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Larry King Live

Elizabeth Taylor Discusses Her Life and Career

Aired January 15, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CLEOPATRA")

ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ACTRESS: Antony, the love you followed is here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: Maggie, the cat is alive!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: Georgie-boy didn't have the stuff. But maybe he didn't have it in him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: an international icon, a true survivor. She has been honored by everyone from Oscar to the queen of England. Our guest for a very special hour live: the one, the only Elizabeth Taylor -- next on LARRY KING LIVE.

What a great pleasure to have Elizabeth Taylor guest with us for the full hour tonight. She has been on twice before. And it's always great to see her. It's been five years since she has been with us.

Thank you very much, Dame Elizabeth.

TAYLOR: Why thank you.

KING: What is it like to be a dame?

TAYLOR: Well, I have been a broad all my life.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: The English government...

TAYLOR: And dame just automatically came next.

KING: Is the dame the female version of sir? TAYLOR: Yes, exactly.

KING: And how do get it, as an American?

TAYLOR: I still have my British passport.

KING: Ah, that is right.

TAYLOR: But, you can, I think, as an American, get it anyway if you have been totally outstanding.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Do they dub you dame? Do they do it in the court?

TAYLOR: She doesn't -- oh, yes, in Buckingham Palace. But she doesn't do it with the sword to women. She only does that with men.

KING: And what do they give you? Do they give you a medal, an heirloom?

TAYLOR: One of the, oh, big shots in the uniform puts a sort of stick-pin thing here and another one there.

KING: There?

TAYLOR: Whoops!

KING: Ah, there we see it.

TAYLOR: There she goes, hobbling along. Yes. And then you can see there in different positions. And the queen..

KING: What an honor, huh?

TAYLOR: Oh, God, I have never been so excited in my life. And the queen puts it on this little hook and then this little hook. And, as you can see, I was carried away.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And you're forever a dame, right? When you go to Britain, they will say Dame Taylor.

TAYLOR: And you are supposed to say that here.

KING: So I should refer to you as Dame Taylor throughout this program. I will if you will wish.

TAYLOR: Dame Elizabeth.

KING: Oh, Dame Elizabeth.

TAYLOR: Yes.

KING: Very, very -- a couple -- there are so many areas we are going to cover. We're going to cover perfumes and men and films and an extraordinary life. But first, because he is right here in St. John's Hospital and he just had hip surgery -- and you know hip surgery -- can you tell us what -- did you fracture your hip? Did you fall?

TAYLOR: No. My hips just disintegrated.

KING: And so you have two new hips.

TAYLOR: Two new hips. They have had to do three hip surgeries, because one was 5/8 of an inch off. So they had to go back and do the first one a second time, because I didn't want to keep getting shorter. God knows I'm short enough. I didn't want to get shorter and shorter.

KING: You get shorter? You get shorter when they -- yes, I guess you do you when they...

TAYLOR: Well, if they misdo it.

KING: Can you -- then he was probably in a lot of pain. Is there a lot of...

TAYLOR: She was in a lot of pain. I was.

KING: Well, do you think the president was?

TAYLOR: Is the...

KING: President Reagan, do you think he was...

TAYLOR: Oh, is he having that done now?

KING: Oh, you didn't hear.

TAYLOR: No.

KING: Yes, he had it done Saturday.

TAYLOR: Oh, poor man.

KING: He fell.

TAYLOR: Oh, my God.

KING: They put a -- what do they call that -- they put a -- they put a lock or a special thing they put in the hip.

TAYLOR: Well they probably took out the old hip and put in a hip replacement, which is made of, like, titanium. And it goes down into the marrow of the thigh. And...

KING: Then they have to rehabilitate you, right?

TAYLOR: Yes.

KING: Teach to you walk again?

TAYLOR: You really have do it yourself. It is, like, up to you.

KING: Have you -- you do you think you have been kind of cursed with illness? Let's look. You had...

TAYLOR: No.

KING: ... brain tumor, back, neck, leg pains, spinal surgery, hip replacements, almost died of respiratory problems.

