May 30, 2006

Elizabeth Taylor scoffs at Alzheimer’s reports

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran actress Elizabeth Taylor
scoffed on Tuesday at recent tabloid reports that she is
gravely ill or suffering from Alzheimer's disease but
acknowledged using a wheelchair because of chronic back pain.

Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live," the 74-year-old
actress and two-time Academy Award winner described herself as
happy and busy with a new venture designing jewelry -- "one of
my passions" -- and said she remains active in the fight
against AIDS.

Asked about the recent flurry of tabloid stories on her
health, a feisty Taylor answered: "Oh come on! Do I look like
I'm dying? Do I look like or sound like I have Alzheimer's?"

King replied, "no," and asked what she thought prompted
such headlines.

"I think they're trying to sell magazines," she said. "Some
audience out there ... they like scandal. They like filth. And
if they want to hear that I'm dead, sorry folks. I'm not. And I
don't plan on it."

Hours earlier, Taylor's spokesman, Dick Guttman, denied to
Reuters that the actress had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a
degenerative and fatal nervous disorder.

Indeed, Taylor appeared in full control of her faculties as
she parried questions on a range of topics, including her film
career, past loves and her AIDS activism. She did say she uses
a wheelchair to get around due to chronic back pain.

The actress became emotional when the subject turned to her
longtime friend Michael Jackson, who was acquitted last June of
charges that he molested a boy during overnight stays at the
singer's home in central California.

"I've never been so angry in my life," she said of the case
brought against Jackson. "I've been there, when his nephews
were there, and we all were in the bed watching television.

"There was nothing abnormal about it. There was no touchy,
feely thing going on. We laughed like children and we watched a
lot of Walt Disney. There was nothing odd about it."

Taylor said she gravitated toward Jackson because "we're
very much alike. We both had horrible childhoods."

Taylor first achieved stardom at age 12 in "National
Velvet" and went on to win two Academy Awards -- for her role
as a call girl in the 1960 film "Butterfield 8" and for playing
an alcoholic wife opposite her real-life husband at the time,
Richard Burton, in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Her last screen appearance was in the 2001 television movie
"These Old Broads," co-starring one-time personal rival Debbie
Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins.

Her last feature film performance was in the 1994
live-action comedy "The Flintstones," but Taylor said she was
willing to return to acting if she were offered a role that was
"really juicy and spicy and challenging."

Taylor's career has long competed for attention with her
personal life, including eight marriages. The violet-eyed
actress also has been dogged in recent years by a litany of
health problems. She was treated for congestive heart failure
in November 2004 and underwent radiation therapy four years ago
for basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.

In the 1980s, Taylor battled weight problems and entered
rehab to overcome what she described as a dependency on alcohol
and prescription drugs.