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Eddie Fisher Exposes Elizabeth Taylor

“Life with Elizabeth was more than unbearable—it became, at the end, a living hell,” sighed Eddie Fisher. “How do you think it felt to see three years of living and loving and suffering go up in the smoke of scandal?” Though headlines in the newspapers quote Eddie Fisher as saying, “I’m alive again,” the truth is that Liz Taylor’s swift, selfish and incredibly cruel public rejection of her husband over a shameless physical involvement with married-man-father-of-two Richard Burton has plunged the heartbroken singer into an agony equal to the ecstasy he “endured” as Elizabeth’s real life love slave for three years.

Now Eddie has been transported to hell by the very pleasures which elevated him to a nuptial paradise when he bewilderingly became the object of Liz’ fantastic and unhealthy search for love at the untimely demise of Mike Todd.

Eddie emerged from the recent earthquake in Rome in a shattered emotional and physical state. Thanks to the ministrations of his “miracle” physician (and President Kennedy’s), Dr. Max Jacobson, he’s recovered enough on the surface to resume his singing career—and the more difficult task of adjusting to everyday life after a fairy-tale, horror-story existence.

Three and a half weeks after an agonizing period of domestic chaos in Rome which involved actual physical violence, threats, hysteria and havoc, Eddie, unable to bear the situation, virtually fought his way out of the sumptuous and infamous villa off the historical Via Appia in Rome.

Three times before, he had made attempts to escape Elizabeth’s irrational behavior by retreating to their chateau in Switzerland, a hotel in Paris and a seaside resort in Italy. Each time Elizabeth importuned him for patience and understanding, urging him, begging him to come back to work things out between them for the sake of their futures and for the children who love Eddie as dearly as he loves them. She insisted, even while blatantly romancing Burton, that Eddie was her only love, her deep love, indeed the only person she loved more than herself. She kept him chained to her with her uninhibited and seductive wiles and ways, playing on his deep addiction to her enchanting endearments and overtures. He was helpless before her.

Goodbye to Rome

Three times he returned—to be rewarded with a renewal of anguish and despair. Finally, the knife that she had impaled him on bled him of his life’s force and reduced him to physical exhaustion and heartbreak. To save his own sanity and self-respect, he fled again—this time for good.

“I stood by Elizabeth for more than three years,” Eddie said, “but when the situation in Rome became intolerable, I—came here.” He came to New York, he “came alive” and he sang. Was it an accident that the first record he made here should be “Arrivederci Roma”—“Goodbye, Rome.”

“Oh it has a meaning,” Eddie admitted. “It means the end of a wonderful love.” And he said, “I’m not bitter at anybody or anything.” But when the subject of reconciliation came up he asked, “Reconciliation? What’s that?”

That was the way Eddie talked. Seemingly light words and a careful poker face. But none of it could hide the inner anguish of a man who had saved his sanity and self-respect only by fleeing the woman—the woman—of his life.

And in fleeing, Eddie proved that the ecstasy of being her prince, her lover, her husband, her comforter, her champion, her friend, her bodyguard and her children’s father was—after all—not enough to alleviate the awful agony of watching her entice another victim with her potent brand of love . . . In essence, he had to commit a form of suicide by killing his love for Elizabeth, the wife he’d adored.

A faithful husband

While Eddie was married to Debbie, he was a constant and moral husband, there is no question or doubt about that. Even in Debbie’s mind. Many Hollywood flirts tried their wiles on Eddie when he was boss of a mammoth weekly TV show, but he remained impervious to the advances of the most beautiful and persistent of them. In Las Vegas, where he has several times broken all records, stars and chorus girls made bets that they could entice him from his hearth for a night. They only made fools of themselves—and lost their bets as well. Until Elizabeth Taylor became a widow and a lonely woman, Eddie Fisher was a good husband—as good as the circumstances of Ids relationship with Debbie allowed.

