Elizabeth Taylor with former husband Larry Fortensky and Elton John.
Elizabeth Taylor with former husband Larry Fortensky and Elton John.

Mr Liz Taylor - loyal to the end

By Alison Boshoff Time of article published Apr 4, 2011

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Menifee in California is the sort of dusty, unremarkable town that people tend to drive through without stopping. Perhaps that’s why Larry fortensky chose to make it his home.

It’s a place where he can wear his pyjamas all day as he shuffles around his scruffy two-bedroom rented home, emerging only to feed the chickens he keeps. The house is dwarfed by the ancient motor home he bought just after his divorce.

Broke, unemployed and with few friends, this is how the man who shared elizabeth Taylor’s life and bed for five years now lives. Fortensky, 59, has long since blown the £1million divorce settlement given to him after their five-year marriage ended in 1996.

Last year, he lost his ranch house in nearby Temecula, and sold his horses - he could not keep up the mortgage payments and was deep in negative equity after the U.S. property crash.

Overweight, dishevelled and said to be fond of smoking marijuana, it s fair to say Larry Fortensky no longer resembles the rugged, party-loving construction worker who stole the heart of a Hollywood screen goddess.

He hasn’t had a job in 11 years, or a serious girlfriend, and relies on his sister Donna to do his laundry and cooking. Ex-wife Karin Fleming, who divorced Larry in 1984, tells me: “What has happened to Larry is sad. He has no motivation. He sleeps in until noon every day. He’s not the person that Elizabeth loved and married. That person has gone.”

So, what happened to the man once considered such a charmer he was nicknamed Lucky? One of his sisters, Linda Untiet, said in an interview last week: “Liz never stopped caring about Larry and he loves her to this day.”

She said the star had written a note to him last year that read: “Larry darling, you will always be a big part of my heart! I’ll love you for ever.”

Larry Lee Fortensky was a high-school dropout from blue-collar Stanton, California, with a taste for partying and boozing when he and Taylor met.

Discharged from the army in 1972 for reasons never made public, he married 18-year-old factory worker Priscilla Torres later that year. it lasted less than two years and produced a daughter, Julie, who was raised by her grandparents.

When his second marriage, to Karin also 18 when he married her, ended in 1984, he filed for a restraining order, claiming she threatened him. In court papers, she said he had tried to choke her and slashed her clothing.

Karin told me this week: “He was very charming, always, but the problem was his drinking. When he was drunk there was always some kind of trouble. Eventually, I couldn’t handle it any more.”

There were a series of minor drug and alcohol arrests dating back to 1987, which is why Larry checked into the Betty Ford Clinic for 90 days. it was here he met Liz Taylor, who was battling a long addiction to painkillers and alcohol. As with Richard Burton before him, she was attracted to his blunt talking and macho personality.

They dated for a year before Larry moved in. Sometimes she would take him to expensive LA restaurants, but on other occasions Larry would collect her in his truck and take her to a burger drive-through for a $5 meal.

He was also in for plenty of ribbing from his workmates thanks to Liz’s habit of getting her chauffeur to deliver exquisitely wrapped gifts (anything from a T-shirt to after-shave) to the construction site where he worked.

To Fortensky’s credit, he could easily have quit work to be kept by his wealthy new girlfriend, but he continued to leave her Bel Air home at 6am every day to work on a building site as a £10-an-hour labourer.

But after their marriage in October 1991- he was 39, she was 59 - the relationship was buffeted by a series of misfortunes. Liz Taylor’s mother died, her secretary killed himself and her publicist died of cancer. Following a hip replacement in 1994, which left Liz in great discomfort, she and Fortensky started to sleep in separate rooms.

The anger outbursts, so familiar to his ex-wives, re-emerged and Liz would lock herself in her bathroom to escape his rages.

She complained that he wouldn’t communicate his feelings with her and she hated that he still smoked, even though she had suffered pneumonia. In September 1995, they announced their separation. Karin says: “He did not marry her for the money. I’m not saying that the fame and how she lived didn’t appeal, but it wasn’t only that. But he missed his old life, and he didn’t like being Mr Elizabeth Taylor and he felt awkward socially.”

He and Liz came to an amicable arrangement over money. Karin says: “Larry said that he had got around $1. 5 million, which is nowhere near as much as everyone said. I asked him why he allowed everyone to think it was more, and he just smiled. He had such a big ego, he wanted everyone to think he got more. He was in a bad way after the divorce, with drink and girls and partying. He had money and it attracted hangers-on. In January 1999, he fell headlong down the spiral staircase of his new home in San Juan Capistrano during a party, and was discovered on the tiled floor below.”

His girlfriend, Kelly Matzinger, said he was drunk. Others suggested there had been an argument with a partygoer. The mystery was never cleared up, as Larry suffered memory loss and couldn t recall the months before the fall. He was in a coma for a month.

At one point, doctors feared he would die, prompting Liz Taylor to visit his bedside to say goodbye. He also injured his right leg and his hand, and suffers reduced mobility in both to this day. He moved to Temecula in 2002, and bought a bungalow for £285,000 in cash.

He survived on disability benefits of around £15,000 a year, plus £1,600 a month from Liz Taylor.

Karin said: Before the accident, he had been drinking a lot and doing dope. When he came back from hospital, he got back into that. He looks terrible. He’s heavy and puffy and he doesn’t shave. He looks like someone who isn’t looking after himself. He just stays in.”

After he got out of hospital, there really was no money left. That is when Elizabeth stepped in to support him. She didn t want him to have a lump sum any more because she knew how self-destructive he was, but she wanted to make sure he had enough to survive.

Two years ago, he asked Liz for a further £30,000 because he was so behind in his mortgage on the house which she gave him. Not long before she died, he tried again to get some more money from her, but she was too unwell to respond. He gave his house back to the bank, as he owed more than it was worth. It is for sale at £290,000.

Of course, there is a simple solution to his money problems. He could give an interview about Elizabeth, or write a book about their life together but he’s never done this. I’m told there was no gagging clause in their settlement - Larry is simply too much of a gentleman to exploit her.

As Karin puts it: “They loved each other but brought out the worst in each other, too. it really is a tragic story.” - Daily Mail

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