Elizabeth Taylor defined mid-century movie star glamour: she was as famous for her jewelry collection worth $152 million, her lavish jet-set lifestyle, and her eventful private life that included eight marriages, as she was for her on-screen performances. Her love affair with fellow actor Richard Burton virtually invented celebrity culture as we know it, providing the then-new phenomenon of paparazzi with the story they'd been waiting for and paving the way for and Kims and Kanyes of today.
In 1976, young art student Farooz Zahedi met Taylor, who was dating his cousin, the Shah of Iran's ambassador to the US. This was the start of a friendship that spanned 35 years and Taylor's transition from screen goddess to leading fundraiser and activist for AIDS research (she was the founding chairman of amfAR) at a time when the disease was stigmatized. This gave Zahedi access to candid moments in Taylor's Bel-Air home, on her travels, or at social occasions with famous friends like Andy Warhol and Halston. Now Zahedi's images, many never seen before, have been collected in a "photographic memoir" called My Elizabeth. See a selection below.
My Elizabeth by Firooz Zahedi is published by Glitterati Incorporated ($75; available March 23 at amazon.com).
1. Tea Time
Famous violet eyes demurely downcast, Taylor takes tea in Shiraz, Iran, in 1976.
2. Classic Beauty
In 1976 the star visits the famous ruins of Persepolis in Iran.
3. A Shining Star
Taylor displays her love of all things sparkly, including her famous Taj Mahal diamond pendant just visible behind her hand.
4. Taylor Wears Taylor
Gianni Versace pays tribute to some of Taylor's most famous film roles, including Cleopatra, with this custom-made beaded rhinestone jacket. Taylor models it in Los Angeles in 1992.