2012 Bison Books paperback edition

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seeing Liz Taylor at JFK

Late afternoon, TWA Terminal, JFK airport, sometime in the late 1980s: I am wandering around this amazing Eero Saarinen-designed landmark, waiting for someone to arrive from somewhere. 

As I stroll along the mezzanine (see photo below), taking in the light, angles, vertiginous ramps, there is a sudden change in the atmosphere. Maybe it is a noise, a rumble. Or an electric charge. Something is traveling through the air, a kind of communication. Something is happening down on the floor of the terminal. It is a phenomenon I have never experienced before or will ever again.

I go to the edge of the mezzanine and look down. People are moving in one direction, to my left. They aren't running, just being drawn as if to something magnetic. I can hear gasps, little cries. It's not a disaster, exactly. These are not noises of fear or horror. 

Suddenly I see the source of the reaction. It's a passenger cart, coming from the left, zipping through the terminal to a gate. The thrill in the air is now beyond intense. It is alive. It is hot. It is focused on the dark-haired woman sitting in the cart, waving to the crowd like a queen.

"Who is it?" I call down to the crowd below. 

"It's Elizabeth Taylor!" they shout back. 

Stars in the sky generate heat. That's why they twinkle from so far away. That crowd in the TWA terminal has just seen one of the greatest movie stars of all and ever. A shooting star that won't come our way again.