Studio of Edwin & Marcia Ward

Thursday, September 22, 2016



as always for Marcia 

Liz, and I don’t mean Taylor, one of the world’s best actresses, is a rarity. Well, I would think so, as I expect there are not too many who go to the extremes she has gone to in order to ply her craft in walking this world.

When I first met Liz she was dating an actor/director friend of mine, and, boy, did she ever look the part of the aspiring actress: sophisticated, literate, wealthy, glamorous, stylish, beautiful, sexy, and clever as a sardonic screenwriter; Liz simply oozed star potential. Her steel blue eyes were always drinking in everyone and everything around her. After flirting with the stage she took up writing in earnest and began writing magazine articles, mostly historical and journalistic. I remember a documentary film script she wrote about Colorado trains that was produced by PBS. In the late 80s, although Liz was in her late thirties, she lived on her exceedingly wealthy elderly father’s ranch near Parker Colorado as her Dad required assistance. But once she hit forty Liz hired a house keeper/caretaker for her father as she had decided to go for a big-league career and she started bouncing about, a year in LA, a year in San Francisco, and the next decade with dual residences, with apartments in both the Upper West Side of New York and one in Moscow’s Kitay-Gorod neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the Kremlin. She smoozed with the New York intelligensia and nouveau rich free Russians. In the mid-90s, she began digging deeply into Russian culture and the dynamics of new non-Soviet Russian wealth, and her essays and reviews concerning art and economics began appearing in The Wall Street Journal and sundry then-new conservative on-line magazines. Liz especially enjoyed demonizing the Federal Reserve, the IMF, The World Bank, American Presidents, and Harvard University for its role in poorly advising the new Russia on what to do with its assets. In 1997 she wrote a manuscript on these subjects, but due to its incendiary nature, it was never published although, according to The New York Review of Books, it was “widely read.”

All during this time, I was in contact with Liz as she had always been quite the marijuana aficionado and I had been a connection to some of the finer strains of newly cultivated Sativa and Indica crossbreeds, and against my better judgment, for years, I mailed her weed; thank god for turkey basting bags and vacuum Seal-A-Meal systems. Everything I ever sent reached her as did the cash laden novels she sent me.

In 1997, Marcia and I visited New York and New Jersey, New York because an old friend, Michael Bergt, was having a major art show in Manhattan across from Trump Tower and Jersey because a niece was getting married “down the shore” in Stone Harbor, and we spent two nights and a day with Liz in her brownstone condo overlooking the Hudson River. Not having seen her for half a dozen years, our first sight of Liz in her doorway shocked us. Gone was the movie star, and a beat bohemian drug addled writer stood before us. Whereas she had previously looked like a fashion model worthy of the cover of Cosmopolitan, she now looked like a model for the cover of a 50s Black Ace lurid detective novel titled Hollywood Lady Junkies. The beautiful long blonde hair had been chopped short and dyed black. Her attire consisted of sweat pants and hoodie. I’m sure she had a serious Vitamin D deficiency as she claimed she rarely left her crib. Food, pot, cocaine, clothing, whatever was ordered over the phone and delivered. She looked like she rarely bathed and she certainly had not cleaned her residence since purchasing it in 1990. Enough groceries to feed an army had been delivered in anticipation of our arrival, and a dozen paper sacks of foodstuffs and booze sat inside the doorway. She apologized for not having cleaned her place, but assured us our sleeping situation would be first rate as she produced a complete set of brand new thousand-count Egyptian bed linens, complete with a down-filled duvet cover that probably cost more than both our airline tickets. After we helped her set our bed up, she simply deposited the dead linens and old bedspread in the trash shoot. An odor of pot, alcohol, mildew, dirty dishes, dust, tobacco, and cocaine-induced night sweat permeated every nook and cranny of her flat. She was the complete opposite of the aristocratic, father-doting fabulously coiffed Liz we knew in Denver; nonetheless, our time together was groovy and wonderful, gossiping about mutual friends in Colorado, talking American art and Russian film, listening to her conspiracy theories involving Bill and Hillary Clinton, Harvard University and Boris Yeltsin, drinking copious amounts of fine brandy and expensive French wine, and eating what I assumed to be the best of deli munchies available in Manhattan. Said succinctly: the caviar was extreme. When Marcia and I left Liz and traveled to Jersey, we felt as if we were returning to the real world after having climbed back out of the rabbit hole abode of one crazy, paranoid, generous old friend.

