This morning when I noticed the online headlines announcing Elizabeth Taylor's passing, I was too busy with work to read a celebrity obit. It took a tweet from my daughter to remind me that Taylor was more than just a much-married Hollywood star, she was a pioneering AIDS activist. The Founding International Chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and creator of her own personal foundation, with on the order of $50 million of personal fundraising to her credit, Taylor was one of the first celebrities to speak out about AIDS in the 80s (at nontrivial personal and professional risk)... and decades later she was still working, bringing equipment and care to the HIV/AIDS community of New Orleans in the wake of the Katrina disaster.
In the wake of a glittering, sometimes apparently tawdry and superficial life, it's easy to forget this other dimension¹... but Taylor knew her celebrity came with responsibilities, which she discharged with courage and commitment. Requiescat in pace.
¹ Of course, the execrable Fred Phelps and his so-called church hadn't forgotten. I wonder if the time hasn't come when being picketed by these Westboro thugs shouldn't be seen as a badge of honor.