Is Liz Taylor's gay manager about to inherit her millions?
There were many rules observed behind the towering hedges and high iron gates at 700 Nimes Road in Bel Air, Los Angeles.
The green velvet drapes in the master bedroom were to be opened by the gloved hand of the French butler only when the lady of the house said she was ready. If she wanted breakfast at 5pm, that is what she got.
All the rooms had to be scented with white gardenias — her favourite flowers.
Close friend: Jason Winters could inherit Liz Taylor's fortune - a belief shared by Taylor's four children
No one was to ever, under any circumstances, put through telephone calls from her former husband Larry Fortensky.
And she was never, ever, ever to be referred to as Liz. She was Dame Elizabeth to everyone, even her nearest, dearest and closest companions. But then, right to the end, the Dame was gutsy, spoiled, foul-mouthed and toweringly sentimental.
Yesterday, her funeral was held at the Californian cemetery where Michael Jackson was buried. The actress — who died of a heart attack — was buried just a day after her death, in accordance with her adopted Jewish faith.
Quite where she would be buried had immediately become a source of intense speculation and controversy.
She had previously insisted she wanted to be laid to rest next to her great love Richard Burton in Switzerland. But reports in the U.S. said the 79-year-old would be interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Los Angeles, near to the grave of her close friend Michael Jackson.
The private funeral service was attended by close relatives, including her four children who were with her in hospital before her death on Wednesday.
Members of the Burton family said they would honour her wish to be buried near his home village in South Wales if that desire was included in her will.
What's in the will? A fleet of limousine's arrives at Forest Lawn Memorial Park for Liz Taylor's funeral
During their passionate on-off romance, Miss Taylor and Mr Burton had discussed being buried side-by-side at a cemetery in Pontrhydyfen, near Port Talbot, though he was eventually buried near his home in Celigny, Switzerland.
Intriguingly, Burton’s widow Sally bought the adjoining plot and placed a large headstone across the two graves in a move widely interpreted as a deliberate ploy to ensure that Miss Taylor could not be buried next to him.
Dame Elizabeth has had plenty of time to reflect on the issue in recent years.
For the last decade and a half of her life, the great screen legend lived in reclusive, eccentric splendour. Family and friends were increasingly kept at bay as she relied on doctors, psychics and a coterie of homosexual ‘walkers’ to keep her company.
At the centre of the kingdom was a small good-natured white Maltese dog named Daisy, who slept on a silk cushion next to her mistress and whose needs were paramount.
Referring to the dog, Taylor once said: ‘Sometimes I think there is a person in there,’ and she wasn’t altogether joking.
She loved Daisy and would talk to her for hours. Her favourite occupation was to get out her fabulous collection of glittering jewels and tell Daisy the romantic story behind the origin of each piece.
Taylor would also spend hours surfing the television shopping channels with the dog on her lap. And, latterly, she liked to listen to the music of Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle — whose voice she found extremely moving.
In recent years, she kept a permanent retinue of medical staff at the house, along with a hospital room equipped with medical supplies.
Her struggles with the spine disease scoliosis — and a host of other medical issues — meant she was in permanent pain for more than a decade. Her use of painkillers often left her fuddled and slurring.
Even before her most recent — and eventually fatal — heart problems developed, a doctor called daily to oversee her medical care, and there was a private nurse on call night and day.
Her closest companions tended to be handsome and openly homosexual — like personal assistant Tim Mendelson, manager Jason Winters and hairdresser Jose Eber.
Devoted: Liz Taylor placed her dog Daisy at the centre of her kingdom - thought it seems unlikely she will be in with a shot of the millions
She had lost interest in forming romantic attachments after the disappointment of her failed, final marriage to the construction worker Larry Fortensky. But her male assistants flirted with her.
‘She just liked to be loved and to be made to feel good,’ says one in her circle.
‘Tim and Jason were devoted to her, completely devoted. They made her laugh every day.’
