Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thom Racina Honors Elizabeth Taylor

We asked We Love Soaps TV friend Thom Racina, and headwriter of GENERAL HOSPITAL from 1981-1983, to share with us his memories and recollections of writing for Elizabeth Taylor's most celebrated scenes as Helena Cassadine.  We thank you Thom for generously taking the time to pay homage to this irreplaceable legend.

By Thom Racina

It was her giggle I recall most.  Elizabeth Taylor being completely disarming, sounding like a little girl (as she did in so many movies!), pulling the rug out from under you, making you believe she was just as human as you were (as Tony Geary said when he went up on a line, the first time facing her in a scene I wrote, "It's fucking Elizabeth Taylor!"), totally self-effacing, warm and generous, and wickedly funny.  As you can see in the bloopers from GENERAL HOSPITAL, she couldn't say her name.  The part I dreamed up when she (a fan of the Luke & Laura Ice Princess saga) told us she wanted to "come to their wedding," was Helena Cassadine, pronounced Cassa-dine, like in having dinner.  She kept saying Cassa-deen, as in Paula.  It happened again and again, and one time she just broke up in a fit of giggles, turned to me and said, "Can't we just change my goddamned name?"  I said nope, it had been played on the air for a long long time (Luke & Laura had killed her nutty husband, the infamous Mikos with the weather machine, thus saving Port Charles), so Elizabeth had to grin and bear it, but thank God she kept having that problem because it made her more human and the cast completely felt at ease being with this goddess, this legend, this superstar who was, really, just one of them, another actor making her way (for the first time) through the wringer that is daytime television.

For me, the most poignant memory is what she did for my mother, whom I took to a benefit performance of the play "The Little Foxes," which she was doing at the Music Center when she taped her stint on our show.  When she gave me the tickets, I told her I'd bring my mom, Esther, as my date, but that was two weeks before the performance, and it was just in passing.  That night, after my mom was already thrilled that Jack Lemmon was sitting next her and that Lucille Ball caught her charm bracelets in her hair when sneaking in late in the row behind us (that's another story altogether), Elizabeth gave a private party with strolling musicians and lamb chops on silver platters served by guys in bow ties and gloves, pretty classy stuff.  When the legend finally entered, looking like a million bucks, she caught my eye and made her way across the room toward me.  I felt shocked and impressed, but she wasn't walking toward me at all, she went to my mother's arms, and she said, after a long hug, "Esther, you must be so proud of him."  Now that's class.  My mom's favorite movie star telling her that she must be proud of me?  It was the most generous thing anyone has ever done in my professional career.  (And the greatest day of my mom's life!)

We are all shocked by Elizabeth's death, I think, even though she'd been ill all her life, and so much so in recent years, because she lived with ferocity, such passion, such joy.  There's a lesson there for us all.  God Bless You, Mrs. Cassadine--or Mrs. Cassadeen, as you'd say it.  You made this world a better place, not only by entertaining us, but for leading the fight against AIDS at a time when no one (including our president) was willing to even speak that word.  I feel honored to have known you, even for such a short time, and will always be touched by your gentle, inspirational, warm and loving hand.

1 comment:

  1. She lived life to the fullest, with passion and grace.