photos of the jetset enjoying La Dolce Vita, the sweet life, popularized in the film of that same name. And Liz and Dick were getting hot and heavy on the Via Veneto.

From February thru July, paparazzi stalked Taylor and Burton’s every move, hoping for that money-making photo that would expose the lovers to the world. And they got them, too, forcing both Liz and Dick to deal with their respective spouses.

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton emerge from the restaurant Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navona, spring, 1962.

The Burton-Taylor Affair – “Le Scandale,” as Burton termed it – created international interest and thus, international coverage.

Richard Burton leans in for a kiss from Elizabeth Taylor on the Cinecitta sound stage, circa March 30, 1962. Paparazzo Elio Sorci hid under a car across from the movie lot all day to snap this photo which came to be known as the “kissing picture.” It blew the lid off the Taylor-Burton affair, appearing in first the Italian papers before making its way to New York.

The public, it seemed, had an unquenchable appetite to follow the drama. Gone were the days when American readers of Photoplay and Modern Screen were content to read fictional accounts of their favorite movie stars generated by the big movie studios.

Elizabeth Taylor gazes into the eyes of her true love, Richard Burton, as they sail off the Amalfi Coast where the filming of “Cleopatra” was wrapping up. June, 1962.

It is hard to overstate the excitement caused at the time by Elizabeth and Richard’s grand passion. Everyone was following the saga, even First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who asked the publicist Warren Cowan in early 1963,

“Warren, do you think Elizabeth Taylor will marry Richard Burton?”(3)

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the glow of their love, caught by paparazzo on a yacht off the coast of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, June 1962.

Initially, the pair were condemned by the press for their public adultery until publishers woke up and realized how much the “Liz and Dick” machine increased tabloid, newspaper, magazine, and book sales.

Photoplay July 1962. Everyone had an opinion about the Taylor Burton affair.

Note to readers: Today also begins the first auction at Christie’s, New York, of  The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, which I was privileged to view on December 3, 2011. (2)

(1) Source: The Guardian

(2) “Remembering Liz (1932-2011),” Life Commemorative, 2011.

(3) Kashner, Sam and Schoenberger, Nancy. Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.

Readers: For more on Elizabeth Taylor on Lisa’s History Room, click here.

Actress Elizabeth Taylor had stunning beauty. She was such a gorgeous little girl that, when people would see her for the first time, they would gasp in astonishment, staring at her sapphire eyes wreathed in thick black lashes and the shiny black hair framing her porcelain face.  “What a pretty child !” they would exclaim, prompting the well-rehearsed Elizabeth to curtsey and smile.

Elizabeth Taylor in “Lassie Come Home,” 1943.

But Elizabeth was not always gorgeous, said her mother, Sara Taylor, a former stage actress. She considered Elizabeth to be quite an ugly baby when born in London on February 27, 1932.

Sara Taylor cradles her newborn daughter, the future movie queen Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

At first glance at her newborn, Sara was repulsed:

“As the precious bundle was placed in my arms, my heart stood still. There inside the cashmere shawl was the funniest-looking baby I had ever seen. Her hair was long and black. Her ears were covered with thick black fuzz, and inlaid into the sides of her head….”(1)

Baby Elizabeth’s arms, shoulders, and back were covered with a thick downy pelt called lanugo, not uncommon in newborns.

“The infant looked like a little monkey,” remembered Viennese art dealer and family friend Ernest Lowy. (2)

Compounding the problem, Elizabeth’s eyes were screwed tightly shut. For ten days, the doctor tried to pry them open unsuccessfully, finding only the whites visible. Then one day, Baby Elizabeth suddenly snapped open her eyes and gazed up at her new mother. Sara found herself gazing down into two pools of deep violet fringed by thick black lashes – double rows of lashes! Then the baby smiled. Sara considered this a special greeting from her daughter and told the nurse so. The nurse chuckled, reminding Mrs. Taylor that infants can’t express emotion:

“That was no smile,” the nurse indicated, “only a little gas.” (3)

Elizabeth Taylor in profile, ca. 1934

The dark fuzz fell off and a swan emerged.

Elizabeth Taylor didn’t begin to walk until she was 16 months old. She is shown here with one of the many dogs for which she cared during her lifetime. ca.1934-35

 

As a young girl, Elizabeth Taylor had a big head on a little body. “What a podge!” she remarked, upon seeing a young photo of herself. 1934.

 

Peter Lawford and Elizabeth Taylor in this publicity shot for "Julia Misbehaves" (1948). In this unretouched 1950 publicity photo, one can see La Liz's arms were covered in a dark and velvety down, in keeping with her being a beautiful brunette.

Peter Lawford and Elizabeth Taylor in this publicity shot for “Julia Misbehaves” (1948). In this unretouched 1950 publicity photo, one can see La Liz’s arms were covered in a dark and velvety down, in keeping with her being a beautiful brunette.

 

(1) Ladies’ Home Journal,  March- April 1954.

(2) Heymann, C. David. Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1995, 2011.

