It is an honor to be able to share with you the following interview with one of Indy’s true icons and founders of numerous art, theater and civic organizations. Elizabeth Kraft Taylor doesn’t lend her name to just any project as she puts her heart and soul into everything she does.
I know this because as I’ve had the pleasure of working with her and observing first-hand both her attention to detail and her drive for excellence. She gives and expects nothing less than the best. These traits are part of the reason why Taylor became the first female Vice President for Simon corporation. She was also the President of the 500 Festival Parade – an enormous undertaking. Taylor is a strong, talented, energetic, thoughtful woman and I consider her the grand dame of Indianapolis.
Photography by Polina Osherov.
Deborah Dorman: I would like to know where your inspiration in life comes from?
Elizabeth Taylor: I see opportunities everywhere, and I have been blessed with a quick mind and a heart full of enthusiasm.
DD: I know you have been up and down the corporate ladder many times, when you were going down was there anything or anyone waiting to help you get back on and pick yourself up? and who was waiting for you at the top?
ET: Sorry to say that if I was being besmirched in some way, it was usually by a woman. Men, on the other hand, have created most of the forward moving events in my life.
DD: You are a true connector and influencer in our city. Do you have a message that you could share with the next generation of influencers?
ET: Absolutely! Throughout your life your most important asset will be your speaking ability. At least 70 percent of the people who have worked for me have been far more educated than myself. But I know how to persuade, sell, convince, titillate, and seduce with my words and my voice. Listen to speeches, work on your vocabulary, join Toastmasters, learn to tell a story in ways that are Fascinating. This is not a suggestion, it is a demand if you want to lead a successful, productive life.
DD: You are the mother of reinvention in so many ways, always looking for the next project. If you could get another shot at a project, what would the project the one that you would like to tackle as a more seasoned and confident Liz Taylor?
ET: I would like to keep refining myself. I did a self-inventory and decided that everything about me from the neck up is still in pretty good shape and the rest of me is hideous. So I gave away all my brightly colored clothes, and now wear only black and interesting jewelry. I got my hair cut off and wear it slicked back to focus all attention on my face. This is my brand and I feel unique and wonderfully comfortable. Other projects right now include but are not limited to producing a fashion line of accessories for Holiday, and writing and narrating the documentary about Nikki Blaine that is being created by Paul Nethercott. Also, I am helping Dlang Ferguson produce Indiana Fashion Week 2020 by working with Newfields to create a venue that will benefit both parties.
DD: You have experienced so many momentous occasions in your life. Some great and some quite challenging. Can you remember a specific moment that significantly changed your life? What was it and why?
ET: Hell, yes! I was reborn last winter. My husband gave me a gift for my birthday. Three months in Florida in the winter to see if I could finally recover from my horrific heart surgery. I exercised every day in the pool, and regained some physical strength. But through a complicated set of circumstances two shocking, deeply personal secrets pertaining to my life were revealed. In reaching out to others for help, I was led to people who were willing to speak about their circumstances and pain.
A world that had been bleak turned to Technicolor and Surround Sound. All of the passion and enthusiasm that had been leached out of me returned and doubled itself daily. Emotional Compound Interest. I have been changed, I’ve lost real friends and some phonies, but I have bloomed. And you tell me I am glowing.
DD: Do you have a favorite quote or a mantra that you live by?
ET: Throw me to the wolves and I’ll return leading the pack.
DD: I know how philanthropic and politically motivated you have been your entire life. If you had unlimited resources, what would you do to change the world for the better?
ET: First, I would fund all the genetic research in the world, then I would give a billion dollars to Newfields, trim all the trees along Spring Mill Rd, and invent and distribute a little device that would shock men with a little electric current right in their kneecaps when they act like assholes. Zing! And they would fall to their knees!
DD: Describe yourself in three words?
ET: Sophisticated, funny, and possessing a greatly distorted view of my own importance.
DD: What is something that no one knows about you that you’d like to share with our readers?
ET: Because of my childhood I crave affection. Deborah, as you know if you look at any photo of the two of us, we are clinging to each other. We both know that there is beauty, love, music, affluence, and talents surrounding us almost constantly. But when we pull back for the long shot…we are on the Titanic. So many times in my life, I have behaved badly, being furious, name calling, acting arrogant…it’s when I am terrified. If only someone could really understand what is happening and cross the room to take my hand or put their arm around me…It happens in the movies all the time but it doesn’t happen to me….probably because I have what appears to be a self sufficient persona. Unbroken cycle of abuse.
DD: You are a collector of many things. You are fortunate to have a costume jewelry collection that is of museum quality. Do you have any plans for some of the pieces to be sold or donated to your favorite museum?
ET: My husband and I are planning for Newfields to benefit from our estate planning.
DD: You have created, hosted and attended many events in your life. What has been your favorite event that you’ve hosted and that you’ve attended?
ET: I don’t remember events. I remember things that happened at events though. For example, I was at a horrible fundraiser and my whole table was complaining bitterly when one of my friends got up, got his coat, put it on and came back to the table. He didn’t say a word but he made a statement. We were free to go! So we did!
Then there was the time that I shut down an event and started it over. It wasn’t my event but it was seriously going wrong. So I stopped the band, took the microphone and explained to the guests what they were supposed to do. Perfect. Then there was the time when I fell into the chocolate Mousse; When the dinner table collapsed; When the waitress never cleared our dishes and we stacked them all under the table; When a married man got down on one knee pulled out an enormous ring and proposed to another woman; When I wanted to leave an event early and opened the back door to a limo to find two friends having sex.
DD: What piece of advice would you share with anyone who wants to keep the magic going in the next chapter of their life no matter how old they are?
ET: Learn to dance, don’t get drunk in public, travel as much as you can, try everything, start a collection, get involved, if you are a woman don’t wear revealing clothes on date – show and tell is boring compared to Peek-A-Boo! And realize that unresolved sexual tension is the greatest motivator on the face of this earth.
Buy Taylor’s memoir, “Three Jews Walked into a Shopping Center“, here.