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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

October 6, 1991

I hope you're ready for the next edition of the Tuesday Timeline because this one is quite epic.

Well, okay, it's not really epic.  But it was a date in which the sanctity of marriage was established - or mocked.  I guess it depends on how you see it.

We'll get to what the heck I am talking about in a moment.  In the meantime, let's see what was happening in the world on this, the 6th of October.

1600 - "Eurydice", an opera written by Jacopo Peri, premieres in Florence, Italy, signifying the beginning of The Baroque Period

1769 - English general/politician Isaac Brock (d. 1812) is born

1777 - Sir Henry Clinton leads British forces in the capture of Continental Army Hudson River defenses in the Battle of Forts Clinton and Montgomery during the American Revolutionary War

1876 - The American Library Association is founded

1889 - Thomas Edison shows his first motion picture

1908 - Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia-Herzegovina, sparking the Bosnian crisis

1927 - "The Jazz Singer" - the first motion picture that featured prominent talking - opens

1945 - In one of the weirder stories to come out of the World Series, Billy Sianis and his goat are ejected from Wrigley Field during Game 4 of the Series

1973 - The Yom Kippur War is triggered when Egypt and Syria launch a coordinated attack on Israel

1979 - Pope John Paul II becomes the first pontiff to visit the White House

1981 - Islamic extremists murder Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat

1989 - Actress Bette Davis passes away, aged 81

2000 - A pair of Presidents resign; Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic and Argentina's Carlos Alvarez - the same day, actor Richard Farnsworth passes away, aged 80

2007 - Jason Lewis completes the first human-powered circumnavigation of the world

2014 - Actress/singer Marian Seldes passes away at the age of 86

And, let's have a look at what famous faces are turning one year older today!  Happy birthday wishes go out to Sandra Voe, Ellen Travolta, Britt Eklund, Michael Durrell, Leslie Moonves, David Brin, Kevin Cronin, Bill Buford, David Hidalgo, Kathleen Webb, Jsu Garcia, Elisabeth Shue, Tom Jager, Matthew Sweet, Jacqueline Obradors, Amy Jo Johnson, Shauna MacDonald, Daniel Cavanagh, Jeff B. Davis, Rebecca Lobo, Jeremy Sisto, Melinda Doolittle, Wes Ramsey, Michael Arden, Bronagh Waugh, Joanna Pacitti, Meg Myers, Olivia Thirlby, and Roshon Fegan.

All right.  Time to jump into my time machine and see where we'll end up.

Ah, October 6, 1991.  Looks like a great spot to dive in.

Now, I might be mistaken in this, but I think this is the first time I've ever gone back to 1991 in this Tuesday Timeline feature since I began it.  That's not to say that 1991 was a boring year in history - far from it.  It's just that until now, I haven't really chosen a moment in pop culture from that year that I could do a full blog entry on.

Until now.

You see, October 6, 1991 was a very special day in the mystical land known as Hollywood.  It was the date that a rather...unusual couple tied the knot.

You know how much press celebrity weddings generate whenever they happen, and how news outlets seem to compete against each other for the exclusive first pictures of a newly married couple?  I have to wonder just how much money was spent on trying to get the first snapshot of Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux on their big day.  These days, it seems as though if TMZ isn't trying to crash your wedding, then it's not noteworthy enough for people to care about.

Of course, long before Harvey Levin and his crew created TMZ - like 1991 - we had to find out about our favourite celebrity weddings the old fashioned way.  We had The National Enquirer, Star Magazine, and Globe Magazine to tell us half-truths about how couples met, got engaged, and all of the wedding details.  We had paparazzi hiding in bushes or perched up on rooftops, trying to spy on the "I Do"'s.  It was quite elaborate how newsmakers did everything possible to try and get the story.

And the big story and wedding of October 6, 1991?  The marriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky, that's what.

And, in both cases, the marriage was not their first.  It was Fortensky's third trip down the aisle.  For Taylor, it was her eighth!

Certainly the union was talked about for a number of reasons.  Many believed that the marriage was one of convenience, as Taylor was feeling lonely, and Fortensky saw her as nothing more than a sugar mama.  But the relationship between Taylor and Fortensky was a very complex one.

The story begins in 1988.  At the time, Larry Fortensky was a thirty-six year old construction worker who had checked into the Betty Ford clinic for alcohol addiction.  Fortensky, the oldest of seven children, had battled the demons of alcohol for years, and had been married and divorced twice.  The year before he checked into rehab, he had been arrested for driving under the influence and had marijuana in his possession.  He used medical insurance provided by his job to check into the rehab center where he first met the woman who would become his third wife.

Now, Elizabeth Taylor at the time that she met him was sixty-six - a full twenty years older than the man that would become her husband.  At the time, Taylor was also a patient at the clinic, spending seven weeks there treating an addiction to painkillers.  But something about Fortensky made Taylor feel very close to him, and they began dating at some point after both had left rehab.

Now, Taylor was no stranger to love.  She had been married seven times previously.  Just as a refresher, here were her previous seven marriages.

1.  Conrad Hilton (1950-1951) - DIVORCED
2.  Michael Wilding (1952-1957) - DIVORCED, 2 CHILDREN
3.  Mike Todd (1957-1958) - WIDOWED, 1 CHILD
4.  Eddie Fisher (1959-1964) - DIVORCED
5.  Richard Burton (1964-1974) - DIVORCED
6.  Richard Burton (1975-1976) - DIVORCED AGAIN
7.  John Warner (1976-1982) - DIVORCED

Not exactly the best track record, huh?  But what was interesting about these marriages was that in all of them, the men were older - in the case of Wilding and Todd, the men were at least two decades older than Taylor.  But Fortensky was two decades YOUNGER, leading many to brand him a gold-digger. 

But despite the naysayers, Taylor and Fortensky made their marriage official on October 6, 1991 - and the wedding took place at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.  It was only fitting, given that Jackson and Taylor had been friends for years.  And Jackson wasn't the only celebrity guest in attendance.  The list of guests included Eddie Murphy, Liza Minnelli, Macaulay Culkin, George Hamilton, Merv Griffin, Nancy Reagan, Franco Zeffirelli, Arsenio Hall, Pia Zadora, and Quincy Jones. 

Just to name a few, of course.

The actual wedding cost somewhere in the figure of two million dollars, so you know that it had to be extremely elaborate.  Taylor's wedding dress was designed by Valentino and was worth $25,000.  And to appease the paparazzi, the couple did sell their wedding photos to the highest bidders - provided that the money raised for the sale of the photos were donated to charities that helped raise awareness and research for the AIDS virus, a cause that was near and dear to Taylor's heart.

Unfortunately, the marriage of Taylor and Fortensky did not last that long.  Sure, both of them tried to make it work, but by 1996, the couple had decided to file for divorce.  Now, some people were suspicious of the timing of the divorce, as it was alleged that Fortensky had a pre-nuptial agreement with Taylor stating that he would receive one million dollars if he and Taylor's marriage lasted five years before filing for divorce.  But Fortensky later claimed that the reason why the divorce happened was because he felt as though he was living under his wife's shadow.  Between a career resurrection in film roles, as well as promoting her "White Diamonds" perfume, it's a wonder the couple got to spend much time together at all.

But here is one interesting footnote regarding the union between Taylor and Fortensky.  Although no longer married, the couple still remained friends, and Taylor and Fortensky reportedly continued to talk to each other at least once a month following the divorce via phone.  She was even there for him following a near fatal fall that he suffered in 1999, and reportedly helped him with paying the bills necessary to keep his home.

And following Elizabeth Taylor's death in March 2011 at the age of 79, Taylor had reportedly left Fortensky $800,000 in her will. 

Now, as of October 2015, it's not known what Fortensky is up to, but since his 1999 accident, he has been left unable to work due to his injuries, and he has reportedly been estranged from several family members who reportedly sold information to tabloids without his permission.

But for five years, Larry Fortensky was the husband of one of the most legendary and glamourous stars of Hollywood.  And, regardless of what you might believe, I honestly think that there had to be some love and affection between the two of them - even if it was hard to understand at times.

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