She spent half of her life on red carpets, but Elizabeth Taylor’s grandchildren remember her more fondly in cozier settings. “We would lay in bed together, watching movies, chatting — she would give me advice,” recalls grandson Quinn Tivey, whose mom is Liza Todd, one of Liz’s four children in the new issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now. “Those are some of the ways I remember her most.”
As an adult, Liz made the simple, private pleasures of family a priority in her life — and she reveled in her role as grandmother to 10 grandchildren. “She was always a terrific mother and loved her children dearly, but she was constantly on the go with her busy career,” explains a friend. “As she grew older, family became her main focus. Her grandchildren were her pride and joy.”
Granddaughter Naomi deLuce Wilding, the daughter of Michael Wilding, grew up calling the screen legend “Granny.” “Twice a year my sister, Laela, and I would go to L.A. to stay at my grandmother’s house, which was like a fairy tale,” she recalls. “I spent hours in her closet. She had all the designers — Valentino, Versace — and things she’d pick up at the market in Mexico, too. We’d sit on her bed. She’d open her jewelry closet, and tell us stories of her life through each piece.”
Another granddaughter, Eliza Carson, whose mother is Maria Burton, also enjoyed the benefit of Liz’s style expertise. “For my junior and senior prom, she did my hair and makeup,” says Eliza, who also once took her famous grandmother on an ill-fated shopping trip to Sephora. “We had fun for the first 15 minutes, but then she was recognized and we quickly had to be escorted out,” she recalls.
In her later years, the actress relished being at home with her loved ones. “She craved normalcy. Only through her children and her grandchildren did she achieve that,” explains Joseph Papa, author of Elizabeth Taylor: A Passion for Life — The Wit and Wisdom of a Legend.
On the walls of Liz’s ranch-style home, which she purchased in 1981 and lived in until her death in 2011, family photos were hung with as much care as works by Van Gogh, Degas and Warhol.
“[Liz’s house] was not filled with chandeliers, white carpet and big staircases like you might expect. It looked like a home and it felt like a home,” says José Eber, her friend and former hairstylist, who recalls Liz hosting as many as 75 family members and friends for holidays. “It was an open house filled with love.”
The child-friendly nature of Liz’s home extended to the outdoor areas. “Elizabeth had a special place in the garden where she would set up a little petting zoo for the children at Easter. It was adorable,” recalled her friend Veronique Peck. “Sometimes she would book performers from Cirque du Soleil to do acrobatics outdoors. There was always some wonderful surprise like that.”
The star also liked to surprise her family with little gifts when the impulse struck. “I was on my way out to a New Year’s Eve party and she said, ‘No, no, no, take off what you have on right now! You’re wearing these.’ They were these beautiful, huge chandelier earrings from India with rose quartz, diamonds and pearls,” recalls Eliza. “I will absolutely keep them for the rest of my life.”
Naomi also treasures the presents she received from her grandmother. “If you were a woman in Elizabeth Taylor’s life, she’d likely dress you up,” she recalls. “She knew she was lucky to have the things she had, and a big part of how she enjoyed them was by sharing them.”
For this story and more, pick up the newest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now!