Waiting for Liz
Published May 27, 2008 - (Updated Dec 5, 2012)
Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Sping 2008 issue.
The sunset displayed such colors, it seemed as though the celestial artist had three margaritas more than I did. He’d surely get an extra tab for the reds and yellows. The sea-scented air diffused my colleagues’ cigar smoke. The heat and humidity were taking a toll on me, despite my rolled-up sleeves. Some of them wore hats, good to sweep away the sweat.
We were the group of folks covering Hollywood events: reporters, photographers and a couple of snuckins, killing time between cocktails and tanning. There was nothing to do in this town. There were hills covered in green on one side, waves crashing on the other. Puerto Vallarta was far away from everything. There was only one reason to linger: Liz.
The romance between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had wasted so much ink, trees refused to become magazine pages. Not that divorces were anything new in la-la land, but they acquired new hues with all the gossip. When John Huston decided to film at this of all of God’s empty lots, a whole caravan of us reporters followed him everywhere, looking for “Life’s” new cover shot. A good snapshot of Taylor would pay for food, rent and a few tequilas.
Although sparks were expected to ignite among the actors, the film barely ignited. Taylor spent all her time with her children, as good mothers do, while Burton discovered raicilla, the local poison. None of his takes turned out newsworthy enough, so we kept waiting for our lovebirds, dreaming of a snapshot where Liz’s raspberry-colored bathing suit might reveal something.
Some local kids told us that the Mismaloya production had wrapped up. I attempted to banish my sluggishness by finishing my cocktail and made sure that the camera and close-up lens were clean. The rest of the reporters were already running toward the rusty dock.
A boat appeared on the horizon, among the peach- and mango-colored brushstrokes of the sky. Notebooks quickly appeared, hoping to catch a scandalous statement. I stayed back, pondering the media circus. It dawned on me: none of them had even noticed the beautiful sunset. We were vultures, looking for something spicy. If that’s what the public wanted, they might as well eat a chili pepper.
The boat arrived. Liz greeted the locals. Her children romped around, while Burton glared at them. Meanwhile, camera bulbs flashed. At that precise moment, a huge bulge emerged from the water several yards from shore. It kept rising, water droplets sparkling around it. Without thinking, I pressed the camera shutter. It was a humpback whale, breaching in all its glory, with the sunset as its backdrop. I am quite certain it is the best photograph I’ve ever taken.
When I turned around, the arrival racket had dissipated, and the photographers were returning to the bar. “This is over, my friend, time to head back,” they said to me. Holding my camera close to my chest, and without ceasing to smile, I answered, “No. I’m staying right here.”