In 2003 a sordid court case cast a shadow over her household when it was alleged by a former gardener, Willem Van Muyden, that the butler, Jean-Luc Lacquement, provided sexual services to Taylor, which he referred to as ‘jumping the old trampoline’.
Lacquement denied it, and Taylor described the idea as ‘pure fiction’. The case was eventually settled out of court. At the time, Taylor was in agony with her curved back and had undergone three hip replacements. She was also suffering from osteoporosis, making her unlikely to frolic with the staff.
Her friend Carole Bayer Sager said this week that there was no question that Liz had suffered very badly towards the end of her life.
‘The last years didn’t bring her as much joy because her body was failing,’ said Bayer Sager. But the pain was borne bravely, as she tried to keep up appearances.
She made her usual social efforts — going to the Bel Air Hotel for dinner, always dripping in diamonds. There were even a couple of visits to The Abbey, a gay bar in West Hollywood.
Her last great hurrah was a lavish party at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Las Vegas, given four years ago on her 75th birthday. She turned up swathed in a white mink and wearing a four-inch icicle drop diamond collar with matching drop earrings — every inch the goddess.
United in death: Taylor's funeral took place at tomb of her close friend Michael Jackson, in California yesterday
Her last major foreign trip was to London last April to honour Richard Burton — a bust of him was being donated to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
She burst into tears at the gala dinner when she saw the representation of his face — dabbing at her face with a handkerchief while Prince Charles stood beside her.
Now that she has gone, the focus falls on the man on whom she relied in her final years, Jason Winters.
She was so close to Winters — tall, handsome and 28 years her junior — that there was repeated speculation that he was to become the eighth Mr Elizabeth Taylor.
The gossip about what would have been a ninth nuptials (she married Burton twice) made her laugh because Winters runs a talent agency with his partner Erik Sterling. He is said by associates to be ‘100 per cent gay’.
He may yet, though, be the heir to her fortune — estimated at £360 million, which he will administer via a trust to her Aids charity. They met via her work for Aids victims in the late 1990s and their friendship blossomed. She took several holidays at his home in Hawaii.
Her four children — Michael and Christopher Wilding, Lisa Todd and Maria Burton — believe that he will get her cash when the will is read, which could be next week.
Taylor’s children were said to be at odds last year fighting over the expected spoils.
How extraordinary it will be if Winters is the one who gets to distribute the diamonds now that she has gone.
It was he who helped her out of the decline after the end of her last marriage to Larry Fortensky.
Following divorce from Fortensky in 1996, Taylor slumped into a severe depression, becoming agoraphobic and barely leaving her house. She suffered near fatal viral pneumonia, a crushed spinal disc and meningitis.
In 1997, she had surgery to remove a benign brain tumour.
Under Winters’ influence, she began to dye her white hair black again, and started a social revival of sorts.
Over the next few years, she made grand appearances at events such as Liza Minnelli’s wedding to David Gest in 2002 and Elton John’s Oscars party in 2005. The next year, she donned a snorkel and went swimming with sharks in Hawaii while on holiday with Winters.
Gossip columnists were told that she was ‘madly in love’ with Winters and that he felt the same way.
Of course it wasn’t true, but it seems that Taylor did genuinely love his company and was using the idea of a marriage to gauge interest in reviving her acting career.
Though that never happened, money kept on coming in — at the rate of £115 million a year — thanks to royalties and a highly lucrative range of perfumes.
And as her last days drifed by, she loved using the Twitter website and enjoyed being taken for turns in her grounds — which included an English garden as well as a tropical one.
But she missed her friends who had died — particularly Michael Jackson, who had adored her and used to come over for egg sandwiches some afternoons.
In her loneliness, she called on a psychic to put her in touch with some of those who had passed on, particularly the love of her life, Richard Burton.
But mostly, Dame Elizabeth had become blighted by agonising pain. Lifelong friend and actress Debbie Reynolds recalls Taylor saying that her life had become ‘really tough’.
‘I’m happy that she’s out of her pain,’ Reynolds said yesterday. ‘God bless her, she’s gone to a better place.’
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