The real story behind Liz Taylor's plan to marry husband No 9 (from the Daily Mail)
The real story behind Liz Taylor's plan to marry husband No 9
By PAUL SCOTT
Last updated at 23:10 29 September 2007
Amid the unlikely setting of a Hawaiian holiday resort, a motorcade of presidential-style vehicles navigates its way ponderously through the narrow roads then comes to a halt, its route blocked by palm trees and a milling band of bemused-looking tourists.
As security guards emerge and start ushering the fast-growing crowd back, the doors of one blacked-out limousine remain firmly shut for 25 minutes, as the mystery VIP prepares to meet her public.
Finally, after a finishing coat of cerise lipstick, applied by her ever-present make-up artist, Dame Elizabeth Taylor makes her grand entrance to a spontaneous round of applause from the suddenly starstruck holidaymakers.
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Unlikely duo: Liz Taylor with new leading man, Jason Winters
It is quite a performance. Indeed, preparations for this evening's dinner at a seaside grill restaurant have started five hours early, with a coded phone call from the diva to her contingent of minders.
She has decreed that this evening she will go out "bedecked". That means extra bodyguards must be deployed because Miss Taylor is planning to wear, among other priceless sparklers, a gargantuan 33-carat Krupp diamond bought as a Valentine gift many years ago by Richard Burton.
Not that she is ever one to go out incognito, of course (tonight she is wearing floor-length satin gown and white mink stole, despite the searing tropical heat), particularly when she has something to show off. Or, to be more precise, someone.
For her companion this evening is a handsome and smart-suited black man who the 75-year-old screen legend has let it be known is about to become her ninth bridegroom (she married Burton twice).
Aware that all eyes are on them, the actress spends the evening gently caressing the face of millionaire businessman Jason Winters, who - at 47 - is 28 years her junior, and studiously ignoring the Polynesian fire-eaters he has hired to entertain them while they dine on caviar and local fish.
And if this very public display of amore is not enough, the two-times Oscar-winner has even felt moved to contact Liz Smith, New York's most celebrated gossip columnist, this month to gush with schoolgirl excitement about her intended.
"Jason Winters is one of the most wonderful men I've ever known and that's why I love him," she trilled. "He bought us a beautiful house in Hawaii and we visit it as often as possible."
No wonder reports in America this week are confidently predicting that plans for Miss Taylor's first trip down the aisle since her failed 1991 wedding to construction worker Larry Fortensky are well under way.
She has even sanctioned friends to reveal: "Liz is madly in love with Jason and he feels the same way. It's taken us all by surprise, but we're happy for her.
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Falling in love again: Dame Elizabeth declared Winters 'one of the most wonderful men' she has ever met
"She didn't think she'd fall in love again, but since Jason came into her life that has all changed."
All of which has provoked something of an outbreak of cackling from her notoriously bitchy - and mainly gay - coterie of Hollywood cronies.
One friend, Martin Delaney, the founder of a San Francisco Aids charity of which Winters has been a patron for more than 15 years, told the Mail: "I don't know how a marriage between them could take place. That's not the kind of relationship they've got. I find it all pretty amusing.
"Elizabeth is friends with Jason and his long-term friend, Erik Sterling. Jason and Erik are both on the board of the charity and they have a house in Hawaii.
"I know Elizabeth is very close to Jason, but the idea of them marrying is silly stuff."
Why, then, is Miss Taylor so keen to convince Hollywood that she intends to take the plunge with Mr Winters?
The answer, the Mail can reveal, has much to do with her secret plans for a spectacular comeback to the big screen as a leading lady, following a break of nearly 30 years.
Tinseltown insiders say the actress, who won Oscars for Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and Butterfield 8, has set her heart on winning the part of faded movie star Norma Desmond, in a big-budget remake of the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard.
She is vying with Glenn Close, Meryl Streep and Barbra Streisand for the £5million starring role made famous by Gloria Swanson. Irish actor Colin Farrell is rumoured to be lined up as her leading man.
And what better way of putting her firmly back in the spotlight where she belongs than a glamorous wedding (or at least talk of it), particularly as just over a year ago she was forced to deny rumours, on U.S. TV, that she was close to death and suffering from Alzheimer's.
Indeed, with her latest "romance" Dame Elizabeth (the London-born actress was given an honorary damehood by the Queen in 2000) is keen to display evidence of a somewhat miraculous recovery since those rumours of her imminent demise.
Although still confined to a wheelchair because of curvature of the spine and the bone condition osteoporosis, she has in recent months put her team of PRs and advisers to work on revitalising her image.
What has followed has been a series of bizarre stunts designed to demonstrate to Tinseltown her improbable recovery.
In the process, a bloated and clearly pain-racked Miss Taylor has faced the indignity of being photographed while being lowered by a winch into a glass tank off the coast of Hawaii, so she could go swimming with sharks.
Then last month she emerged on to the steps of a private jet, looking like a geriatric Ali G, adorned ridiculously in rapper-style bling crucifixes, gold chains and sporting a trucker's cap made by hip-hop designer Ed Hardy.
