Of course by now the world knows that actress and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor died this week at age 79 of congestive heart failure. She was certainly iconic, a Hollywood legend known for her violet eyes, multiple marriages, and loyalty to her friends. Now, I hope what I say next is not taken as disrespectful, for I report this to you as a curious fact rather than a shared judgment: my mother -- my very kind, pretty, upbeat mother -- just HATED Elizabeth Taylor, and my mother rarely expressed any dislike for anyone. But, man, she had it in for Taylor! When I was around MissEight's age, I asked her why, and she want on a foaming rant featuring words like "shrieking, tinny voice," "promiscuous," "vapid," "homewrecker," and my first known hearing of the word "slatternly." I suppose I get where she was coming from. I think even the Vatican weighed in negatively on the alleged sexual travails of Ms. Taylor, so you can see where a regular floor-scrubbin' Midwestern housewife might view her poorly as well.

It just so happens that I have in my possession an item that I recall vividly from my childhood that did not help to improve my borrowed and only available impression of Ms. Taylor; in fact, I found this rather frightening.

This is the June 10, 1966 issue of my beloved LIFE Magazine, which I read faithfully cover to cover every time a new issue arrived in our mailbox, and this is Elizabeth Taylor acting in the film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Now here we have a problem: at age 4, I could read fluently, but could not always get the nuances or full meaning of what I read, which makes perfect sense because I was FOUR. So I just thought that WAS Elizabeth Taylor -- this burnt-out, teary, scary looking woman. Eek. I figured my mom, who was always right because she was my MOM, must be extra-right here. Later on I figured out stuff on my own. I wouldn't say I was a tremendous fan of Elizabeth Taylor's -- I ended up pretty neutral about her. But damn, she sure was some beautiful woman, and one cannot forget that she was one of the very first celebs stand up against the discrimination against victims of AIDS, and she personally raised millions of dollars to fight the worldwide devastation caused by the disease. Because of her a cure will arrive faster, and she will have helped save countless lives. That's a big deal.

After I snapped the photo of the LIFE cover, I actually looked at it. Oh. My. God. The headline above her:

Oh, dear. No, kiddies, this was not some underground KKK literature; this was LIFE Magazine, esteemed for its peerless journalism and spectacular photographs. A headline like this seems unthinkably racist, inflammatory, and grossly funny now, yes? But this was 1966, and the civil rights movement was still extremely volatile and the gains already made not well-accepted in many parts of the country...or maybe most parts. "Negroes" was a courtesy change from "coloreds," which was a courtesy change from the other N-word. But in 1966 I am four, and now am not only afraid of Virginia Elizabeth Taylor-Woolf, but of red-hot negroes that live 40 miles away in Milwaukee who are planning to cap my little whitey farm ass. Marianne, you dumby.

When I keep reading, I can further wonder and worry about when I will inevitably sink into a crushing depression when I turn into a woman, and where I can get Midol to fix me.

I can learn that college is for men who look like Not Hippies, not Midol-infused young women.

I can be legitimately depressed at the thought of growing up and having to wear stockings with a swimsuit. I can be confused about where the rest of the carousel is, too.

I can be four and still know that this dumbass woman shooting the Super 8 movie is going to fall off the back of that twee motorbike the second the guy guns it.

And, at four, "gay" just means "happy" to me, but these costumes bother me almost as much as Taylor on the cover. I can't recall for sure, but I think at this point I would be going outside to play for awhile to clear my mind. LIFE is funny, no?