I lived in Washington DC in the 70’s and 80’s where my partner Jane LeGrand and I founded and ran The Fine Line Actors Theatre.
In addition to a full season of plays, we produced a series of special constituency projects. We had a very successful run of Marsha Norman’s “Getting Out,” and we were raising money to bring the show to the Women’s Detention Center in DC and to the Women’s Federal Penitentiary in Alderson West Virginia. Jane and I were to perform the leads in the show and stay on in residency for 6 weeks, teaching workshops and performing with the inmates. I was in the process of contacting people, mostly local celebrities, politicians and activists, to participate in and support a fundraiser for ourWomen’s Prison Project.
My brother, Dick Miller, is 11 years my senior – and when I was growing up, he was an agent and manager – the biggest agent for kids on Broadway. Dick took me to lots of shows and events. I’d met many famous people.
It was 1982 and Elizabeth Taylor was married to Senator John Warner from Virginia.
I figured, I’m good on the phone, relaxed around famous people – so, hey what the hell— why not call Elizabeth Taylor and see if she’s appear at our event? After all, it was for a good cause.
I looked in the phone book and, low-and-behold, found “Elizabeth Taylor” listed in Georgtown …
so I called.
A woman answered the phone. I said, “This is Judith Z. Miller, executive director of the Fine Line Actors Theatre calling for Ms. Taylor …
the voice said, “Yes.”
I said, “I’d like to speak with Ms. Taylor” …
the sweet-voiced woman replied, “Yes.”
I explained why I was calling, and said “I’d like to speak directly to Ms. Taylor” …
the voice said, “This is Ms. Taylor”
I was struck dumb!
I’d figured I was going to have to go through at least three secretaries to get to the famous Elizabeth Taylor — if I was lucky to reach her at all — and there she was answering her own phone!
I was speechless!
I felt myself starting to hyperventilate.
When I regained my composure, I told Ms. Taylor more about The Fine Line’s Women’s Prison Project. She listened attentively. In a very kind and respectful voice, she acknowledged how important the project was and graciously explained that due to a prior commitment, unfortunately, she needed to decline my invitation.
The fundraiser went on as planned, with local kids performing, local TV personalities, fire-twirlers – and all manner of acts. The proceeds from this event, along with the grants I wrote, and the donations that poured in from concerned citizens and organizations, enabled us to raise the funds to bring “Getting Out” and our workshops to the people who needed to experience them most – women in prison.
Even though Elizabeth Taylor couldn’t appear at our event, I will never forget how lovely she was to me – a total stranger – calling her out of the blue asking for her help.
… And that THE Elizabeth Taylor answered her own phone!
May G-d rest your soul gracious lady!