The Man Who Is Trying To Take Liz Away From Eddie
The man who’s trying to take Liz from Eddie is one of the most hated gang leaders in all of Rome.
He is feared by every actress, every singer, every heiress, every woman who is in any way in the public eye in Italy.
He is clever, ruthless and without morals. When he is after a woman, he is a relentless and merciless pursuer.
He is thirty-three years old.
He is Russian-born but now makes Rome his headquarters.
His name is Ivan Kroscenko.
Sometimes he is a lone wolf. At other times he works with a gang as vicious and pitiless as himself. His favorite lieutenants are Roberto Bonifazi, thirty-one, and Quinto Felic, thirty-five. Bonifazi is easily recognizable by the clothes he always wears—blue shirt and trousers with black sash. Felici is famous (“infamous” would be more accurate) for the way he alternates between racing car and motorcycle as the vehicle in which he chases after women.
In all, there are about twenty regular gang members whom leader Kroscenko can call upon at a moment’s notice to help him do his dirty work. He also has a number of handsome actors, impoverished noblemen and playboys available and eager to do his bidding. The mob members themselves are known as the “paparazzi” (English translation: household scum). Recently they have aided Kroscenko in his determined pursuit and successful “capture” of such beautiful women as Brigitte Bardot, Anita Ekberg, Belinda Lee, Ingrid Bergman and actor Edmond Purdom’s estranged wife, artist Alicja Darr.
The paparazzi thrive on unhappiness and scandal and are quick to scent trouble—or even the slightest hint of trouble—and come between a man and his wife when they are having difficulty. If there’s no real trouble, the paparazzi will go to any lengths to create it.
This past summer, when word got out that Liz Taylor and her husband were coming to Rome where she would make “Cleopatra,” paparazzi-leader Kroscenko was overjoyed. Publicly he marked out Liz as his next victim. “We can hardly wait,” he said.
His informants in the United States had assured him that Liz and Eddie’s marriage was shaky. They sent him reports based on party gossip, barroom rumor and “inside” Information.
They also sent him column items that were appearing with more and more regularity in American newspapers:
“In the Hollywood horse parlors, they’re laying odds that the E. Fishers will be divorced next year.”
“Mildly disturbing is a report—and not the first in recent weeks—from Hollywood. Word there continues to be that Liz and Eddie will call it off before the end of ’62.”
“Liz Taylor’s tragic illness saved her marriage. She and Eddie Fisher had agreed to disagree just before she was felled.”
This was all Kroscenko and his paparazzi needed—whispers and hints of trouble between the most beautiful woman in the world and her husband. They’d do the rest.
So the gang leader and his followers prepared their weapons and stockpiled their ammunition. Not traditional guns and bullets. Not knives and blackjacks. But something far deadlier. Something that could not injure or kill a human being, but that could shatter a reputation, destroy a marriage, wound the very soul.
The deadliest weapons and ammunition of all—cameras and film.
For the paparazzi are a gang of free lance photographers who specialize in taking scandalous pictures. . . . The intimate, unflattering shot that will shatter a reputation . . . the com- promising shot that will destroy a marriage . . . the intruding, suggestive shot that will penetrate to the core.
These were the types of photographs Kroscenko planned to have taken of Liz. “You’ll see photographs of her—intimate ones—with some handsome actor, fascinating director or patrician playboy,” he promised even before Liz arrived in Rome. “We’re already getting things lined up.”
He oozed confidence because, despite all the protections and precautions taken against them, he and his henchmen had never failed in the past to get their juicy scandalous pictures.
They’d pursued Brigitte Bardot up and down the lakeside beach at Spoletto, getting spicier and spicier pictures of the bikini-clad actress. Brigitte thought she was safe from them ninety miles outside Rome, but she was wrong. They’d speed out to Spoletto on fast motorcycles and faster cars and hound her all day.
When she tried to slip away from them one day, they really fixed her. She had jumped into a rowboat with Louis Malle, her director, and headed out for a little island in the lake. The paparazzi scrambled into canoes and paddled after her.
Kroscenko’s lieutenant, Bonifazi, jumped from his canoe into Brigitte’s boat. He raised his $400 camera to take a shot. She grabbed it and hurled it into the lake. Then he slugged her. making sure that his back wasn’t to the other cameras, and that they could shoot all the action.
