by Linda Barber
1975. Moscow. I was a college student on a tour of Russia with 35 other students, staying in one of the few hotels that catered to Western tourists. One cold evening at dinner, Elizabeth Taylor swept into the restaurant with a glittering contingent trailing along in her wake, and nervous chatter skipped from table to table until my friend turned to me and said, “That’s George Cukor with her. They’re shooting The Blue Bird.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t register with me. My attention was elsewhere; we were a bit edgy. Armed guards met our airplane at the airport, and in 1975, armed guards in airports were not as common as they are today. The Russian police had already arrested one of the students for smuggling and selling Levi’s jeans and Secret spray deodorant to Russians. One of those pair of jeans was mine and the can of Secret belonged to my roommate. I was more worried about the KGB than I was about George Cukor. As we left the restaurant, my movie buff companion charged the table of Elizabeth Taylor and George Cukor with a napkin and pen in her hand to get an autograph. I stood by her alternately smiling and looking down at my shoes. I was too cool to fawn, and I was from the South. Interrupting someone’s dinner was rude.