TAYLOR: Oh, I have done that several times.

KING: Do you think you are kind of -- there's a cloud hanging over you?

TAYLOR: No, I don't, because I'm still here.

KING: Well, do you -- why are there so many brushes, do you think?

TAYLOR: I don't know. I have kind of wondered about that once or twice. And I think each time I have learned a lesson from it. Each time that I have almost died, while I have been recuperating and not quite knowing whether I was going to make it or not, you have time, plenty of time.

Even an hour is plenty of time when you don't know whether you are going to live or not. And you think: Why did I make it? Why am I not dead? Everything indicated that I should be. There must be some reason that God wants me to live. There must be something left for me to do. And I have to find out what that something is and go out there and do it!

KING: So you never lose that gumption. Elizabeth Taylor gets up and goes and does it.

TAYLOR: Oh, it is what keeps me going on and just pushes me forward.

KING: You had it from childhood on, right?

TAYLOR: Well, I had little incidents.

KING: But, I mean, this desire thing. You always were -- you always wanted something, didn't you, as a kid? I mean, you were a kid star. You were...

TAYLOR: I didn't want that. I just liked playing with the horses and the dogs. And I never thought about...

KING: It wasn't a normal childhood, though.

TAYLOR: It wasn't normal. But I didn't care whether I was in films or not. I went into L.B. Mayer's office when I was 15. And my mother had read in the trades that I was to be in a musical. And she went into L.B. Mayer's office and asked him whether I should start taking singing lessons and dancing lessons if this article in, I think, probably Harmey Archer (ph) even then. And he started, like, panting and foaming at the mouth.

KING: Why?

TAYLOR: Who knows? I think he was a little bonkers. And he said: "Who the f-ing hell do you think you are to tell me how to run my business? I got you out of the gutter. Don't you tell me what to do." And before every word was an "f-ing" other word.

KING: So how does a 15-year-old react to that?

TAYLOR: Well, I had never heard some of these words. And I looked at my mother, who has eyes closed and was a Christian scientist, and she -- her mouth is going...

And I think -- and I finally jumped up and I said: "Mr. Mayer, you cannot speak to my mother like that. I don't give a damn whether I work in motion pictures or not. But you will not speak to my mother that way. You will apologize to her. And I am walking out of that door. And I am never coming back in your office again. And you can take your studio and you know where you can put it.

KING: What did he say?

TAYLOR: He said, "Get out of my office!" And I said: "I am getting out of your office and I'm never coming back! And I am finished with motion pictures and you and your phoniness!" And I went running out crying and...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You managed to come back.

TAYLOR: I never went back to his office again.

KING: Made movies for him, though?

TAYLOR: Benny Thau, who was the vice president said, "You've got to come back in and apologize." And I said, "No, he has to apologize to my mother."

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Did he ever?

TAYLOR: No. Eddie Mannix said, "You've got to go back in and apologize." And I said: "No, I will not. I have nothing to apologize for. I just sat there listening to this man go insane and swearing at my mother. He has to apologize to my mother or I am never going..."

KING: And you never went back to the office?

TAYLOR: And I never did go back in the office. KING: We'll be right back with Dame Elizabeth Taylor. We are going to talk about AIDS and men and movies and perfume and an incredible life. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: It is the most exciting -- and I do not exaggerate -- day of my life. It totally came as a surprise to me. I had no inkling. It was just like: What? I can't believe it! It is like: Me, getting a dameship? I feel wonderful! And world, watch out!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Elizabeth Taylor has brought to life unforgettable characters on film. But she has brought even more hope to millions around the world. We thank her for sharing her talent and her heart.

Thank you, Elizabeth Taylor.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What was that like?

TAYLOR: Nice.

KING: You have come -- two Oscars. I mean, you've got every award, you're an icon. Everything that could happen to a person has happened to you. The president. You're a dame. Do you still look forward to things?

TAYLOR: Of course I do!

KING: You never want to just go off and watch the dancers?

TAYLOR: No, no, no. There's way too much to do, and there's too much just in -- I say just, because it's my field, it's my thing. There's too much to do in AIDS. I mean, the whole...

