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Our fascination with Liz Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor at a movie premiere in London

Elizabeth Taylor at a movie premiere in London in the early 1950s Photo Credit: AP

In a fitting farewell, the Twitterati paid tribute to Elizabeth Taylor morning to night yesterday. They followed her like so many tabloids and scandal sheets did a half-century ago.

Taylor had the power, the magic, the image, the violet eyes and beauty to fascinate the public, to influence style, to affect social issues and be an artist at the same time.

Who else could play Cleopatra?

Taylor's private life received even more exposure than her films. Her affairs fed magazines and stuffed newspapers. They were part of the national conversation, from the time she "stole" Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds to her tempestuous two marriages to Richard Burton.

Her troubles with her husbands, her weight and her health made international news, but also had a commonality with our own lives.

The headlines, however, often overshadowed her talent as well as her compassion. In the mid-1980s, Taylor was the first celebrity to recognize the HIV-AIDS crisis, and she challenged the entertainment community to fight the disease. Her enduring friendship with Michael Jackson gave her standing with another generation.

Decades from now, in media not yet discovered, the passing of a now-popular movie star may get comparable attention. Fascination with celebrity will endure. But in any cast of stars, Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered as the supernova.