Malle rowed back to the beach. The canoe fleet followed. On shore, lifeguards dragged Bonifazi away, but not before he said coolly, “Brigitte had better pay for that camera. Otherwise we’ll take even spicier pictures of her.”
Despite all attempts to restrain them, the paparazzi had been successful in recording each stage of the off-again on-again off-again romance of Prince Filippo Orsini and actress Belinda Lee; in shooting the knock-down drag-out squabbles of actor Edmund Purdom and Alicja Darr; in setting up and stage-managing a series of titillating night-club incidents involving John Barrymore, Jr. and of actually scaling the walls of the hospital and storming the corridors outside the room where Ingrid Bergman was giving birth to Roberto Rossellini’s illegitimate child.
Ingrid—a hunted woman
To this very day, Kroscenko and his gang stick close to Ingrid whenever she comes to Rome. Recently the usually calm Swedish star blew her top after the flashbulb mob descended on her. “For a week, they haven’t given me a moment of respite,” she said. “They shadowed me in restaurants, during walks with my children, in my brief moments of shopping. They waited for hours in front of my house. I would never return to Italy if it weren’t for my desire to see Robertino, Isabella and Isotta.”
One of the paparazzi insisted on taking a picture of Anita Ekberg’s leg. She’d had the leg in a cast and was recuperating.
Anita refused to let him shoot the pictures. He raised his camera and she raised a weapon of her own. A bow and arrow. And it was she who shot him.
But the photographer didn’t care. The arrows fell harmlessly around him. Besides, one of his cohorts was clicking away with his camera recording all the action, and the resulting pictures were more sensational (and salable) than a mere shot or two of her injured leg would have been.
The paparazzi also shrugged off Anita’s subsequent verbal blast at them. “Sometimes in Rome it’s just like a jungle,” she’d screamed. “The hunters are the men with cameras and I’m one of the victims they are out to get.” Sticks and stones may break our bones, the photographers figured, but publicity will never hurt us.
Now Liz Taylor was coming to Rome and as Kroscenko had declared, “We’re already getting things lined up.” A swarm of paparazzi to plague her night and day . . . a willing corps of titled playboys, any of whom could be counted on to force an unexpected kiss upon her in return for publicity and a few lire . . . a slew of scandal and expose magazines eager to buy photos which they could caption, “Italian nobleman snatches Liz from Ed-die.”
Anything could be arranged, Kroscenko was confident; anything at all—for money. Hadn’t he arranged for exotic dancer Haish Nana to do a “spontaneous” striptease at a high society party in 1958? Sure, the party had been condemned by the Vatican itself, and Haish had received a suspended jail sentence for public obscenity, but who cared? The dancer had gotten reams of free publicity. But more important, the paparazzi had been able to sell and re-sell every picture they’d shot at the party.
Liz was a challenge!
But Liz Taylor was another story, the greatest challenge the paparazzi had ever faced. She would be guarded day and night. She’d stated to the press, “I’ve always hated having my picture taken,” and was determined not to be photographed. So it was up to them to break through her guard and to overcome her resistance. Ingenuity . . . surprise . . . money . . . ruthlessness. They would do it. When Liz Taylor and Eddie Fisher boarded Pan American World Airlines Flight 118 at Idlewild Airport late in the summer, photographers from American papers, news Services and magazines were there to see them off. They moved in close to take pictures of a smiling Liz, chic in her green ensemble and large blue hat. They backed away to get shots of her standing in the midst of sixteen pieces of luggage (thirty-two other bags had already been sent ahead by boat). She smiled, she posed, she was most cooperative.
The cameramen weren’t too demanding. They all respected the fact that she’d been very, very sick not so long ago. They kept their requests for shots to a minimum.
Eddie, standing on the side, was also smiling. Liz was healthy and happy—that’s all that really mattered. “Elizabeth never has felt better,” he said. “We won’t have to worry about her health. She’s regained her strength and is anxious to work again.”
Then he joined Liz on the steps leading to the plane. They both smiled as they waved once more to the photographers and entered the door of the big airliner.
Liz smiled again as they walked down the ramp and onto the field at the airport in Rome, but it was a different smile, forced and strained. The paparazzi were out in force. They broke through police lines and ignored guards. Flashbulbs popped in Liz’s face. A hundred voices seemed to shout at her simultaneously. One of the photographers shoved Eddie over next to her.