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Bizarre stunt: Miss Taylor was lowered into a tank off the coast of Hawaii to swim with sharks
At the same time, she has had the swimming pool of her Los Angeles mansion modernised so she can use it as a fitness facility to attempt to shed weight, with the help of her full-time team of physiotherapists.
By way of preparation for her Hollywood comeback, she has announced she will appear on stage for the first time in 14 years later this year, in Los Angeles, opposite James Earl Jones in a production of the AR Gurney play Love Letters.
The one-off performance will raise an estimated £500,000 for her Aids Foundation.
It will be Taylor's first stage part since she appeared with the late Burton in the 1983 adaptation of Private Lives.
Friends say she is desperate for "one last throw of the dice", in a bid to finish her film career on a high.
Her later career is best-known only for a series of duds, including her last acting role six years ago alongside Joan Collins, in the made-for-television film These Old Broads.
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PR exercise: Last month Miss Taylor appeared looking like a geratric Ali G
Dame Elizabeth's renewed vigour has come, say those close to her, thanks to her giving up the cocktail of painkillers and steroids she took for years to control her agonising back condition.
They blame her medication on the slurred speech and confused state which caused her to retreat for nearly three years to the specially-built hospital room at her lavish home, and gave rise to that gossip that she was succumbing to dementia.
The actress, who has in recent years battled a litany of ailments, including congestive heart failure and a benign brain tumour, was said to been too ill to venture out.
Instead, she spent her days eating pack after pack of organic biscuits and dressing up to the nines in her fabulous collection of jewellery.
Not, it should be said, that the once reclusive Hollywood grande dame's behaviour is any less eccentric of late.
Friends say she has called in a psychic to help her get in touch with the spirit of her beloved late Maltese Terrier Sugar, whom she had commemorated in a stained-glass window in her white-carpeted living room.
And she is said to have called in a medium to carry out an exorcism of her Bel-Air home after she complained to friends that she was being haunted by the ghost of her second husband, British actor Michael Wilding.
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Hellraiser: Welsh actor Richard Burton was married to Dame Elizabeth twice
All the Dame's men: from top left; Hotel chain heir Nicky Hilton; actor Michael Wilding, film producer Mike Todd, bottom from left; former US Senator John Warner, Larry Fortensky, and Eddie Fisher
No wonder producers at Paramount Pictures believe she is perfect for the role of the once beautiful, but now reclusive, forgotten film star in Sunset Boulevard (in one rather close-to-home scene from the original, the strange Miss Desmond has a lavish midnight funeral for her dead pet chimp).
She is also said to have begged to be given the script for another remake, which this time would involve her taking over the role of Joan Crawford in the 1962 classic What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?.
Indeed, for all the sniggers about her relationship with Winters, friends say her friendship with the executive, who helped set up the actress's own jewellery line, has given her an unexpected new lease of life.
He is said by friends to have revived her interest in politics and persuaded her to fund Hillary Clinton's campaign to become U.S. President.
So close are they that Miss Taylor has let it be known she is considering leaving her estimated £40million fortune to Winters, rather than her four children, so he can oversee its donation to Aids charities.
All of which is somewhat predictable given her famously controlling nature, although friends say she has in recent months become closer to her once distant offspring (she has two sons by Wilding, a daughter from her short marriage to third husband Mike Todd - the producer killed in a plane crash in 1958 - and an adopted daughter with Burton).
In fact, friends say she has been close to Winters and Sterling, with whom he runs a Hollywood management company, for as long as seven years.
In the past Winters has also attempted to branch out into film-making and is a former business associate of Prince Edward.
He and the Prince were co-executive producers seven years ago on the children's film Once Upon A Christmas, which was made in conjunction with Edward's Ardent Productions.
Mr Winter's friend Martin Delaney told the Mail: "Through Jason, Elizabeth has been very generous to our charity. Jason came to me in the late Eighties and asked how he could get involved in helping people with Aids.
"He and Erik have been very generous with money and raising the awareness of their friends in Hollywood."
Sources close to them say Winters and Miss Taylor share the same circle of gay friends in Hollywood.
Star quality: A young Taylor
Indeed, the ageing actress relies increasingly on her colourful band of homosexual domestic helpers at her hillside home.
Three years ago, lurid tales of how she kept her bisexual butler as a "sex slave" emerged when she was sued by her former landscape gardener.
In court papers it was claimed that the butler, Jean-Luc Lacquement, who is 40 years her junior, referred to his sexual duties as having to "jump the old trampoline".
Jason Winters, meanwhile, is expected to be on her arm when the two attend a lavish gala to raise money for Aids in Los Angeles this weekend.
Last night, a mutual friend told the Mail: "Elizabeth is certainly much happier these days since she weaned herself off her medication, and Jason has been supporting her in having one last go at a film career.
"He has had part of the house in Hawaii altered for Elizabeth and her full-time nurse. But as for a love affair, I've never heard anything so ridiculous.
"Elizabeth has been in the business more than 60 years and no one is better at manipulating the publicity machine.
"She's ready for a comeback, but she knows she'll never land another job as long as everyone thinks she's at death's door.
"I know she's been putting it around that they're going to get married, but I'd be amazed if they did."
Which, given the Hollywood diva's track record when it comes to husbands, might not be a bad thing.