KING: What got you into that? You're the founding -- you're the founder of amfAR, aren't you?

TAYLOR: Yes, I am.

KING: I saw it on the stationary. You're the founding member.

TAYLOR: Yes.

KING: You put it together.

TAYLOR: Yes, I did.

KING: What got -- was it Rock Hudson that got you spurred into it?

TAYLOR: I had heard about it before I knew that Rock definitely had it. I thought maybe he had cancer, because he looked so gaunt and...

KING: Drawn.

TAYLOR: Thin. And then I actually found out it was AIDS. But I got all worked up about AIDS before I really knew that Rock had it, because nobody was doing anything about it. People were talking about it. It was the topic at every cocktail party.

Oh, this dreadful disease, darling. AIDS, oh, it's so awful. How do you think -- oh, it must have been those homosexuals. And it just was -- it irritated me so much that I -- I'm so angry. But wait a minute. I'm angry, but what am I doing? I'm sitting back here, getting all riled up. My blood pressure has probably gone sky-high. But what have I done? What have I done?

Have I tried to put a foundation together? Have I tried to put an organization together that could raise funds, give dinners, get celebrities to sing and dance to get medicine, to do something to try and help these people that are dying, and dying this horrible death?

KING: Well, look at how many...

TAYLOR: It was in all the papers.

KING: So you started. Look how many you've helped. Look how people live with it for 15 years, 16 years. Look at the advance in drugs, and you kicked all that off.

TAYLOR: Because of my rage. And then I heard of Rock's death, and I went to see him. And...

KING: Did you see him right before he died?

TAYLOR: Oh, yes, I was with him the night before. And he couldn't remember today. He could remember yesterday. But he couldn't remember the present.

And we laughed about making chocolate martinis. And oh, he was just skin and bones. And I thought I am going to do everything in my living power to get at this disease and kill it by its throat.

KING: And no one has done more. We'll be right back with dame Elizabeth Taylor on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Katherine Harris, the secretary of state of Florida, will be with us tomorrow night. Peter Jennings on Wednesday. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: What a movie career, what a life! Phew! Elizabeth Taylor. We were just talking during the break about James Dean. We had discussed "Giant" and the making of "Giant" and Rock Hudson. What -- and I asked you how great an actor would James Dean have become had he lived, and what do you think?

TAYLOR: I think he would have matured. I think he would have grown up in his skin. He was very bright, very intelligent young man.

KING: You liked him?

TAYLOR: I loved him. And we shared moments. During the day sometimes, he would just walk by me, and hmm, hmm. And I'd think OK. And then at nighttime, because we had houses right opposite each other -- Rock had a house here, I had a house here, and Jimmy had a house there. So we were always sort of crossing the street to visit each other and barbecue.

KING: At night he was better?

TAYLOR: Hmm?

KING: At night he was more fun?

TAYLOR: Yes. And if it was just the two of us, he became very introspective and told me some things that just blew my mind.

KING: Any repeatable?

TAYLOR: No.

KING: Montgomery Clift had a great influence on him.

TAYLOR: I think Monte's work had a great influence on him.

KING: You were very close to Clift, weren't you?

TAYLOR: Oh, he was my best friend. I loved him.

KING: What a tragedy.

TAYLOR: Yes. And it started when he was leaving my house. His car ran up a telephone pole and his head went into the...

KING: Steering wheel.

TAYLOR: ... steering wheel and then into the dashboard. And his -- the car was like an accordion-pleated mess. And I don't know, adrenaline does something to you. I ran down the hill, and there were other people, men, running after me; Rock was there, it was a small dinner, we were all working. And I wrenched the door open -- where I got the strength, I don't know. And I pulled him back, from the steering wheel which had gone into his forehead, his nose, his eye, his cheek -- broken his nose in four places, his jaw in six places.

KING: Had he been drinking?

TAYLOR: I think he had two wines. And his head was swelling so rapidly, it was becoming level with his shoulders.

KING: Good...

TAYLOR: And it was just unbelievable to watch.