Two years later, my oldest son turned twenty, and seeing as how he was at the time a baritone saxophone-playing jazz enthusiast, I took him for a week to New York City to experience the Blue Note and Birdland, Greenwich Village and subways, the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, Central Park and the Staten Island Ferry. Out the window of our hotel room were the Twin Towers that then dominated the southern view, a scene I got to paint, one that would be gone in less than six months. Passion and I also made plans with Liz for an evening out on the town, beginning with dinner at an exceedingly trendy SoHo restaurant. She had always been as gracious with her money as she was chameleon like. Liz was currently making the rounds of conservative TV talk shows and doing internet interviews and at out table when we arrived was a TV producer/handler who would be meeting Liz for the first time in preparation for an upcoming on-air interview during which Liz would discuss her recent testimony before the Banking and Financial Services of the United States House of Representatives concerning the shenanigans of Harvard, the elder Bush, Bill Clinton, the IMF and the Federal Reserve. Liz, as it would turn out, was two hours late for dinner, something about not being able to secure a last minute limo for the night. While waiting I consumed more than my fair share of exotic aperitifs and fine wine, and I probably talked a little too freely to Liz’s new producer about my old friend who had changed from a Marilyn Monroe into a Charles Bukowski. But when Liz arrived I was once again surprised for she had changed back into the elegant, well dressed, and superbly coiffed sophisticated mostly sober potential superstar I had originally known. Liz was at the height of whatever game she was now into and it was one hell of a wild night (the restaurant tab for the four of us was close to a grand), a night that ended in a private Russian after-hours club where my son got to experience the sight of some fifty stylish perfumed Russian beauties all in search of wealthy Russian or American husbands. My last sight of Liz in New York was through the window of a taxi just before sun-up. She blew me a kiss as only a great actress can.

Fast forward a decade or so and I see Liz for the last time. She’s in Denver. She looks like a spoiled brat purple-haired Gothic heiress about to travel on a tramp steamer to some far away forgotten island. She’s come through Denver to score some good weed to take on her travels.

We spend an entire morning and afternoon breaking down a half-pound mixture of Blue City Diesel and Lemon Sensimilla.  We grind it into powder and compress it. We carefully open and empty two boxes of tampons and replace much of the inner tampon absorbent materials with the fine dust of cannabis after Seal A Meal-ing the herb, making sure both boxes weighed the package amount before re-gluing the Cellophane wrapped boxes so as to appear un-opened. Liz confided in me that she was disavowing her American citizenship and would become an expatriate, as she feared for her life because of her late 90s’ exposes. Her landline had been tapped, she said, and she just knew that she was under scrutiny if not under downright surveillance. She had rattled the cages of some very corrupt and powerful financial warlords and too many people and organizations wanted her gone, including the CIA, its Russian counterpart, world bankers and criminal financiers. She had paid a fortune for a new identity and she was on her way to Ecuador where she could, with her new identity, establish citizenship. She had paid an alchemist artist to melt down and disguise a couple of pounds of South African Gold Krugerrands as a cheap steel alloy that was refashioned into jewelry. The belt she wore was worth more than a Washington Park house she quipped. All her jeweled accoutrements looked like Gothic heavy metal costume junk. Once relocated and set-up in South America she would transfer the remainder of her inherited wealth as well as the millions she made on the sale of her Upper West Side pad via some off shore nonsense so no one, not even the CIA, would ever find her.

And so Liz, who used to star in little underground beatnik theater productions in Denver that my good friend Richard Collier produced disappeared from my life in 2012 although - when I dropped her off at DIA with a few pounds of disguised gold and pot laced sanitary devices – she did promise me that one day she’d return under who knows what name to pick up a painting of mine she had purchased and asked that I keep safe. And she promised she’d look neither like a movie star, a bohemian junkie writer, an economics talking head, a Russian art critic, nor a faux Goth heiress, all of which characters had been, apparently, conscious choices on her part; she had not a clue as to what her new face to the world would be.

In short, Liz never ceased being the talented actress I had met years before, one who used the world, rather than a theater, as her stage. Plays for her are still being written. Who knows: next time she might appear as a ghost! Hell, she could be here in the room tonight and chances are I wouldn’t recognize her. Well, OK, I might recognize her very stoned blue steel actress eyes.