She may be 78, frail and confined to a wheelchair in public, but Dame Elizabeth Taylor may be heading down the aisle again soon – for the ninth time.
Hollywood was buzzing with speculation yesterday that the British-born screen legend has secretly become engaged to an American nearly 30 years her junior.
The latest man in Dame Elizabeth’s life is talent manager Jason Winters, 49, of Sterling Winters Management, who recently added Janet Jackson to his client roster.
US Weekly, the celebrity magazine, quoted a “source close to the actress” on its website as saying the two recently became engaged.
Another “insider” told USMagazine.com: “”It’s no secret that they’ve been together forever and are in love, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were engaged. Right now they are keeping it between them.”
Her representative seemed to give a tacit nod to the report in a comment to the television show Access Hollywood, while not making any official comment.
“We generally don’t respond to queries regarding her relationship status, but it is well known and documented that they have been together for some time,” the agent said, according to the programme.
The couple has been linked since 2007 when reports emerged she had been seen caressing his face during an evening out on a romantic vacation in Hawaii.
A wheel-chair bound Dame Elizabeth has been pictured holding Mr Winters’ hand at red carpet appearances. And she spoke gushingly about him to Liz Smith, the doyenne of American gossip columnists, describing him as “one of the most wonderful men I’ve ever known, that’s why I love him”.
Dame Elizabeth, who was born to American parents in north London in 1932, is of course no stranger to love or wedding vows. Her most famous former husband is Richard Burton, the late British actor who filled the role twice – as number five and six.
If Dame Elizabeth has found love again, it will mark a welcome change of fortunes after her fight against ill health and the loss of her close friend Michael Jackson, the superstar who died last year.
There were fears that she was close to death when she did not appear in public for several months during 2008 and 2009. She was reported to have refused further surgery for her debilitating scoliosis, the spinal condition that causes her constant pain.
But last June, she returned to view when she attended a concert by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at the Hollywood Bowl in the wheelchair she uses because of scoliosis. However, the death of Jackson from an prescription drugs overdose later that month was believed to have left her at new low ebb.
In recent decades, Dame Elizabeth has been best known for her personal life and her commitment to raising funds for HIV/Aids charities, including the American Foundation for AIDS research (amfAR), which set helped set up after the death of her friend Rock Hudson from a related illness.
They heyday of her acting career came during the 1950s and 60s as she won two Best Actress Oscars – for her roles in Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). She was also nominated for the award three times, including one her acclaimed performance opposite Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1958.
In 1960, she became the highest paid actress of her time when 20th Century Fox signed her up for $1 million to appear in the epic Cleopatra. It was during filming that her romance started with co-star Burton (who played Mark Anthony) – a liaison that grabbed headlines as both were already married.
The young star had married for the first time at age 18 in 1950 to Conrad Hilton, the hotel baron who is great-uncle of the socialite sisters Paris and Nicky, but they split after a year.
She then exchanged rings in 1952 with Michael Wilding and the couple had two sons during a five-year relationship. After a one-year union with film producer Mike Todd, next up was singer Eddie Fisher who caused a scandal by abandoning Debbie Reynolds, with whom he was the father of Carrie Fisher, for Taylor in 1959.
It is Burton, the hard-living Welsh star, who is often regarded as having been the true love of her life, even if their relationship was often tempestuous. They first wed in 1964 and the marriage lasted ten years – a record for Dame Elizabeth.
What was widely thought to have been her final marriage involved an unlikely match – construction worker Larry Fortensky – in a ceremony at Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch in 1991. They went their separate ways in 1996. Now, after an unprecedented 14 years without a husband, it appears she is going to give marriage a ninth fling.
If she does ties the knot yet again, she will match the tally of Zsa Zsa Gabor, the 93-year-old Hungarian actress and former beauty queen, who been married to her ninth husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt since 1986. They even share an ex in the form of Conrad Hilton.