Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor, who drove husbands, producers, directors and co-stars to distraction by her habit of being late to appointments. meetings and film sets, played a joke on her mourners when she arranged to be “late for her own funeral,” scheduling it to start 15 minutes after the announced time.
Anyone who plans a joke for their own funeral generally has my respect and approval. This one, however, is ambiguous as well as funny. Tardiness is disrespectful to those who have to endure it, and often is a sign of arrogance and lack of empathy. Movie stars like Taylor who keep crews and actors on the set fray tempers, inflate budgets and undermine shooting schedules. Being habitually late is being habitually unethical.
If Taylor’s final episode of tardiness was meant as an acknowledgment of her failing, then it was a lovely and ethical gesture. If, however, it was meant as a defiant lack of regret for a lifetime of keeping everyone waiting, it does not reflect as well on Taylor’s character as it does on her sense of humor.
Being late to your funeral is funny; being late to everything else is not. Everyone will give Liz the benefit of the doubt on this, and that is appropriate, now that she is in death as she was in life, the late Elizabeth Taylor.