KING: And that was the beginning of the end?

TAYLOR: Yes.

KING: Back with more of dame Elizabeth Taylor on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Only have an hour. I wish we had three -- lots to talk about. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WHO'S AFRAID OF THE VIRGINIA WOLFE?")

TAYLOR: In fact, he was sort of a flop; a great, big fat...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop it.

TAYLOR: I hope that was an empty bottle, George. You can't afford to waste good liquor. Not on your salary, not on an associate professor's salary. So here I am, stuck with his flop, this flop in the history department, who is married to the president's daughter, who is expected to be somebody, not some a nobody.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Favorite movie?

TAYLOR: It is.

KING: Hardest to do?

TAYLOR: Well, actually, because I was 32, and I play, sort of, 55; at its worst, it was probably the easiest because I had a character to grab a hold of and sink my nails into.

KING: Great lines.

TAYLOR: And you know, my whole body movement had to change, my voice had to change. So it was something I could grab a hold of and run.

KING: Of all the loves, and you and I could talk about loves, was he the greatest for you? Was he the most potent person in your life?

TAYLOR: I have been astonishingly lucky. I have had two great loves in my life.

KING: I'm going to guess the other one: Mike Todd.

TAYLOR: Mike Todd. And we only had 13 months together.

KING: He died in a plane crash.

TAYLOR: Our plane. And I didn't think I was going to live after that. I didn't want to live. And it was like -- Mike's love was his legacy to me. In years later, I met Richard, and I had met him before, but I thought, huh, I'm not going to be a scalp on his belt because he was a terrible flirt. And the first scene we had on "Cleopatra" he was so hung over he was pathetic.

KING: He drank a lot.

TAYLOR: No kidding. All Welsh men do. And I felt my heart just went, oh, poor baby. And he said, could you help hold this cup up to my lips, please, my hands are shaking too much. So I did. And I looked into those green eyes, and it was like, huh, here I am.

KING: Was it a demented kind of -- I mean, ups and downs, and you know, being in the public eye, and breakup of marriages, and fiery and then divorce and remarriage. What -- how do you account -- as you look back, why him? Why that?

TAYLOR: It was so intense. All Welsh people, I think, are extremely intense. Just by the nature of being Welsh. They are musical, they are poetic, they are visionaries, there is something very mystic about all Welsh people. And that sense of poetry and wildness, was where I had always wanted to be. I had wanted to be free, running in the rain on the grass, and just no, nothing to tether me, I just wanted to go.

KING: And he took -- he went that route?

TAYLOR: He and I went that route together. And neither one of us pulled the other back. We just went forward.

KING: Were you soulmates, do you think?

TAYLOR: Oh, God yes.

KING: Yes, and the bad side, too, right?

TAYLOR: Good and bad. Because I have -- I have a wildness too. I'm English, Irish, Scottish, French, Italian, German, Swiss. Pretty big mixture.

KING: The arguments must have been terrific.

TAYLOR: Wonderful.

KING: The making-up must have been fun.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes.

KING: What was it like with Senator John Warner? You got so much attention in Washington. Elizabeth Taylor comes to the nation's capital. TAYLOR: Well...

KING: Are you friends?

TAYLOR: John and I are still friends. I think they thought I was a freak, which is probably true.

KING: Did you enjoy...

TAYLOR: Well, I thought we would get married, live on the farm, raise horses. He had a lovely house in -- in -- Georgetown. And I thought it would be all very sort of farmish, and jobby -- horsey, and I could have animals, and I would go out and brand the cattle...

KING: And it wasn't.

TAYLOR: Shit, man. It was just going to be my dream. But John, two months after our marriage, said, would you mind if I decided to run for senator?

KING: You do it well. I think he will be here on Thursday night, by the way. We will give him your best.

TAYLOR: Give him my love. I adore him.

KING: We'll be back with more of Elizabeth Taylor; how are we doing so far? Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL NEWMAN, ACTOR: Do you want me to hit you with this crutch?

TAYLOR: You're still blaming me for Skipper's death?