After Mike Todd’s death, when Liz demanded more and more of Eddie’s sympathy and time, he gave it, flattered that she needed him to lean on in her grief. He was aware that these constant telephone summons would widen the breach that already existed between Debbie and himself since before the birth of their son Todd. But he still had not the slightest inkling, unsophisticated as he was (and subtle as she was), that the Widow Todd was needing him more as a man than as a mutual mourner.

Elizabeth’s forlorn overtures were cloaked in misery and tears, but Eddie needed consolation too—his loss of Mike was a genuine grief to him. So the two saw each other several times a day at her hideaway house in the Hollywood Hills. He brought the widow little gifts to take her mind off her sorrow. They talked. They listened to music. They swam. They felt the beauty of nature and life around them. Gradually, there were fewer tears and more laughter. It was wholesome, the doctor said, to get the grief out and let life again assert its meaning.

Then Elizabeth decided to take a trip to Europe to take her mind off her memories—to meet new people and seek new adventures. Coincidentally, and it was a coincidence, Eddie was scheduled to fly to New York on business for his TV show. When he arrived, Elizabeth was still in New York although her ship had sailed. Eddie was surprised and delighted. He escorted her to elegant restaurants and to the theater. They had a marvelous time.

Then they went dancing. And they danced very close. And it would have tempted the strongest man in Christendom to resist the fragrance of Elizabeth’s perfume, the feel of her hair against his face, the curves of her body against his. Eddie was duck soup for Elizabeth even before that dancing date was over. Music, gourmet foods, sparkling champagne, romantic settings did the rest.

They talked themselves into love.

Eddie had lost all communication with Debbie, and Elizabeth had lost the most exciting man in her life. They talked out their hearts’ feelings and innermost dreams. And this sharing of confidences in candlelit bistros led to the indiscreet weekend at Grossinger’s where Eddie learned, ipso facto, that Liz meant biz.

A world well lost

“I stood by Elizabeth for more than three years,” was what Eddie said at the end of those years. It was the understatement of 1962.

Eddie didn’t rake up his devoted and constant attendance on an always-ailing Elizabeth who finally won back the world’s sympathy—and an Oscar—by escaping death at death’s very door. Not once did he drag in the anguish of a husband whose beloved might die . . . or, when she was well and blooming again, the final blow he dealt his own career by subjugating himself entirely to the needs of his Cleopatra. But he did not deny that “Cleopatra” was indeed a “picture with a built-in hex.”

“Cleopatra” has already shaken the great Twentieth Century-Fox Studio to its foundations. It has shaken the entire industry. If it does not break every existing box-office record when it’s released late this year, it will do more than shake—it may crumble the foundations of both studio and industry. . . . And it shattered the marriage that for three and a half years had been the symbol of a great love and passion.

At first all was serene. “We were inseparable,” Eddie says, remembering the pink villa on Rome’s outskirts. In order to be with Liz — indeed, at her insistence,—he had turned down many personal appearance offers in the States. Liz’ whole menage was in Rome—children, household help, secretaries, doctor, hairdresser, pets—and Eddie. Liz travels at studio expense and so does her big domestic entourage.

“We lived a quiet family life with the children,” Eddie reminisced, and in his memories he includes Maria—the handicapped little Greek-German girl they both adopted, despite Liz’ quotes that only she adopted the child. Aside from working hours, they secluded themselves in the villa . . . played with the children . . . read books . . . watched their diets.

Then slowly—almost imperceptibly—as the “Cleopatra” love scenes started on film, the Fisher love scenes diminished at home. They continued to read scripts and look for material they could use for their own company after “Cleopatra.” They scouted and bought an enormous villa in Gstaad, Switzerland, to use as their European headquarters. But something was missing in these accomplishments. Eddie, who was on 20th’s payroll as assistant producer, had little to say and do, other than sit around on the set and watch his wife being made love to by Burton, both garbed in shockingly brief costumes.

Between Them—Burton!

