NEW YORK – Before and after La Liz, Richard Burton (search) never lacked for women. But schoolgirls?
According to a new memoir, the charismatic star bedded a 13-year-old.
The year was 1955. Burton was 29, famous and married (and already having an affair with Claire Bloom); the girl was a month short of 14, shy, and wearing her mother's lipstick.
As Rosemary Kingsland recalls in her just-published memoir, "The Secret Life of a Schoolgirl," (search) they met in a café near the Old Vic, where Burton was performing. After a walk in the moonlight, the sultry star was plying the starry-eyed teen with crème de menthe in his flat, licking her sticky fingers and deflowering her.
She claims that Burton assumed she was 17 - but even after he learned the truth, he was undaunted.
"You do realize," he said, when she arrived at his flat in her school kneesocks and Oxfords, "this is every man's fantasy."
Kingsland's book titillated London, where some wondered how Sir Richard's Lolita moment eluded eagle-eyed biographer Melvyn Bragg (search), who had access to the star's diaries.
But Kingsland - whose dysfunctional family life in India and postwar London makes riveting reading, even without the randy Richard - responded with the British equivalent of Duh!
"Imagine that your husband is having an affair with an underage girl," said Kingsland, who's best known for her novel, "After the Ball."
"Is he really going to put it in his diary? To think that he would admit or 'confess' his relationship with me is naive.
"Besides which, Bragg - and others - have agreed that my story did not come as a surprise to them. Richard Burton had many, many lovers."
Those not among them are in for some vicarious thrills. According to "Secret Life," Burton was a deft, if often drunk, lover, who often quoted poetry, both English and Welsh.
He told her he'd rather read and write than act - acting was boring, he contended - and there was an undercurrent of sadness in him, even then.
Kingsland said she "didn't tell a soul" of their affair, which ran two years and resulted in an abortion.
"'Good' girls just didn't do what I was doing," she said. "If I confided in anyone, I was sure it would 'get about.' "
The actor died Aug. 5, 1984 - but Kingsland waited until her parents, and her husband, died before telling her secret. Not that she's ashamed of anything she did with the once and future Mr. Liz Taylor.
"I was almost in an hypnotic trance, unable to tear myself away, drawn into the circle of his light, like a moth," she said. "I couldn't prevent it, even if I had wanted to."