(3)  Walker, Alexander. Elizabeth: The Life of Elizabeth Taylor. New York: Grove Press, 1990, 1997.

Readers: For more on Elizabeth Taylor on Lisa’s History Room, click here.

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood aboard their yacht the Splendour. Undated photo.

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood aboard their yacht the Splendour. Undated photo.

According to a witness whose account has never been disclosed, Hollywood star Natalie Wood  was screaming for help as she drowned in 1981.

Retired stockbroker Marilyn Wayne said she tried to report the star’s ‘last desperate cries for help’ but was ignored.

Los Angeles police last week said ‘substantial new evidence’ has led them to reopen their investigation into the death 30 years ago this week.

Learn more at the Daily Mail Online.

Readers: For more on Natalie Wood on Lisa’s History Room, click here.

Is Kate pregnant? While William, 29, plus the Danish Crown Prince and Princess tasted peanut paste at a recent visit to a global supply center for Unicef, Kate politely refused -- and reportedly gave her husband of six months a knowing look.

Tabloids are abuzz with speculation that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is expecting her first child with Prince William. Buckingham Palace refuses to deny or confirm such a statement but there are hints that there may be some truth to the rumor.

It is all started with Kate refused to sample some peanut paste in a Unicef food packet in a royal visit to Copenhagen. (Doctors warn expectant mothers against eating nuts.) She further fueled speculation  on another occasion when she refused a glass of champagne while hosting a charity dinner on behalf of Prince Charles. (Expectant mothers shouldn’t drink alcohol.)

In Touch magazine claims that Kate is six weeks pregnant. In Touch‘s sources have been reliable in the past, having correctly revealed both the couple’s honeymoon plans and the Queen‘s wedding gift to Kate.

Learn more at The Daily Beast.

Readers: For more on Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, on Lisa’s History Room, click here.

Natalie Wood was born "Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko" on July 20, 1938, to Russian immigrant parents. She began acting in Hollywood movies at the age of 4. She died by drowning at the age of 43 during the production of "Brainstorm" (1983) with Christopher Walken.

How did actress Natalie Wood, famous for her star turn in Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, end up drowning off Santa Catalina Island, California, in 1981 while boating with actor husband Robert Wagner and costar Christopher Walker? Though officially ruled an accident at the time, the circumstances that led to her death and the nature of her tumble off the yacht the Splendour she owned with Wagner have remained one of Hollywood’s darkest mysteries.

Robert Wagner bends over to kiss flowers that cover the casket of his wife Natalie Wood during her graveside ceremonies on December 2, 1981. If Wagner discovered that his wife was missing from their yacht around midnight, why did he wait over an hour to use the ship's radio to call for help? These and other questions surrounding Woods' death remain unanswered.

Today, 30 years later, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has announced that it is reopening the case of Natalie Woods’ drowning due to “credible information” from multiple sources. One source is Dennis Davern, who was the boat captain of the Splendour that dark and fateful night, a night full of boozing and yelling and tragedy. Davern now says that he lied in his original statement to the police and that Robert Wagner is responsible for Wood’s death.

"Splendour," the yacht owned by Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner

Learn more at MSNBC.

Readers: For more on Natalie Wood on Lisa’s History Room, click here.

British American screenstar Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) as a young girl.

Just after actress Elizabeth Taylor was born, her parents were ushered into the doctor’s office and told that their newborn daughter had a mutation. 

 “Well, that sounded just awful,” her mother Sara Taylor said later,”a mutation.”

The mutation was not a deformity, however. It meant that little Elizabeth was born with double rows of eyelashes.

Elizabeth Taylor, age 10

Sara breathed a little easier to learn that.

“I thought,well, now, that doesn’t sound so terrible at all.”

Elizabeth’s eyes were stunning – large and blue, rimmed by deep, thick lashes. When caught in the light, the color of her eyes was almost violet. (1)

Elizabeth Taylor had luminous beauty - and double rows of eyelashes.

Double rows of eyelashes are usually the result of a mutation at FOXC2 , a gene that influences all kinds of tissue development in embryos. FOXC2 mutations are thought to be responsible for, among other things, lymphedema-distichiasissyndrome , a hereditary disease that can cause disorders of the lymphatic system, in addition to double eyelashes.

The eyelash mutation isn’t always as cosmetically enhancing as Taylor’s turned out to be — the extra eyelashes can sometimes grow inward and damage the cornea. In addition, seven percent of people with lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome also suffer from congenital heart disease.

Coincidentally, Taylor herself had a history of heart problems. In 2009, Taylor underwent surgery to repair a leaky heart valve. Her death on March 23, 2011, was attributed to congestive heart failure.

In April 2010, Elizabeth Taylor launched a new line of perfume "Violet Eyes": "This sensual perfume is inspired by her iconic eye color; it is feminine, captivating, sophisticated and intriguing. Filled with a bouquet of the flowers Elizabeth Taylor loves, the composition is both modern and mysterious."

Source:  Slate

Readers, for more on Elizabeth Taylor at Lisa’s History Room, click here.

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