Slowly the fantastic closeness between Eddie and his Elizabeth was dissipating itself. Now, instead of Eddie and Liz it was Eddie, Liz and Burton. And the horrendous part of it was that Eddie was unaware of the undercurrents between his wife and her co-star. They joked together, laughed together and ate together—all three of them, when Burton’s wife Sybil was not in Rome. And all the time this camaraderie was going on, the off-screen romance was burgeoning into the most scandalous affair in history. Burton and Liz were reported to have their own little hideaway where they would repair for food and frolic unbeknownst to Eddie. Eddie was being betrayed by a man whom he admired and by a man who always had a slap on the back for him and a friendly word.

There was more. Eddie had to watch the obvious rapport that Liz and Director Mankiewicz enjoyed. If ever a man was bewildered and hurt, Eddie was that man as he watched his enchantress of a wife slowly slipping out of his grasp—into the arms and hearts of two other men—two men acknowledged to be his mental and physical peers. And still Eddie hoped to lick them both by continuing his adoration; by forgiving Liz her derelictions; by maintaining his own dignity and prevailing upon her to reconsider her actions.

Right after Christmas, Liz and Eddie cooled to a freeze. It had been a case of “Enter Burton. Exit Eddie.”

In the unlikely event that you have not been impressed by Mr. Marc Antony Burton’s visage in the photos flashed around the world, let it be said for him that he comes on like gangbusters. He’s not pretty in the Rock Hudson way, but Burton is rugged, sturdy, dashing, daring; he has flashing green eyes and a fabulous sense of humor. He is even less resistible than Mike Todd. Todd blustered four letter words and threats to achieve his effects. Burton has a command of conversation that is literally and figuratively hypnotic. His voice, his vocabulary, his disarming candor are fantastically appealing. But even these are secondary attributes compared to the virility he exudes and the animal magnetism he projects. It is a pity—for Burton—that it took Liz’ interest to focus the public eye on his remarkable charms. Of course Burton does have his rough edges. But he also has adaptability, and Liz will teach him all she wants him to know. He has already donned a tuxedo for her and worn a tie to dinner.

As the love scenes grew more intimate on the reels, the feelings grew more intimate for real. It was, as one observer noted, absolutely inevitable that any two people, playing these two parts, would have to fall in love.

Now, at last, Eddie had to see some of the things that were going on. But in his steadfast devotion and absolute adoration of his wife, he refused to acknowledge to himself that the interludes with the wily Welshman Burton were more than good rapport between congenial people working so closely together. He hoped against hope that neither would be a lasting relationship. He hoped right up to the frightful moment when Lizzy, in a tizzy over Burton’s solo trip to Paris, managed to get herself dramatically conveyed to the local hospital for a stomach-pumping—the true cause of that eposide known but to a chosen few.

Even then Eddie refused to acknowledge, openly, that his hopes were fruitless. He stayed at Liz’ side—stern, chastising but ever-loving. They tried to show that all was right with their world.

But trying to hide love is like trying to hide the stars in the sky. All Rome was titillated over the Taylor-Burton-Fisher triangle. Rumors crossed the cables and made blind items in many columns. Finally Louella Parsons broke the story. The ensuing furor overshadowed even the shocking triangle of three years before—when the Widow Todd wangled Eddie away from Debbie.

Now a certain amount of publicity is good for any picture, so 20th accepted this. They did nothing to help the runaway publicity along, but they also did nothing to stop it. Until the backers of the film convened in top-drawer meetings in New York to analyze the effect of such carryings-on. The upshot was that the Bossman of 20th jetted post-haste to Rome.

Enter Spyros Skouras

Mr. Skouras is a tall, grey-haired, benign-looking Teddy-bearish tycoon who rose from busboy in a restaurant to overseer of a fabulous movie studio. Now his studio was in jeopardy. Armed with demands from his stockholders and investors, he arrived in Rome for a chat with the Fishers. A private chat, of course—but everyone knows it was to admonish the Fishers to keep their own counsel and a certain family decorum until after “Cleopatra” was finished. Then they could bloody well do what they pleased. There is no doubt, either, that Mr. Skouras had a few business and financial blandishments to offer both Fishers—even if in separate deals.