NEWMAN: Don't you know that I could kill you with this crutch?

TAYLOR: Good Lord, man, do you think I'd care if you did?

NEWMAN: Skipper and I had a friendship, now why won't you let it alone?

TAYLOR: It's got to be told.

NEWMAN: But I don't want to hear it.

TAYLOR: It's got to be told and you never let me tell it. I love you, and that's worth fighting for. Not skipper; Skipper was no good.

NEWMAN: Maggie...

TAYLOR: Maybe I'm no good either; nobody's good. But Brick, skipper is dead and I'm alive.

NEWMAN: Maggie.

TAYLOR: Maggie the cat is alive. I'm alive! Why are you afraid of the truth?

NEWMAN: Truth?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The lines of Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee; not bad.

TAYLOR: I'm alive!

KING: Is there any of the husbands, other than Burton or Todd that you feel emotional about when you think back?

TAYLOR: Well, I had a lot of fun doing this movie with Debbie.

KING: Oh, yes, that's got to be interesting; you're in a movie that's going to be on ABC on February 12 called "These Old Broads" -- I know the title -- it stars Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and you. And you had to work with a lady whose husband you took away.

TAYLOR: Well -- no, no, no, no, no, we just refer to him as Harry Hunter.

KING: Harry Hunter; she was married to have Harry Hunter, then Harry Hunter married you, right?

OK; "These Old Broads" is for ABC, brings you back; by the way, they're honoring Debbie this Saturday night -- woman of the year in Las Vegas.

TAYLOR: Oh, that's so good.

KING: Phyllis McGwire (ph) and Tony Curtis; you ought to go.

TAYLOR: Oh, I will.

KING: Good, go...

TAYLOR: I will.

KING: ... because she's a great girl, Debbie.

TAYLOR: I love Debbie.

KING: All right; did you ever sit down and talk about Harry Hunter?

TAYLOR: Oh, God, yes!

KING: You do?

TAYLOR: Dish, dish; yes. KING: Is she mad at you?

TAYLOR: No; we got over all that so long ago.

KING: Do you think about Eddie -- Harry?

TAYLOR: I wouldn't put it in print.

KING: No, you're not a big fan, I guess?

TAYLOR: No; he's the only one.

KING: That you don't like.

TAYLOR: I don't even want to mention his name.

KING: OK -- obvious, it's Harry Hunter.

I guess everyone says, though, Larry Fortensky; what was that about? Everyone asks about that.

TAYLOR: Well, Larry and I...

KING: You seemed like...

TAYLOR: ... it may not look, to the outside world -- it may not look like we had a lot in common, but he was a very sweet, gentle man, who wanted to experience life, who wanted to go out and taste what it was like out there; he'd never left California.

Then all of a sudden, something happened. He became -- he had OCD.

KING: What was that?

TAYLOR: Obsessive...

KING: Compulsive Disorder.

TAYLOR: Yes; and he didn't want to leave the house.

KING: Oh.

TAYLOR: And he didn't want to go anywhere, and I would go places alone. And we stopped communicating; and our marriage just completely -- it fragmented.

KING: Would you marry again?

TAYLOR: Larry?

KING: Anybody.

TAYLOR: No!

KING: That's it? TAYLOR: Yes!

KING: You're done.

TAYLOR: Yes!

I'd live with someone if he were cute, intelligent, compassionate, adorable, had a good sense of humor.

KING: Before we talk about your fragrances, I want to ask about addictions. You've been addicted to things in your life.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes.

KING: Painkillers, drugs; what do you make of this whole thing? What's your -- how do you explain Robert Downey Jr.?

TAYLOR: Oh, poor guy; Jesus, I don't know. I -- the only way -- all I can think is that he has a real death wish because you have to want to get better.

KING: When you were addicted to anything, nothing would have stopped you from having it, right?

TAYLOR: That's not entirely true.

KING: So you could -- in other words, if you were faced with jail, you would have stopped.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes.

KING: You think so, or you know so?

