Farewell To The Lovely Elizabeth Taylor, Pot Smoker

Elizabeth Taylor, who graced the screen as a child in Jane Eyre and National Velvet, and as an adult in Butterfield 8 and Cleopatra has died.

Taylor won several humanitarian awards for her work raising over $10 million and much awareness for AIDS at a time when no one wanted to acknowledge the disease. She is remembered for her addictions to alcohol and painkillers, and according to one biographer, tried smoking pot to battle the booze.

According to Ellis Amburn’s 2000 book, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: The Obsessions, Passions, and Courage of Elizabeth Taylor Liz’ experimentation with marijuana began in mid-1973, when she partied with Peter Lawford and his son Christopher, hitting hot spots like Candy Store in Beverly Hills. Peter’s friend Arthur Natoli recalled, “[Lawford] and Elizabeth used to turn on together. They were high on pot a lot. I don’t know if he supplied her.” (p. 222)

Taylor was 19 when she was cast in A Day in the Sun opposite Montgomery Clift, and she had a lifelong devotion to Clift, who smoked marijuana (as did James Dean). According to Amburn, “Elizabeth sometimes ditched [second husband Michael]Wilding to slip off to Oscar Levant’s Beverly Hills house with Monty, where the pianist serenaded them with Gershwin tunes as they whiled away afternoons and early evenings.”

Her fourth husband Eddie Fisher was revealed to be a pot smoker by his daughter Carrie in her 2008 book Wishful Drinking. In his 2008 autobiography, Tony Curtis says marijuana was very popular in Hollywood around the time of his 1971 bust for carrying pot through Heathrow airport.

It’s quite likely that Cleopatra used cannabis, as depicted in the more modern HBO series Rome (but not in Taylor’s portrayal, though much incense was burned at altars therein). In 1989 Taylor appeared as the aging actress Alexandra Del Lago in a TV version of Tennessee Williams’ play “Sweet Bird of Youth,” in which a young hustler tries to smear Del Lago because of her hashish habit.

It’s a shame Taylor didn’t live in a time when marijuana was more acceptable than the more harmful substances she seems to have used more frequently.

Ellen Komp is an activist, writer, and regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website VeryImportantPotheads.com and blogs at Tokin Woman.