Joseph Papa moved to the big city to take on the publishing world. Now, he returns to his hometown of Richmond from NYC with a new story to tell – one about the life of a legend.
Papa appears today, Wednesday, May 11 at the Library of Virginia for a book talk about his new anthology “Elizabeth Taylor: A Passion For Life, The Wit and Wisdom of a Legend.”
GayRVA: What inspired you to write this book?
Joseph Papa: There are so many books out there about Elizabeth Taylor, but she herself never really wrote a full scale memoir. I wanted this to be the next best thing … told in her works. I was fortunate enough to be able to frame a narrative around them.
In your eyes, why is Elizabeth Taylor such an icon?
She’s an icon because she’s a survivor. We see all too often now what Hollywood does to child stars. Though privileged, it’s not an easy life. She made it through when she easily could have gone the route of a Judy Garland or a Marilyn Monroe. She’s also a very good actress, despite the fact that some of her movies were duds, she left us with some real gems. I also think that she set the bar for celebrities – she taught Hollywood how to be a star.
I think (and hope) that he legacy will ultimately be her work for HIV/AIDS. Her contributions in that field are almost hard to measure. Not only in monetary ways, but also by being the first and biggest celebrity to champion the cause. When so many others (celebrities and not) were afraid to walk past a hospital housing affected patients, Taylor was inside giving them hugs. She fought tirelessly in front of Congress and contributed millions of dollars. Her death will no doubt leave a legacy of compassion and hard-work.
What research was involved?
I researched in a number of ways, but I started with the movies. I watched every one of them chronologically. It was a real treat. To add to that, I read every biography out there and spoke to a some of her biographers.
What’s it like traveling from NYC and returning to Richmond for a book talk in your hometown?
I love Richmond so much. I think the tourism department should send me a check. It means so much to me to have a talk at the Library of Virginia where I worked for a number of years. Richmond will always be my home and I hope it always welcomes me back the way it has for the book.
A Book Talk with Joseph Papa is Wednesday, May 11, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad St. The event is free and parking is available in the underground garage.