“Give him a kiss, Liz. Give him a kiss,” they pleaded.
This was the shot they had to get, the “before” shot, the together, happy, lovey-dovey arrival picture that would “set up” the one that was to follow. The “after” shot, the surprise photo, the faked, planted, contrived picture in which a paid playboy would kiss Liz so that the “break-up of her marriage” could be captured on film.
Liz versus the paparazzi
But Liz refused to cooperate. In the battle between the paparazzi and herself, she won the first round.
She also won Round Two. Try as they did, they were unable to get inside the walls of Liz’ fourteen-room villa (seven of them bathrooms) in the middle of a small park, just adjoining the Moroccan embassy on the old Appian Way. They couldn’t scale the walls, they were unable to bribe the maids, butlers, drivers, gardeners, bodyguards or Liz’ personal hairdresser. They couldn’t get a glimpse of the villa, the gardens, the tennis court or the swimming pool. Even Eddie’s Rolls-Royce, parked in the driveway, was out of sight.
So they paced up and down outside, and the only sign of life from inside was the barking of dogs, the meowing of cats and the chattering of Liz’ pet monkey, which was brought along at the last moment.
But the paparazzi were patient and resourceful. If they couldn’t get her at home, they’d catch her in the streets, at a restaurant, in the theater or at the studio.
On the first day that she reported for costume tests, the photographers were waiting. Hundreds of them. Joe Mankiewicz took one look at the mob of paparazzi and other photographers and ordered that the guard protecting the gates at Cinecitta be increased ten times. By afternoon there were twelve officers at every gate.
Liz Taylor had won Round Three.
A few days later Liz viewed the rushes of the tests taken for color background and photogenic effects. She had tried on sixty of the 120 costumes she wears in “Cleopatra,” ranging from the tights of 24-carat gold thread, embroidered with seed pearls and brilliants, to the beautiful headdress of gold and semi-precious jewels. But she didn’t like what she saw.
The costumes were beautiful, but she had put on too much weight during her convalescence after her illness at The London Clinic. She and the producers agreed: She’d have to go on a strict diet and lose pounds. The picture would have to be postponed for a week.
This time, however, Liz did not escape the paparazzi. Somehow a few of them had sneaked into the studio. One had even gotten in disguised as a cleaning woman. For all his wig and mop, he was discovered—but others weren’t, and they got pictures of Liz in costume. Within a couple of hours they were peddling these shots to publications all over Italy.
The pictures revealed that Liz was too heavy for the costumes—chunky around the waist and in the shoulders and upper arms. Her chin appeared fleshy, too.
Words followed photos. Two Italian newspapers—Rome’s Telesera and Milan’s Il Giorno—headlined Liz’ weight: 121 pounds. Gioia, an Italian women’s magazine, was blunter. Liz is “now fatter and heavier,” it reported.
The paparazzi had won Round Four.
The battle rages on
But Kroscenko and his gang won’t be satisfied with anything less than a knockout. Pictures that show she’s a little heavy, photos taken of her at a bad angle, unflattering shots—that’s not enough. The spicy shot, the faked shot, the scandalous shot—that’s what they’re aiming for.
It doesn’t matter to them that Eddie, when told there was a rumor going around Broadway saying he and Liz were splitting, replied, “It’s silly. Preposterous. It’s a good story to put Elizabeth to sleep with.”
They don’t care that at another time, when he heard gossip about a rift in his marriage, Eddie said, “Right now we’re terribly happy. Tomorrow—who knows? But right now we’re happy!”
They ignore the fact that when asked to tell about her marriage, Liz recently said, “Can’t you tell we’re in love? . . . We have all the obvious things of a happy marriage. It’s a necessity of the heart. We’d be terribly empty apart.”
To the paparazzi, truth is meaningless. Only the compromising, sensational picture counts.
They are patient. The winter will be long. Months will go by before “Cleopatra” is finished. During that time—somewhere, somehow—they are certain they will be able to produce the “other man,” to take the shot that will “prove” Liz and Eddie’s marriage is on the rocks.
Just one knockout blow, that’s all it takes.
Until that time the paparazzi watch.
You can see Liz and Eddie starring in “Butterfield 8” for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1962