Gigi: Certain stars have, oh, a personal impact on us regular folks - the big ones: Elvis, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Audrey Hepburn. When do you recall first becoming aware of Elizabeth Taylor?
Joseph: My earliest memories of Elizabeth Taylor are actually from the mini-series North and South. I was (and still am, I suppose) obsessed with it as a child. Taylor has a small role in the series. It wasn't until much later that I would come to appreciate her as much as I do now.
G: What led you to write Elizabeth Taylor: A Passion for Life?
J: The idea for the book came very casually from an editor that I work with. She was looking for someone to "do" a book on Taylor and I jumped at the opportunity. I'm fortunate that she had the faith in me to do it.
G: It’s evident from the way you write about Elizabeth Taylor that you admire her for her tenacity, her free spirit, and her determination to succeed and experience life, as well as her beauty and glamour and style. If asked to express her life as a bumper sticker what would that bumper sticker say?
J: It would have to be a quote from Liz herself, well actually from her character in Suddenly Last Summer. I think perhaps: "Truth is the one thing I've never resisted." Or perhaps, "When the suncomes up, I have morals again"
G: How did she influence you?
J: If I've learned anything from Elizabeth Taylor, it's how pointless regret is. She never spent too
much time dwelling on mistakes and I think she grew and learned from each of them.
G: How about some word association, thinking of Elizabeth Taylor. I say Dick you say:
G: I say AIDS, you say:
G: I say mother, you say:
G: I say Virginia, you say:
J: Senator (as in John Warner)
G: Speaking of Senator Warner, I think my favorite period of Elizabeth Taylor’s life is when she was married to John Warner. I was fourteen and in junior high school when I met her in Hanover County, Virginia at the Republican Party Ox Roast – what was then an annual fundraising event held on my friend’s farm. My friends and I were working the event by parking cars. She was there campaigning for her husband’s run for a Virginia senate seat. I remember she wore a cherry-red and white v-neck dress that showed off her legs and her cleavage. She looked so natural and comfortable and gorgeous. She stopped to greet me and asked what I planned to do with my life. I said I wanted to be an actress! She told me, “It takes a lot of hard work and determination, but if you really want it, then don’t ever give up.” Later as my friend and I were riding double bareback down the road on a mule, her car rolled by, and she stopped to talk to us, again. She asked how far we were going and told us to be careful on the road. I also remember from that time that she was married to John Warner, she told an interviewer about the two of them cooking together and arguing over whether the pasta was al dente. She threw the pasta against the wall and it stuck there, so they wrote ‘al dente’ and the date on the wall. I thought that was so romantic! So, what is your favorite period of Elizabeth Taylor’s life?
J: That's a tough question because I'm not certain that my favorite time in her life is necessary the one with the most impact ... that being of course her work with HIV/AIDS later in her life. I'm very drawn to the time in the 1950s when she was making some of her best films, Giant, Suddenly Last Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Room, etc. One of my favorite stories - that I uncovered while researching the book -was from the set of Giant where Taylor would forge her lifelong friendship with Rock Hudson. They filmed in very rural Texas and would frequently have to stop shooting because of hail storms. Hudson and Taylor would gather the balls of hail and use them as ice for chocolate martinis. The late 50's also saw her marriage to Mike Todd, a union that was cut short by his death. I find their time together endlessly fascinating and romantic.