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Love etc

How Elizabeth Taylor changed America

Taylor with her sixth husband, John Warner, at a disco in New York. Getty

In the summer of 1976, “Elizabeth Taylor needed a date”, says Kate Andersen Brower in The Washington Post. The 44-year-old movie star was freshly divorced, for the second time, from Richard Burton, and had an invite to a “glittering Washington dinner party”. The British ambassador hooked her up with John Warner, a handsome Republican with silver hair and chiselled cheekbones. Soon afterwards, she paid an impromptu visit to his farm in Virginia. “This reminds me so much of England,” she told him as they walked arm in arm through the fields. “I’d like the role of the farmer’s wife.” Five months later, he became the sixth of her seven husbands.

Taylor was soon deployed in Warner’s 1978 campaign to win Virginia’s US Senate seat. Voters “clamoured to meet her”, but she chafed under the strictures of politics. Warner asked her to get rid of her Rolls-Royce and yacht. (“The yacht? Aren’t you secretary of the Navy?” she quipped.) And a Republican women’s group told her not to wear purple, her favourite colour, because of its improper associations with “passion”. Warner won, but the couple divorced in 1982. Taylor nevertheless had some “legislative impact”. After getting caught short on the campaign trail because none of her retinue had a coin to use an airport bathroom, she threatened to ditch Warner unless he fixed the problem – which he duly did, partnering with Senator Ted Kennedy to make all America’s airport loos free to use.

Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon by Kate Andersen Brower is available to buy here.