Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor consumed so many pills in the 1980s that a medical expert who reviewed her files assumed the patient was dead — because “the dosages were incompatible with life.”
According to the new biography “Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon,” by Kate Andersen Brower, by 1983, the star’s pill-popping was so severe that her then-daughter-in-law, Aileen Getty, anonymously contacted a regulatory agency to complain that some of Taylor’s doctors were overprescribing.
That led to the discovery of just how much the “Cleopatra” actress was taking: Three of the actress’ doctors wrote a “combined 1,000 prescriptions for twenty-eight drugs between 1983 and 1988, including tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and painkillers, Brower writes.
At one point, things got so bad that Taylor — who had some surprising romantic dalliances — asked her son to inject her with the powerful synthetic opioid Demerol.
Christopher Wilding, the screen siren’s second son with actor Michael Wilding, reveals in the book that the disturbing request occurred while he was staying with his mother during her 1976-1982 marriage to Virginia Senator John Warner.Taylor — seen here with Liza Minnelli and Betty Ford — gained weight during her unhappy marriage to Sen. John Warner, shooting Demerol and struggling with alcohol.Getty Images
Wilding remembers his mother calling for him to come to her bedroom and that “she sounded wobbly … but it wasn’t until I saw her that I realized she was already pretty f–ked up on something. She was seated at the edge of the bed in her underwear, and she had a syringe of Demerol in her right hand.”
He explained that the Oscar winner then asked him to “administer the shot,” which he declined to do.Taylor was married to Warner from 1976 to 1982.Bettmann Archive
“She looked at me with deadened yet disappointed eyes, took a breath, steadied her hand, and plunged the needle into her flesh,” Wilding says in the book.
Taylor also struggled with alcohol addiction which worsened during her tempestuous marriages to Welsh actor Richard Burton, who was a severe alcoholic himself.After Taylor asked her son Christopher Wilding (left) to give her a Demerol shot, his then-wife, Aileen Getty (right), called a regulatory agency about Taylor being overprescribed.FilmMagic
Brower writes that the couple’s first real encounter was on the set of “Cleopatra” when Burton, coming off a bender, couldn’t even raise a cup of coffee to his lips because his hands were shaking so badly. He asked Taylor for help, which she found endearing and attractive.
The pair’s famously combative relationship was fueled by alcohol —”the third partner in their marriage.”Taylor went to the rehab center named for former First Lady Betty Ford, who herself struggled with alcohol.Ron Galella Collection via Getty
“Elizabeth’s own growing problem with alcohol was easy to overlook because Richard’s was so debilitating,” notes Brower.
And the actress’s drinking and drug taking worsened during her marriage to Warner, which found her bored and lonely, living in Washington and packing on the pounds.
“Life as a senator’s wife in Washington, Elizabeth said later, made her ‘a drunk and a junkie,” Brower writes.
By 1981, Taylor was divorced and back in Los Angeles. But her addiction to pain medication was worsening.
“She surrounded herself with assistants and housekeepers who became like family to her and were less likely to call her out on her growing problem,” Brower writes. “She manipulated her doctors into giving her the pills she wanted, when she wanted them; it was very hard to say no to Elizabeth Taylor.”Taylor met her seventh and last husband, Larry Fortensky, in rehab.Ron Davis
Eventually, a group of friends and family staged an intervention and Taylor checked into the Betty Ford Center in 1983 for a seven-week stay. She stopped drinking but still took pills — rationalizing them as legitimate because they were prescribed by a doctor.
Daughter Liza Todd remembers calling to speak to her mother one evening and being told that Taylor was unavailable after 9 p.m. — “not because she was asleep, but because she was high.”The actress was kicked out of one rehab stint for refusing to cooperate.Getty Images
In 1988, pal George Hamilton staged a second intervention and Taylor went back to rehab — but she refused to do the work and was asked to leave.
However, Taylor did manage to score herself another husband while in rehab: construction worker, Larry Fortensky, 20 years her junior. The two married in an over-the-top ceremony in 1991. Five years later, he had begun drinking again, and the two split.
For the rest of her life, Taylor battled her addictions before dying in 2011 at age 79.