MBS nuns wouldn’t have mourned Liz Taylor


The actress Elizabeth Taylor, who died today at age 79, was oft-mentioned in the Catholic grade school I attended. The nuns who taught at Most Blessed Sacrament in Southwest Philadelphia, lecturing on sin, used to tell us the “hussy” Liz embodied all that had gone wrong with the world since, I guess, the Inquisition ended. Or at least since the Age of Enlightenment began. She was beautiful and flaunted it. She converted to Judaism for her fourth husband, the singer Eddie Fisher, then left him for a married man, the actor Richard Burton. She was the original Eve, tempting us to banishment from the garden. Have a bite, kid, it’s delicious.

Naturally, I had to find out about this woman, which wasn’t hard to do. Stories and photos of her were in every mainstream publication. She was the Angelina Jolie of her time, but without the pomposity or the anorexia. I saw her in Cleopatra, a really bad movie, and was smitten. I knew then what I wanted when I grew up. (Maybe the nuns were right.)

Later on, I grew to appreciate Taylor’s talent and heart, especially playing against type as the blowsy, acid-tongued Martha, with Burton as George, in the screen adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The movie still packs a punch, as in this exchange that might amuse my friends in academia:

Martha [to the couple’s young guests]: You see, George didn’t have much push. He wasn’t particularly aggressive. In fact, he was sort of a flop. A great big fat flop!
George [roars and smashes liquor bottle on bookcase]: Stop it Martha.
Martha: 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.

Almost forgot: Liz seemed to be one of the good guys in real life, devoting a lot of time to charities, including a foundation that raised about $325 million to fight AIDS. But yes, the nuns were right — she was beautiful.

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6 Responses to MBS nuns wouldn’t have mourned Liz Taylor

  1. Margaret Battistelli says:

    Possibly the most beautiful public figure in recorded history (lest someone accuse me of dissin’ their great Aunt Mildred, whose one and only photograph is tucked safely away in a family photo album somewhere in a an attic in Tulsa).

    Anybody who pisses off the nuns is OK in my book. Who woulda thunk I had something in common with La Liz?

    Love this quote … especially from my fundraising-centric POV:

    “I never planned to acquire a lot of jewels or a lot of husbands. For me, life happened, just as it does for anyone else. I have been supremely lucky in my life in that I have known great love, and of course I am the temporary custodian of some incredible and beautiful things. But I have never felt more alive than when I watched my children delight in something, never more alive than when I have watched a great artist perform, and never richer than when I have scored a big check to fight AIDS.”
    ~ Elizabeth Taylor, 1931-2011

    Great post, David!

  2. Susie Madrak says:

    I don’t remember the nuns ever talking about this. (I must have been looking out the window again.) I do remember Monsignor Daly saying from the pulpit he would “rather live next door to a colored person than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis!”

    • oddmanout215 says:

      This was in the early grades, I think, when classes were still either all-boys or all-girls. You and I couldn’t have been in the same classes until seventh grade. Maybe the nuns I’m thinking of only warned the boys about Liz… Nice quote. I’m trying to remember Monsignor Daly but I think I’m confusing him with Father Duddy.

  3. Susie Madrak says:

    Monsignor Daly was the mean little weasle-y one. Father Duddy had auburn hair and an Irish accent. He might have always smelled of booze, because for some reason, I think he drank a lot. I remember seeing all the beer bottles in the rectory trash every week.

    • oddmanout215 says:

      Yes, Father Duddy. I thought he was slurring his words, but maybe that was the Irish accent. There was Father Kerwick, who taught altar boys to help with the mass. A heavyset chain-smoker who looked like Garry Wills. He would fill the sacristy with clouds of Marlboro smoke. And you must remember Father Dick, the handsome young liberal priest, a Vatican II type, and the subject of many jokes involving various nuns, of course, because of his name.

  4. rc shoe says:

    David are you rother to Maureen ?
    Yocum street ?

    “MBS (Most Blessed Sacrament) Alumnus Southwest Philadelphia”
    facebook page would love your commentary

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