Antioch man remembers aunt Elizabeth Taylor

March 22, 2011 10:00:00 PM PDT
Elizabeth Taylor died Wednesday morning of congestive heart failure. The Oscar-winning actress helped define glamour on and off the silver screen. She also had some strong connections to Chicago.

Roger Ebert Wednesday wrote that Taylor was a great actress and an even greater star. In Chicago, she won countless fans and changed thousands of lives with her charitable works.

To the world, she was a legend, but to Greg Goldbogen of Antioch, she was Aunt Liz.

"We were kind of almost the local celebrities," said Goldbogen, the nephew of Taylor's husband, Mike Todd. "They'd say, 'Wow,' and ask, 'When is she coming out to visit?'"

Goldbogen's uncle was a film producer Taylor's third husband and a Chicago native.

Goldbogen was 13 when the starlet greeted him with a kiss at a screening of Todd's Oscar-winning film "Around The World in 80 Days".

"For years, I'd tell my friends, I'd say, 'See this spot on my cheek? I'm never going to wash that because Liz Taylor kissed me there,'" said Goldbogen.

Goldbogen had little contact with Taylor after his uncle died in a 1958 plane crash and was buried in west suburban Forest Park.

Film critic and WLS-AM radio personality Richard Roeper says Taylor's private dramas were part of her mystique.

"Long before we had the Angelina Jolies of the world, we had Elizabeth Taylor, whose life was made for a tabloid headline," said Roeper.

In 1983, Taylor and then-ex-husband Richard Burton starred in the Shubert Theatre production of "Private Lives". Illness forced her to cancel multiple performances.

Taylor was known to dine at Gibsons in the Gold Coast, where she would order the 26-ounce porterhouse with a glass of Pinot Grigio and request this corner table and waiter Mo Sekhani.

"So she grabbed a napkin and she says thanks for the coffee, and she went like this," said Sekhani, wiping his mouth. "She got up, gave me a hug."

The napkin with Taylor's lipstick now hangs on the restaurant's wall.

Taylor used her star power to raise tens of millions of dollars for those battling HIV and AIDS.

The non-profit group Chicago House, which provides support services in the HIV community, received critical funding from Taylor's foundation in the early 1990s.

"It was huge at the gave us hope," said Chicago House CEO Stan Sloan. "It was before even the government had jumped in and started helping out."

Chicago House says Taylor attended its first black tie gala in Chicago, which helped raise money. Without that help, the group says it may not have grown to what it is.

Another bit of Elizabeth Taylor Chicago history: the Goodman Theatre in the loop was formerly the Michael Todd Theatre and Cinestage, owned by Taylor's husband.