48OE Blog  
Jun 21

Written by: 48OE Admin
21/06/2011 10:35  RssIcon

There has been talk of a film about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton being produced. Their lives are probably worthy of it. They were great talents but enjoyed a fiercely tempestuous relationship. They were one of Hollywood’s greatest love stories. When they married a second time they came to London and stayed in the Dorchester Hotel.

At that time I was a fresh faced twenty year old working in Harrods Men’s Clothing Department. Richard Burton had called up saying London was cold and he needed an overcoat. Could someone take a selection over to the hotel? Harrods was an old fashioned and traditional department store and service was everything. I was called into the Buyer’s office. My immediate thought was, this was so unusual why was I being summoned? The task at hand was explained fully to me. Under no circumstances must I deviate from the task in hand, I must go directly to the Dorchester with a selection of Cashmere overcoats and ask very discretely for Mr Burton’s Suite. The concierge would be briefed of my imminent arrival.

I set out in a tense nervous state thinking why me? I was a country boy from Norfolk and had never stepped foot in a Park Lane Hotel. The concierge told me to sit and wait whilst he phoned the room. After a short while he boomed across the marbled floor 'Boy!' and gesticulated for me to follow. I was bundled into the lift and told upon arrival to knock firmly on the suite door.

This was when my world changed! The door was opened by Elizabeth Taylor wearing a plush bath robe with her head swathed in a matching towel. In my memory now (although who knows if this is true?) she was fully made-up and had what I can only describe as her Cleopatra eyes. They shone like jewels. There is no doubt about it, she immediately picked up on my innocence and shock at seeing her and Richard Burton standing beside me.  The room seemed full of people doing I have no idea what.

'Come in, come in, sit down, you have brought the coats haven’t you?'  She purred then added 'You look awfully young!' I realised I had said nothing and made no introduction or reason for being there. What happened next was pretty much a blur. Richard Burton tried on all the coats and kept asking Elizabeth Taylor what she thought. She kept asking me 'You are the expert, what do you think?'  She knew exactly how to put me at ease and tease just a little.

Just to hear Richard Burton speak and be in the presence of Elizabeth Taylor was something I shall remember for ever. How many of today’s Divas would open their own door - let alone be in bath robe and towel?  They were both charming and the fifteen or so minutes I spent in their company was so very memorable. It has only been recently that I realise how lucky I was to catch them at a time they were so clearly having fun together.

I seem to recall that he kept two coats and on the return journey I was extremely worried I had not mentioned prices during my visit.  The Buyer asked how everything had gone and I remember I never even told him I had actually met the couple. He said 'Not bad, those were two of our most expensive coats'.

To be honest I am not sure if I fully appreciated who Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were in the seventies. The age of celebrity was very new. However all of that changed when I told my mother over the phone. This was probably better than a Knighthood as far as she was concerned for a Norfolk boy. She told the story for years to come.