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20 Nov 2004 09:19
Violet-eyed Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor is suffering from congestive heart failure and crippling spinal problems, but the movie icon says she is not afraid of death.
The star (72), once hailed as the world’s most beautiful woman and seen as the last great star of Hollywood’s golden age, revealed in a rare interview that she is once again staring death in the face.
Taylor, who sprang to worldwide fame at the age of 12 in 1944’s National Velvet, has gone out in public only twice in the past year, has difficulty breathing and walking and has a nurse by her side, she told W Magazine.
The superstar said she was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body’s other organs, resulting in breathlessness and a slow decline.
The condition is “a bore”, Taylor, dripping in her famous collection of diamonds and spouting her famous wit, said during an interview at her mansion in Los Angeles’ plush Bel Air district.
But when asked if she fears death, the actress, who famously nearly died of pneumonia while filming the epic Cleopatra in 1961 and then again several years ago, Taylor was unequivocal.
“No,” the eight-times-married icon said firmly. “Really I’m not, because I’ve been there.”
Taylor also suffers from scoliosis, a congenital disease that has twisted her spine so badly that she is in constant pain.
Last month, she underwent spinal surgery to repair seven compression fractures in her spine.
“My body’s a real mess.
“I’ve become one of those poor little old women who’s bent sideways. My X-rays are hysterical. The bone doctors just throw up their hands and say, ‘Sorry, there’s nothing we can do!’ Which is so cheery,” she said.
Despite her pain and failing heart, Taylor, who gave up acting to devote her energies to her crusade against Aids, said she still has her legendary toughness, which has helped her survive against all odds.
“People must think, my God, she’s still alive?” she said. “But there’s some resilience in me that makes me keep fighting. It’s the damnedest thing—I just keep coming back.”
Taylor recounted how she felt her spirit leaving her body when she was near death in London 43 years ago, and saw her third husband, film producer Mike Todd, who was killed in a 1958 plane crash.
“It’s hard to talk about. I was in a tunnel. I saw Mike. He said, ‘It’s not your time.’ I did fight, and I did come back. And I remember it all. It was quite a trip,” Taylor said.—Sapa-AFP
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