TAYLOR: And if I had thought I was going to embarrass some friends that I really cared for, I would have stopped. There was a stopping point, but then I'd get back to drinking. If I had to go into the hospital and have surgery -- and I've had about 25 surgeries, again I'd be back on drugs again.

KING: Did you go to Betty Ford?

TAYLOR: Yes, twice.

KING: Is that a good place?

TAYLOR: Yes, oh, yes.

KING: It worked?

TAYLOR: Yes, it did. And the doctors, when I have to go and have surgery, are very...

KING: Are you mad at your hair?

TAYLOR: Yes.

KING: Jose Eber did it -- the best.

TAYLOR: Sorry, Jose.

KING: It looks good.

TAYLOR: OK.

KING: OK.

TAYLOR: I'm a fiddler. Jose -- can you cut for a second?

KING: I'm going to take a break and come back, when I'll ask you about fragrance and take some calls, OK -- is that OK, can we do that.

TAYLOR: What was I going to -- there was something I was going to say.

KING: You were making a point about addiction. Sort of go back.

TAYLOR: Right; it took me twice -- to go back to Betty Ford. The first time just didn't work it -- I thought I was strong enough and that I could socially drink. Then it became a bottle of wine at lunch, a bottle of wine at dinner.

KING: Bottle?

TAYLOR: Yes.

KING: Do you, therefore, not drink at all now?

TAYLOR: No.

KING: We'll be right back with Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Her hair will look different.

TAYLOR: No, I just want to do something.

KING: Don't go away. We'll do something.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FATHER OF THE BRIDE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, I was wondering. If I gave you and Buckley about $1,500, how would you like to elope?

TAYLOR: Elope?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes; you know, tomorrow or the next day you run off somewhere to...

TAYLOR: But Pops, eloping, sneaking off and getting married. Well, I'd feel sort of -- well, as if something were wrong. Like you didn't like Buckley and didn't want me to marry him.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, kitten, I don't think it would.

TAYLOR: Get married by the justice of peace in some dirty little office? With you and mom looking?

I don't know, pops, but I don't think I'd feel as if I were really getting married.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, it's just an idea, you know, there's -- forget -- I'm coming Allie (ph).

TAYLOR: No, pops, if you're worried about the...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, no, no, no. Just forget all about it. That's -- forget I ever mentioned it, forget it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LITTLE WOMEN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What did he do?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What did he say?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Did he punish you some more?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Tell us.

TAYLOR: He didn't say anything. I merely told him that my mother would most certainly take me out of this miserable school when I told her how I'd enjoyed it. I told him I could not stay to discuss the matter with him as I have to prepare for the ball I'm attending tonight, which is being given in my honor by Mr. James Laurence, the millionaire.

I told him I could not stand the degradation of being forced to attend school with a lot of ill-mannered girls, who stick their silly noses into refined, elegant people's business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was a scene from "Little Women." A -- she was the first actress ever to get a million dollars for doing a film. That was for "Cleopatra." She's won two Academy Awards. She had red hair in that. Was that good? Did you like that hair?

TAYLOR: Which one?

KING: In "Little Women."

TAYLOR: Oh, that was the first time. It was kind of blondy.

KING: Good part?

TAYLOR: Well, it was kind of funny. It was kind of campy.

KING: OK. You are, as I am told, many celebrities have fragrances. Yours are the No. 1 selling fragrances for celebrities in the United States. White Diamonds, Passion and the like. How did you get into this business? TAYLOR: I was idle. I wanted something to do. And somebody suggested, why don't you go into business? You have a very good business sense. And I said, well, I don't want to go into marketing clothes: caftans, braziers.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: So fragrances was logical.

TAYLOR: Fragrance, cosmetics, that kind of thing seemed very logical to me.

KING: You're sold in all the best stores?

TAYLOR: Yes, I hope.

KING: And did you pick the name "White Diamonds"? I mean, "Passion" is obvious. What else...

TAYLOR: But Passion seemed so obvious to me I don't know why nobody else had...

KING: What word fits you better?

TAYLOR: But why has nobody else used it? It seems so strange.

KING: And White Diamonds, because...

