Photo Credit: SGranitz/WireImage
Elizabeth Taylor was married eight times, but her most unlikely husband was definitely No. 8: blue-collar construction worker Larry Fortensky, who was two decades her junior. The couple met at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1988, where both were recovering from addictions (her to pills, him to beer). They were married at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in 1991, and stayed together for just over five years. Since then, Fortensky has stayed out of the spotlight -- but now that Taylor has passed away, Fortensky, 59, agreed to give one last interview in the Sunday edition of U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail.
"This is nothing to do with money, I have been offered so much over the years," says Taylor's ex-husband, who wants to end rumors that their relationship was a sham. "This is about wanting people to know the real story. I am sick and tired of the lies. I have wonderful memories of my time with Elizabeth and I will treasure her memory forever."
In the interview, Fortensky shares some of his favorite memories of Elizabeth, like the time she ran out into the snow in Switzerland to make snow angels in her nightgown. (There's a very unglamorous -- and very sweet -- photo.)
"I chased her outside and she fell in the snow and started waving her arms around giggling like a little girl," Fortensky recalls. "That’s how I remember Elizabeth. She had a childishness about her. She was 20 years older than me but I never felt she was old."
The construction worker says that he and Elizabeth developed a close friendship (and physical attraction) while in rehab. Once they started dating, they made an effort to keep things normal. Fortensky loved to take her riding on his Harley motorcycle along California's Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at biker bars for burgers.
"She would wear a helmet and no one knew who she was. We could be alone and free," he says. "People (at the biker bars) would pretend not to know who she was. Elizabeth loved that. She loved a burger and a beer. She was down-to-earth, or at least as much as she could be for someone who’d been a star since she was a kid."
At first, Fortensky kept his job in construction, reasoning that he was "a proud man, and I like to work. I didn't want her money." Taylor would get up to have breakfast with him, and insisted on delivering meals to him via limo when he was at work.
"It was so embarrassing. The guys would rib me about it," he says.
He eventually agreed to quit his job. Taylor developed health problems and became house-bound, and soon, living in her movie-star shadow became unbearable for Fortensky.
"Everywhere we went there were cameras," he says. "Elizabeth would put lipstick on constantly because she said she never knew when she was being photographed. I found it hard. It wasn’t my cup of tea, those cameras everywhere. Elizabeth was used to it. I never got used to it."
Taylor asked her husband for a divorce in 1996, saying that she didn't want them to end up hating each other. Fortensky took a relatively small divorce settlement (less than $2 million), moved out and started drinking again. Things went downhill for him after that: a drunken fall in 1999 left him unable to work, and the property in which he invested his divorce money was repossessed. He never asked Taylor for money, but they remained friends, and she eventually began sending him monthly checks for $1,000. "I accepted it but never asked for it," he says, producing a letter from Taylor to prove it.
Fortensky is now a recluse, living with his sister and suffering the effects of his accident (including short-term memory loss). Fortensky was "shocked" by Taylor's death, since he'd spoken to her on the phone not long before -- and he had no idea that he would be inheriting over $800,000 from her will. He says he's going to use the money to buy a new home.
"I love her, I always will," says Fortensky, who still keeps Elizabeth's picture by his bed. "And I know she loved me, too."