A dual biography and examination of the unusual relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, Elizabeth and Michael: The Queen of Hollywood and the King of Pop — A Love Story, arrived in bookstores just a day after what would have been Jackson’s 58th birthday. Written by critic and historian Donald Bogle, the book takes a deep dive into the intertwining lives of the two icons. Though Michael had longed to meet Elizabeth for years, it wasn’t until after the death of her ex-husband Richard Burton in 1984 that the two finally got in contact. Hoping to lift her spirits, Michael provided Elizabeth with tickets to his Victory tour. She attended, but left halfway through because she couldn’t see. Michael was devastated when he heard the news, called Elizabeth, and the pair ended up chatting for three hours, launching a friendship that lasted until Michael’s death, in 2009. Elizabeth and Michael takes an insider’s look at a relationship that most onlookers didn’t understand. While it’s common knowledge that Michael wanted to paint the walls of one of his suites violet like Elizabeth’s eyes and that she once gifted him an elephant named Gypsy, there’s much more to their story. Here are nine things we didn’t know about Elizabeth and Michael’s unusual friendship.
1. Michael once bailed on dinner plans with Diana Ross for Elizabeth.
We’ve all been there; you have plans with that one friend from a job you had while back, but then literally your coolest friend texts you, “What are you up to tonight?” You never see her, so you text the first friend, “Would it be cool if blah blah joined?” Now imagine those friends are Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor, respectively. (Though, depending on the person, you could easily imagine the situation reversed.) One evening in the early ‘90s, Michael planned to have dinner with Diana Ross — that is until Elizabeth Taylor also asked him to have dinner. What to do? Michael tried to combine dates by asking Diana to join him and Elizabeth at a restaurant. Diana Ross reportedly declined and told him they’d have to reschedule and go to dinner another time … without Elizabeth. “This is not the way to do things, Michael,” Ross told him. Divas don’t share the spotlight!
2. Michael may have gotten plastic surgery to look more like Elizabeth.
Many theories about why Michael decided to change his appearance have circulated over the decades — the most common one of which was that Michael was trying to look white by bleaching his skin and sharpening his nose. However, according to an unnamed friend, there may have been an added reason — his obsession with Elizabeth Taylor. The friend said:
To Michael, Elizabeth was a saint, a goddess. And it’s tragic—all those surgeries [Michael had]. If you look closely, in the beginning, he’s trying to look like Elizabeth. His ruined face, his appearance, was a tribute to Elizabeth gone terribly wrong. I think he wanted it to be the greatest fan letter ever written.
3. Elizabeth gave Michael his first Christmas.
In January of 1993, after Michael no longer was a member of the Jehovah’s Witness, Elizabeth arrived at Neverland Ranch with her husband Larry Fortensky on Christmas to exchange toys and games with Michael. Jackson had grown up without a traditional childhood, and this moment meant the world to him. This first Christmas was videotaped and eventually shown publicly when his home movies aired on television.
4. Elizabeth and Michael’s extremely close relationship caused his family to go to therapy.
Michael’s parents and siblings were deeply offended by the fact that Michael preferred to spend time with Elizabeth over them in the early ‘90s. On several occasions when he was hospitalized, he didn’t care whether his family came to visit him, but was over the moon when Elizabeth showed up. Katherine Jackson was reportedly angry that Elizabeth was able to see Michael whenever she wanted while she, his mother, had to make an appointment to see him. According to writer Stacy Brown, Katherine felt that Elizabeth had stolen her son. Janet Jackson became so concerned about the psychological well-being of her family that she paid for all of them to undergo therapy. When they complained about Michael, their therapist reportedly told them to forget about Michael and move on, as, in his mind, Elizabeth Taylor was his mother.
5. Michael didn’t tell Elizabeth he was marrying Lisa Marie Presley or having children.
Michael didn’t tell Elizabeth everything, including his plans to marry Lisa Marie Presley. He waited until after they had secretly married to call her. Elizabeth was allegedly very upset when she found out, asking a friend: “What has he done? What has he done?” Additionally, Michael never introduced Debbie Rowe, the woman who carried his children, to Elizabeth before Rowe’s pregnancy. He felt that if she wanted to meet Debbie, she could introduce herself. Elizabeth was dismissive until the children were born. Bogle writes, “Rowe told the story that she called Elizabeth’s office and even left her address. In return, she received a signed photograph from Elizabeth, thanking her for being such a supportive fan.”
6. Diamonds were Michael’s best friend for getting Elizabeth to show up to things.
In 2001, Michael asked Elizabeth to be his date for his 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. Elizabeth declined, but Michael was eventually able to persuade her to come with one thing: diamonds, duh.
He never had to buy Elizabeth’s friendship or lobby for her presence at public events but when the spirit didn’t move her, Michael had a little trick up his sleeve, and it wasn’t rocket science. All it took was … you guessed it … diamonds. When Michael wanted Elizabeth to join him for an award show, or in this case, his thirtieth anniversary special, she was there for him contingent upon receipt of a diamond.
7. Elizabeth and Michael didn’t speak for months because he had to take back a necklace he had given her.
In what could be described as a Larry Davidian mishap, after giving Elizabeth a necklace that had been loaned and never actually paid for, Michael had to ask for it back. Instead of calling Elizabeth himself he had one of his attorneys make the call. Elizabeth was not pleased. Bogle writes:
Apparently, Taylor was enraged, not so much by the request for the necklace, which she had indeed assumed was a gift, but that she was treated in such an impersonal way by one of Michael’s attorney’s. She had the necklace returned, but she wouldn’t speak to Michael for months.
8. Michael didn’t attend Elizabeth’s 75th birthday party because of his brother’s car accident, but not for the reason you’d think.
Although it has been reported that Michael did not attend Elizabeth’s party and that she was not expecting him to be there, he had every intention of going. On the day of the party, just as Michael was getting ready to leave, Randy Jackson crashed a car into the front gate of Michael’s house. Randy reportedly refused to leave, because Michael owed him money. Apparently, Randy then sat in the driveway for two hours until their father, Joe, was called. Michael ended up not going to the party, fearing that his brother would follow him there. “He’ll just find out how to follow us to Liz’s party and cause a huge scene; she doesn’t deserve that,” Michael said according to reports of the incident.
9. Elizabeth requested to be buried near Michael.
After her late husband Richard Burton’s death, Elizabeth made plans to be buried next to him, in Switzerland. However, closer to the end of her life she changed her mind and requested to be buried close to Michael in the Great Mausoleum in Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery.