‘A Toast to Elizabeth Taylor’
Nov. 3 gala TAN pays tribute to late actress-AIDS advocacy pioneer
BEAUMONT – Elizabeth Taylor: She was glamour personified – star power that shone beyond galaxies, an actress who dazzled generations of movie-goers. Fashion icon. Phenomenon. Cinematic legend.
For the Triangle AIDS Network and its supporters, the late actress is an inspiration – a woman whose compassion motivated her pioneering efforts on behalf of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Friends of TAN remember Taylor as an early and impassioned advocate for AIDS research To recognize her impact, TAN’s annual gala will pay tribute Nov. 3 to the star whose acting career spanned more than 50 films in 70 years and as the humanitarian who made successful fundraisers such as Paint the Town Red possible.
“A Toast to Elizabeth Taylor” is the theme of the event, which benefits persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families throughout Hardin, Jefferson and Orange counties. Since its inception in 1992, Paint the Town Red has been the major annual community fundraiser that benefits the non-profit organization – the most important source of private support.
Festivities at the Beaumont Country Club will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a champagne reception, hors d’oeuvres and silent auction. The live auction begins at 7:15 p.m., with a buffet at 8 p.m. and continuation of the live auction as guests continue dining.
In honor of the violet-eyed beauty’s passion for jewelry, Paint the Town Red will give guests the opportunity to take home a black-and-white diamond necklace and earrings, donated by Mathews Jewelers, with an estimated value of $2,000. Taylor was well known for fabulous rubies, emeralds and diamonds, many of them gifts from the men in her life. She wrote a book about her gems, titled “Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry” and chose “White Diamonds” for the centerpiece in her signature line of fragrances.
After Taylor died March 23, 2011, at age 79, the New York Times wrote: “In a world of flickering images, Elizabeth Taylor was a constant star. First appearing on screen at age 10, she grew up there . . . as she was indelibly transformed from a vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen.”
Taylor became a social activist late in life. After her friend Rock Hudson died, she helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research and helped raise money for it. In 1997, she said, “I use my fame now when I want to help a cause or other people.”
Taylor was a two-time Oscar winner, earning honors as best actress in 1960 for “Butterfield 8" and in 1966 for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Later, when she accepted an Academy Award for her humanitarian efforts, Taylor received a standing ovation.
“I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being, – to prove that our love outweighs our need to hate, that our compassion is more compelling than the need to blame,” Taylor told her audience.
It is a thought easily applied to TAN’s mission and the importance of the annual fundraiser. Since Hurricane Ike forced cancellation of Paint the Town Red in 2008 – just three years after Hurricane Rita dealt a similar blow in 2005 – TAN has struggled to meet needs of its clients and to provide education, medical care and other vital services.
TAN serves more than 600 clients a year, said Executive Director Jennifer Scarborough. Since its inception in 1992, Paint the Town Red has netted more than $700,000. Now in its 24th year of serving the people of Southeast Texas, the Triangle AIDS Network is vital to the health and vitality of the community, Scarborough said.
“Through our agency, we are able to ensure that HIV-positive women complete their prenatal and infectious-disease appointments, which significantly reduces the chances of the mothers’ transmitting virus to their babies from 25 percent to less than 1 percent,” said Scarborough.
“With the tightening of the economy and the shrinking of federal, state and local funding, agencies such as TAN need additional private funds from fundraisers, like Paint the Town Red, to financially support testing and support of services such as doctor visits, prescriptions and housing assistance, as well as nutritional services.
“If HIV-positive individuals adhere to the prescribed medial plan and drug regiment, which are enhanced by private donations and funding, it further ensures that a patient’s life expectancy can be within five years of a non-positive person,” Scarborough said.
“Our region is experiencing an alarming increase in teenage pregnancies, cases of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-positive teenagers and young adults. TAN utilizes local funds to support causes that provide prevention, education and support for our local community with other nonprofits and local schools to further promote safe and effective prevention of HIV, which causes AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy.”
“The generous support of our community makes a substantial difference in TAN’s ability to provide quality services to our clients, their families and the public,” said Jeff McManus, president of the TAN board of directors and founder/co-chair of Paint the Town Red. “It is gratifying to see that so many of our patrons – as well as those who make contributions to the auctions and other aspects of the event – are opening their hearts on behalf of persons living with HIV/AIDS.”
A highlight of Paint the Town Red will be presentation of the Red Ribbon Hero Award, honoring an individual for his or her contributions to persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Auctions feature items donated by celebrities, along with art, fashions, jewelry, furnishings, party packages and more. Celebrity centerpieces – a dazzling array of unique arrangements – will adorn the tables and be available for purchase. The gourmet buffet will tempt palates. And the Innovators will provide music for guests’ listening and dancing pleasure.
Taylor’s career began in the 1940s with films such as “Lassie Come Home,” “National Velvet” and “Little Women.” Other cinematic highlights include “A Place in the Sun,” “Giant,” “Raintree County,” “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” and “Suddenly, Last Summer,” in the 1950s and “Cleopatra,” “The VIPs,” the “Sandpiper” and “The Taming of the Shrew” in the 1960s.
“Ms. Taylor’s popularity endured throughout her life, but critics were sometimes reserved in their praise of her acting,” The New York Times wrote. “In that sense, she may have been upstaged by her own striking beauty. Could anyone as lovely as Elizabeth Taylor also be talented? The answer, of course, was yes.”
TAN’s community-wide fundraiser had its start in 1992 at The Mandarin, formerly at Calder and Thomas Road, with the support of owners Bryan and Mary Lee.
In the benefit’s second year, the Friends of TAN adopted “Paint the Town Red” as the ongoing theme, with “Celebrate Hope” as the special theme for 1993. Attendance far exceeded expectations, and it became apparent the event would need larger quarters. The Art Museum of Southeast Texas provided a location in 1994 and, in 1995, Paint the Town Red moved to Beaumont Country Club, where it remains today.
Themes have included “An Artful Evening,” “Putting on the Glitz,” “An Eclectic Evening,” “A TAN Fandango,” “And All That Jazz,” “A Bewitching Evening,” “Tango 2000,” “Paint the Town Red 10: A Sparkling Celebration” (the 10th anniversary), “A Fantasy Evening in the Enchanted Forest,” “Hairspray: The Beehive Ball,” “Divinely Deco,” “M. Butterfly’s Kabuki Ball,” “The Great Gatsby Gala,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Shaken, Not Stirred.”
Reservations for Paint the Town Red are $85 per person or $1,200 for “Dress Circle Seating” at a premium table for eight. Underwriting opportunities are also available. Call 409-832-8338, extension 225, for reservations.