LOS OLIVOS, Calif.—On the streets of this quiet Santa Ynez Valley village, something was clearly going on Sunday, even if the details were a little fuzzy to some. Taking notice of all the police, tourist JoAnn Killmer guessed crime.
"I thought somebody had been robbed," the Los Altos woman said.
Lisa Stern, visiting from Whittier, was a little closer to the truth as she gasped excitedly into a pay phone. "Madonna's getting married today," Stern told her baby-sitter. "So we're going to be a little late."
Actually, the hoopla that turned Los Olivos into Hollywood North was the eighth wedding of Elizabeth Taylor, amid swans, doves and at least one giraffe on the secluded Neverland Ranch of singer Michael Jackson. The event had all the trappings of a Hollywood spectacular--except, perhaps, a leading man with marquee value.
Taylor married Teamsters Union construction worker Larry Fortensky, 39, a little after 6 p.m. in a $1-million ceremony. Wearing a wedding gown of three shades of yellow, Taylor had tears in her eyes during the ceremony in a gazebo by a swan lake on Jackson's ranch.
More than a dozen helicopters and a paraplane hovering overhead nearly drowned out the ceremony, and a parachutist landed within 20 feet of the minister as the couple spoke their vows, reported New York Newsday columnist Liz Smith, who, along with fashion photographer Herb Ritts, had exclusive rights to cover the wedding.
Sheriff's deputies and security officers quickly seized the parachutist and hustled him away.
"A parachutist has landed, but it's being taken care of," minister Marianne Williamson, who performed the ceremony, announced to the guests. Williamson, a lecturer and self-described "spiritual psychotherapist," is considered a reigning Hollywood guru.
The marriage, conducted while hundreds of uninvited would-be spectators waited nearly a mile away, is a match made in a detoxification center. The couple met while both were residents at the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage in 1988. Fortensky is the only one of Taylor's seven husbands who is not a celebrity, socialite or political figure, and the only one likely to calculate his earnings in hourly wages.
A land and air assault force of paparazzi took to the surrounding roads and the skies above the 2,700-acre ranch in their own version of Desert Storm, determined not to be excluded from the celebrity carnival.
Jackson launched hot-air balloons over his sprawling estate in an effort to keep aircraft from coming close enough to photograph or videotape the ceremony, but that effort didn't keep Scott Kyle Harris, 34, of Sun Valley, from parachuting in at about 6:30 p.m., said Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies, who set up a command post on the ranch. Harris was issued a citation and escorted from the property, deputies said.
Officers on horseback rode the hills on the lookout for anyone trying to sneak in from the neighboring Los Padres National Forest.
Among the celebrities who filed past guards onto the compound were former First Lady Nancy Reagan, actors Gregory Peck, Fess Parker and Roddy McDowall, producer Ray Stark, painter David Hockney, singer Jane Morgan and the designer Valentino, who designed the yellow dress Taylor wore. Former President Ronald Reagan sent his regrets, explaining that he was detained by "business."
Wedding invitations asked guests not to wear yellow, so as not to diminish the star's luminescence.
Some guests became restive after they were told they could not have a drink until after the ceremony, which was delayed for 45 minutes, Smith reported.
Taylor's son Michael Wilding Jr. and Jackson escorted her to the altar. An effort to sing "Ave Maria" became an exercise in pantomime and the hovering choppers drowned out the song, Smith reported.
Even though neither Jackson's house nor the wedding tent was visible from Figueroa Mountain Road, no parking was permitted for a mile on either side of the ranch.
Hours before the ceremony, television camera crews and still photographers began hiking toward the large wood and stone gate to Jackson's ranch to take up positions.
Also on hand were representatives of KFC who said they were trying to deliver Kentucky Fried Chicken to Taylor's new in-laws. Members of the Fortensky family reportedly had told interviewers that the fast-food chicken was their favorite dish.