Bert Cutino was bartending at the former Cerrito’s on Fisherman’s Wharf one afternoon in 1964, when a breathless Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton burst through the door.
“She said they were being chased. People were bothering them. They hadn’t had a chance to eat, and they wondered if we could take care of them and not let anybody in,” Cutino remembers. “I said, ‘For you, of course.'”
He locked the door, seated the couple in a downstairs dining room, poured Burton some scotch, and brought out a bottle of wine for them to share. Cutino then called and told his boss about the visitors. Mr. Cerrito responded happily, saying it was good for business—until Cutino mentioned that he’d locked the front door.
“He said, ‘Are you crazy? Open the door!'” Cutino laughs.
He’d promised the couple privacy, though, and after lunch Taylor thanked the young bartender with a kiss on the cheek. “I was blown away. Her eyes were violet, and she was just beautiful,” Cutino says.
When Elizabeth Taylor passed away on March 23, many Monterey County residents remembered the silver screen star fondly. She and Burton made several trips to the area, including the time they stopped at Cerrito’s for lunch while filming “The Sandpiper.” During that project, the pair stayed at a private home that is now the Monterey Museum of Art’s La Mirada location. They regularly commuted to Big Sur for shoots, and often dined at Nepenthe, where some of the movie’s scenes took place.
This was not Taylor’s first time on the Monterey Peninsula, however. The Oscar-winning actress, born Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor on February 27, 1932, came to Pebble Beach to film “National Velvet” in 1944. Her portrayal of Velvet Brown, a 12-year-old who prepares a wild horse for the Grand National steeplechase, is considered her breakout role.
Her fame only grew from there. Taylor won acclaim for her work in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Suddenly, Last Summer,” “Butterfield 8,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and other pictures, and she played Cleopatra to Richard Burton’s Mark Antony in “Cleopatra,” one of the most expensive movies ever made.
Taylor and Burton married twice.
In fact, with eight marriages, media coverage ofTaylor’s love life sometimes rivaled that of her movies. She also made headlines for her charitable work, particularly in the past 25 years. Taylor helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and her efforts to raise research dollars and AIDS awareness earned her the French Legion of Honor award in 1987. In 2000, Queen Elizabeth II made Taylor a Dame of the British Empire.
Taylor’s glamour, influence and accomplishments won’t soon be forgotten, especially by fans like Bert Cutino. “She was just dynamite,” he says.