Now Elizabeth the queen, incredibly pampered by Eddie, her studio, her parents and her friends is, as the expression goes, spoiled rotten. Her magnificent head of hair must have bristled with fury as Skouras unfolded his conditions. She must have fumed at this private upbraiding, as she fumes at anyone who dares contradict, countermand, or even challenge her slightest whim. This Eddie didn’t discuss with me. But, having given his own word to Skouras that they would keep their private wash off the public lines, Eddie kept his part of the bargain. When he came to New York, at Mr. Skouras’ suggestion—“to arrange some business matters”—he kept his counsel, his word and his dignity.

Unfortunately his wife, on the other side of the globe, resented Eddie’s attempt to whitewash the red paint. In her usual head-strong defiance she showed her bad taste by dating Burton openly in Rome, kissing him and apparently allowing him to visit her villa while her four children lay innocently slumbering. The last shattering betrayal—those pictures of Liz and Burton nuzzling—made Eddie sick.

Elizabeth, the wild one, had triumphantly defied Skouras, stockholders, investors. Wall Street backers, the human code of decency and even Divine Authority.

Nobody can say they saw Eddie cry. I didn’t. But everyone who knows how deeply he adored Liz knows how he must weep and sob unashamed in privacy over those pictures of his wife in the embrace of another man. Only Eddie can envision the intimate conversation, the breathless looks and the incredible loveliness that Liz could bestow on Burton! Only he knew what Elizabeth was capable of making a man feel! He must have writhed in a private hell of torment when he read the blatant reports of Burton leaving their villa early in the dawning.

Yes, Eddie is paying the most dreadful price that can ever be exacted of him in payment for the ecstasy. No other calamity in his life can affect him as desperately as this treachery. Say what you will—that this is retribution for his act in abandoning Debbie and their children. The fact remains that Debbie had been more humiliated than heartbroken. Now Eddie is more heartbroken than humiliated. He would sooner pay with his life than lose Elizabeth.

How do you forget?

Every morning he will remember how she looked lying next to him with her dark-fringed lashes fluttering open on a new day. Every afternoon he will remember their gay lunches, their crazy gags and jokes, their little ceremonial cocktail hours and their fun with the children. The romps, the picnics, the seesaw rides, the trips to the circus and the zoo, to Disneyland. Every February 27 he will remember her birthday and how delighted she always was with his gifts—the $25,000 sable coats, the $15,000 earrings, the custom-built Rolls-Royces, the closets full of fantastic clothes and other little tokens of his enormous love and complete addiction to her.

Every Mothers Day he’ll remember the huge photograph of him with Liz’ children inscribed: “To our Queen Mother Elizabeth, with love from her loyal subjects, Mike, Christopher, Liza and Eddie.” On Valentine’s Day he’ll remember the love poems he hunted for her. On his own High Holy Days he will remember how she converted to Judaism and studied his religion—discussed it with him and made him more aware of its significance than ever before.

On little Liza’s birthday, so close to his own in August, he will remember that he gave the child his own legal name because he loved her and her mother so very much. He’ll remember all these things for a long time and the pain will be unbearable.

But though Eddie is haggard and worn, and weighs less than he did as a Philadelphia schoolboy, he is not defeated. He has learned by these experiences something of value. Call it mettle, or courage, as he resumes his career and tries to reconstruct his life. He knows he is at the bottom of a hill and has a long climb ahead. But he neither asks nor wants pity.

“I’m fine,” he will tell you jauntily. “I feel just fine—like I’m alive again.”

No, he wants no pity. Only a chance to get over his traumatic episode the best way he can.

He needs to forget.

But how do you go about forgetting three years of bliss and torment? And the exquisite creature who was your wife—even if she is more sinning than sinned against?





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