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Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds lives on in celebrity perfume fame

Elizabeth Taylor holds a $100,000 special edition bottle of her White Diamonds fragrance in New York.

Associated Press (1991)

Elizabeth Taylor holds a $100,000 special edition bottle of her White Diamonds fragrance in New York.

Several cases at a St. Petersburg CVS were stocked Wednesday with ridiculous celebrity perfumes.

Malibu by Pamela Anderson. Queen by Queen Latifah. Fancy by Jessica Simpson.

There among the riff-raff stood the chairman.

White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor.

These days, any D-lister with a sex tape or a guest appearance on Burn Notice can get her own perfume line, and fans clamor to buy.

Fairy Dust by Paris Hilton. Kim Kardashian by Kim Kardashian. With Love by Hilary Duff.

Celebrity perfumes are based more on subconscious desire than scent. We covet the fame and clothes and toned arms and money. Surely stars smell good, too. Mary J. Blige sold 60,000 units of her My Life scent in six hours. On Home Shopping Network. On television. Where you can't physically smell anything. Likewise, we buy as they sit shrink-wrapped on shelves.

Heat by Beyonce. Halle by Halle Berry. S by Shakira.

But Elizabeth Taylor, who died at 79 Wednesday, did it first. Taylor launched the successful Passion scent in 1987, followed by White Diamonds in 1991. She shepherded many other perfume lines after that, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars. She became the first movie star to have her name on multiple fragrance brands.

White Diamonds stuck, perhaps because of the attainable indulgence of it all. Taylor had an affinity for diamonds, of course. She owned the 33-carat Krupp Diamond, plus a nearly 70-carat stone from oft-husband Richard Burton. White Diamonds symbolized that level of success, that glamour. It meant making it.

In the ad, Taylor sits draped in diamonds, staring wistfully into the distance. A crystal bow tops the bottle, and the insides are squash yellow. The scent is unmistakable. It doesn't smell fresh or clean or new. It smells like potpourri, like tuberose and lily, like the lady three seats down from you at the Sunday matinee of Phantom of the Opera. It smells like Grandma, if Grandma had reached her dreams.

At CVS, a full bottle was more than $40. A roller scent pen was $12.99. A tiny dauber was $10. Priced reasonably, just like the other celebrity lines.

Glow by J. Lo. Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker. Blue Seduction by Antonio Banderas.

Still, cheaper White Diamonds knockoffs mingled with the real thing. A line called It Makes Perfect Scents offered "an Impression of White Diamonds." In an amber bottle was something called Round Diamonds.

Her newest fragrance, Violet Eyes, shone at the front of the drugstore packaged in a kit with White Diamonds; $22.99 for both.

Taylor had to share that display, though. Britney Spears had four fragrances of her own to sell.

Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds lives on in celebrity perfume fame 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:00pm]

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