So anyway, the letter-writing box has been on my desk for years now, and it came from a woman who used to be a respected antique dealer who swore the box had belonged to Elizabeth Taylor and she had left it behind in Monterey after shooting the film ``The Sandpiper.''
The box was made in Italy and it was a few years before ``The Sandpiper'' that Taylor, who died today, was in italy shooting ``Cleopatra'' with Richard Burton, so one could imagine her toting it from Italy to California – or someone toting it for her – with stops along the way in London, New York and wherever.
Someone wrote ``Italy 1576'' on the bottom of the box, though there's no way it could be that old. It has small compartments and a fold-out section on which one could write a letter. I imagine she wrote a love letter or two on it, but frankly it would be a little awkward. I couldn't find a lira note. Someone told me it probably has a secret compartment; if so, I haven't found it.
I now have in the box invoices, notes, a photo of James Whitmore smoking a pipe and wearing a knit cap (he had just made ``The Shawshank Redemption''), notes on a painting by Ken Kesey, several letters that I need to respond to, a three-year-old receipt for stamps from the post office, a piece of melted hard candy, that kind of thing.
I assume Taylor carried the box with her as the film crew for ``The Sandpiper'' traveled up and down the coast shooting scenes between Monterey and Big Sur. Taylor played a Big Sur free spirit, Burton an Episcopalian minister, which fits because there are a lot of free spirits and Episcopalians in this area. There are also some free-spirited Episcopalians.
If they were shooting ``The Sandpiper'' now, they couldn't travel as freely up and down the coast unless it was by helicopter – a section of Higway 1 has been wiped out by the rain. The Monterey region was important to Taylor, by the way. ``National Velvet'' was shot here in 1944, in Pebble Beach, Taylor honeymooned here, and during the shooting of ``The Sandpiper'' Taylor and Burton stayed in an old Monterey adobe, La Mirada, that is now a wing of the Monterey Museum of Art.
I thought Taylor was great in ``Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'' and ``Suddely Last Summer.'' Liked that she stood up – and spoke up – for what she believed. She took a lot of the stigma off AIDS – you could say big deal, she was a celebrity, but a lot of other celebrities just shut up while friends were dying. Taylor was there for Rock Hudson and, through the years, others.
And I learned something about audiences in her ``Reflections in a Golden Eye,'' which she made with Brando. It was playing in a 24-hour theater on Hollywood Boulevard and a friend and I watched four showings throughout the night. That film adaptaion of the novel was very odd, and some audiences were moved by particular scenes, others laughed at the same scenes. The acting was always the same, so . . . so interesting, I thought.
Anyway, that was after she left this letter-writing box in Monterey, if it really was hers. I tend to think it was.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...