Have you ever been surprised by the reappearance in a dream of a long-forgotten image from your past? Something that seemed to have little or no significance at the time? When it happens to me I am astonished at the seemingly random collections that make up our memories, the odd things that are retained, somewhere imprinted in the folds of flesh. Offstage scenery awaiting the call to action.
One night, in my sophomore year of college, I was walking home from a Chelsea studio where I took a printmaking class. Passing 18th Street, I noticed a cluster of people and lights about midpoint between 5th and 6th avenues. Back then the area was still fairly industrial so it was unexpected to see activity at that time of night. I had to investigate and strolled toward the lights. As I approached I saw that it was a new restaurant — an incongruously glamorous looking place with a velvet rope and everything! And as I scanned the people standing outside to see if I recognized any of them a long black limousine pulled up in front and out stepped… Elizabeth Taylor. I was standing about 20 feet away and she was unmistakable. She turned back toward the car for a moment, perhaps to gather her coat, and as she did she glanced across the street. I was the only person standing there and suddenly those amazing eyes looked right at me. Another moment later and she had swept through the restaurant doors and was out of sight. After being stunned, I ran all the way home to my dorm to tell my friends and we all ran back to see if we could spot her leave the restaurant but after a long wait decided that we had missed her departure.
For all these years, I’ve liked to think that my image persisted somewhere in Elizabeth Taylor’s memory, an anonymous little actor perhaps retrieved once or twice to populate a dream. It was fun to think that after so many years of her being in my head I was now in hers. The news of her death was especially poignant — you see, she took a little bit of me with her.