TAYLOR: White Diamonds, because they're my favorite thing.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Evanston, Wyoming as we go to some calls for Elizabeth Taylor. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My question for Elizabeth is -- by the way, I think you're the most beautiful woman in the world and your research and the work that you've done for AIDS is wonderful. I would just like to ask, if you had to do it all over again, Dame Elizabeth, would you still have married as many men as you have today?

TAYLOR: That's a tough one, because I had, as I said before, I had two great loves that I would have given my life up for. I would have thrown myself in front of a truck for either one of them. The others I liked with the exception, of course, of...

KING: Harry Hunter.

TAYLOR: Harry Hunter.

KING: So I guess you would have married two if you had to do it all over. TAYLOR: Yes, I would have married two.

KING: To Ottawa, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Yes, Dame Elizabeth, it's great to speak to you, and I was just wondering, do you have a favorite film star, and is there anyone you regret not having worked with?

KING: Good question.

TAYLOR: My favorite film star is Richard Burton. Do deceased -- did deceased count?

KING: Anyone you haven't worked with you would have liked to work with.

TAYLOR: I would love to have worked with Laurence Olivier. And I would love to work with Marlon Brando again.

KING: "Reflections in a Golden Eye," I love that movie. What was it like to work with him?

TAYLOR: Oh, we had a ball.

KING: He's a great guest when he comes here.

TAYLOR: Yes.

KING: You enjoyed working with him? He wasn't difficult?

TAYLOR: No, and he's a good friend and we have fun together.

KING: The friendship with Michael Jackson.

TAYLOR: Yes?

KING: What? How did that begin? You mean you seem on different planes.

TAYLOR: No! Why do you say that?

KING: You just seem on different planes. He's a very shy...

TAYLOR: No. We were both child stars.

KING: OK.

TAYLOR: We had no childhood, either one of us. We were brought up by tutors. We had no children of our own age to play with or relate to. We were performing the whole time. He was on the stage; I was on the...

KING: The screen.

TAYLOR: ... the soundstage. We would go home. I, in my case, I would learn my lines, learn my homework, get up early in the morning. I would go out to the polo field, where they had 40 jumps set up, and to get some of my steam off as a little girl I would take 40 jumps before I would go into work.

KING: And he had the same kind of life, in a sense. He had to get up and take the bus to wherever they went to the next concert or...

TAYLOR: Yes and get his steam off dancing.

KING: But we don't -- we know you. Look at you. We don't know Michael, do we?

TAYLOR: No.

KING: What don't we know about him we should know?

TAYLOR: He's so tender. He is so compassionate. He hurts, literally pains for other people's suffering. If there is -- like -- the starvation of children in this country, in India, in Africa...

KING: He feels it. It's not just a...

TAYLOR: He reaches out. I've been to the Orient with him. And he says: "Roll down the window! Roll down the window!" He reaches his hands out and just touches a baby's face. Oh, you beautiful thing, and he just wants to give that baby everything, his life. He'd give him all his money if he could, and the car keeps on moving. And he'll turn back: Oh, look at that baby.

KING: We'll get a break and come right back with Dame Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor. What -- what a life! More calls after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "NATIONAL VELVET")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He's loose.

TAYLOR: He made it! Did you see him take that fence?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Come back. You'll get trampled on.

TAYLOR: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! There, what a lovely boy he is. Oh, you're a sweet one.

REGINALD OWEN, ACTOR: You're a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one, Velvet.

TAYLOR: What's his name, Mr. Ede?

OWEN: Name? He's a murderous pirate not deserving of a name.

TAYLOR: Oh, no, not Pirate. He's a gentle one. I'll just call him Pie.

Oh, you're a pretty one, Pie. You didn't mean to run away.

OWEN: You're a wizard, Velvet.

TAYLOR: May I ride him, Mr. Ede?

OWEN: Ride this horse?

TAYLOR: Oh, please, let me ride him.

OWEN: Not this horse you don't. He's wild as a hare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A little better than for those who may be in our radio audience, this program is simulcast -- I'm holding Elizabeth Taylor's left hand. On that hand, third finger, is a ring that I have been, in fact -- everyone in the studio has been looking at -- two people have been blinded by -- is there any story behind this ring? Does it come with a curse of any kind?

