When Liz Taylor Visited the Rotunda
The death today of famed actress Elizabeth Taylor struck a memory chord. I seemed to remember a story about Ms. Taylor sitting on an off-limits antique couch at the Rotunda during a public event, so I e-mailed Alexander “Sandy” Gilliam, the University’s chief protocol officer and historian, and asked for his recollections.
He responded in his inimitable style, recalling the 1977 incident:
The Rotunda Hostess of the moment was a little waspish and not what you called a sweet tempered lady. She frowned, but could say nothing as [then-U.Va. President] Frank Hereford sat down beside her.
The occasion was this: John Warner [then Taylor’s husband, and later a U.S. Senator] had retired as Secretary of the Navy. He announced that he was donating his official papers to us, so it was arranged that they would come down on a day when the Board of Visitors was in session. The Board recessed when they arrived and everyone went to the West Oval Room for the ceremony. John Warner was speaking from a small podium we had set up and Elizabeth Taylor, who truly did have violet eyes to die for, sat on the couch with Frank. At some point while John Warner was speaking, she turned to Frank and said, sotto voce but loud enough for everyone to hear, “From our attic to yours.”
Legendary local photographer Ed Roseberry captured the scene, part of the U.Va. Visual History Collection.