TAYLOR: No, it seems with so much love.

KING: Who gave you this ring?

TAYLOR: Richard.

KING: Richard Burton.

TAYLOR: Of course.

KING: Now, that looks to me like a clear diamond. Is that one of those...

TAYLOR: D-flawless, brilliant, it has no baddies in it. It is a perfect ring. It is called -- there's a story behind it -- it's called the Krupp ring, and it was owned by the Vera Krupp, the German -- the munitions people who helped knock off millions of Jews. And when it was up for auction, I thought how poetic that would be if a nice little Jewish girl like me ended up with it. So Richard got it for me.

KING: That is right. You did convert. You are Jewish, are you not?

TAYLOR: I am, I am.

KING: Tucson, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Good morning -- good evening, Larry. Hello, respectfully, Dame Elizabeth. I have a two-part question; the question is, you have suffered such incredible tragedies, in almost every aspect of your personal life, and you haven't always chosen the easiest paths. My question is, really, where does your drive come from? That survival instinct? KING: Good question, I got limitations on time...

TAYLOR: I think, because, I have almost died so many times, that there is an inner strength someplace that says to myself, look, lady, you are either do it or get off the pot. And I am not ready to die, I have something else to do. When I went through -- when I was pronounced dead, and went through that tunnel -- vision experience, I saw Mike.

KING: Are you kidding more or not?

TAYLOR: No, I'm not I'm not kidding you. I went and I saw the white light. And Mike -- I ran to, and I was home, and the white light was so welcoming and warm, and I was finally happy. He had been dead three years. And I said, oh, God, Mike, I'm home, I'm home. And he said, no, you have to fight to go back. You have so much more to do. And you have to fight. And he said -- he turned me around, and he said you must go back. I will be here waiting for you. And he pushed me gently.

And my hands evidently clinched, because when I was unconscious, my heart stopped, I stopped breathing for five minutes. And when I came to, my hands were in fists. And there were 11 people in the room including all the nurses and the doctors, and I told them, what I had just gone through. And so I had like 11 witnesses to prove that I wasn't making it up.

KING: We will be back with our remaining moments with the superstar of perfume and fragrance with white diamonds and passion, with the two-time Academy Award winner, with the dame from the British government, with, from President Clinton, a Presidential Citizens Medal, the recipient of the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Gene Hersheld Award as well, the humanitarian award from the Academy -- there ain't no other to give her. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Time for two more quick calls. Scottsboro, Alabama. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Dame Elizabeth, so good to speak with you -- I want to know, what does it feel like to be the most beautiful woman in the world?

TAYLOR: Oh, that is so sweet of you. But I would not know.

KING: When you were growing up, though, you knew you were beautiful -- come on, when you were 18 years old, you didn't look in the mirror and say I am pretty good looking?

TAYLOR: You know what I see, I would see too many freckles. I would see all the things that were wrong. Like, I didn't like the shape of my chin.

KING: That is, look at that. Look at that over there. TAYLOR: I was cuter then.

KING: McIntosh, New Mexico -- quickly. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Thank you Larry, Dame Elizabeth; is your favorite color still purple and pink?

TAYLOR: Purple and lavender, but I'm expanding, as my hair changes color, I go into reds and golds, and -- I just -- like the whole pallet.

KING: She appeared tonight, not to plug anything; just because she is her. Her fragrances are great and she's got that movie coming. These old broads on ABC but she came here because she is Elizabeth Taylor and she is one of the good people. Thank you, dear.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

KING: Elizabeth Taylor, our special guest tonight on LARRY KING LIVE. We have a new Web site, we hope that you click in to it. And there you see it. You hit it by cnn.com/larryking.

Stay tuned for Bill Hemmer, the host of "CNN TONIGHT." I understand he is the permanent host of CNN TONIGHT. My man Bill. Thanks for joining us. See you tomorrow night with Katherine Harris of Florida.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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