In Honor of ETAF Ambassador Patrick Smith
By Tim Mendelson
Co-Trustee of The Elizabeth Taylor Trust and Officer for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
I’m writing this in honor of the estimable Patrick Smith, our friend and colleague, to recognize the indelible work he did to benefit ETAF. Patrick brilliantly organized an annual event called Passport. Through Macy’s, Passport was a fundraiser and advocacy opportunity to benefit those living with HIV and AIDS.
I happened to have been Elizabeth Taylor’s personal assistant for over 2 decades. What an honor it was to be by her side as she put her heart and soul, time and money, and passion and compassion into each and every aspect of the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Most years, when Elizabeth’s health allowed, she opened the Passport show in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. She started with the event in 1987 and continued nearly until she passed in 2011. In fact, in her last years it was the only event she committed herself to. Patrick provided Elizabeth with the perfect platform to speak passionately to younger people about how this disease has not gone away and that they can and must use condoms to protect themselves. At that time, using condoms was the only way to avoid contracting HIV sexually. Elizabeth implored the kids to use protection with statements like, “Young people tell me they don’t want to use condoms because sex with a condom doesn’t feel as good. Well, neither does dying!”
Patrick told me the origin of the Passport event. It was started in the early 80’s at Macy’s employee cafeteria where they would pass a can for donations. It then grew into this incredible evening with a couture style fashion show and amazing musical guests. I will never forget the year that had K.D. Lang seductively singing ‘Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat’ into the loins of the female models on the runway. Or the Cirque de Soleil performers doing their thing while hanging from the rafters. Patrick was both practical and imaginative…while calmly finding solutions for any and every problem.
Elizabeth loved Patrick. She trusted him. Together they shared many laughs as well as some rather tense moments. Mostly my calls to Patrick letting him know we were running a few minutes late…translated into what we called ET time and meaning more than a few minutes late…all the way to “Please hold the show! We’re on our way!!” I vividly remember his voice which was so easy to read through. I could literally hear him trying to calm himself down before saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll be fine.” Of course, that was just the first call. Inevitably there would be more and the calming down before speaking period would get longer and longer the later we were. Eventually he was calling us. “How’s it going? The guests are walking in.” “Magic Johnson wants to meet her before the show.” “The audience is seated. Are you close?” But, no matter what, Patrick never let any of his panic show through. He was well aware that Elizabeth’s presence changed the entire energy of the event. I was with her when she went, but also attended when Elizabeth wasn’t able to and her being there made all the difference.
Patrick went overboard with gifts from Macy’s and put them all in Elizabeth’s dressing room for when she arrived. He would call me ahead of time for ideas. “She wears romantic styled Eileen West nighties, you have those don’t you? Oh! And there’s a certain type of lip gloss with a sponge applicator she uses in hues of corals, pinks and reds.” Upon arrival, Elizabeth would gleefully exclaim, “Patrick! How did you know!” Patrick was the most resourceful person I knew then and he still holds the position.
Patrick was also my friend. He gave me solid romantic advice. He gave me great financial advice. He even gave me decorating advice. He had a gift for always making me feel special and important in the midst of the world-wind of my job and my life. One time when I went to Barker Hanger to do a walk-through with him, after giving me his big Uncle Pat hug, he said, “Why aren’t you wearing cologne? I expect you to be smelling of an incredible scent.” Later that day, I received a beautiful bottle of something citrussy and wonderful.
After Elizabeth passed in 2011, we asked him to be an ambassador for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. It only made sense. In fact, and unfortunately, just 2 weeks before Patrick passed he was having meetings us, coming up with loads of ideas for the future of Elizabeth’s foundation. We plan to see many of his ideas through. Most importantly, ETAF and Macy’s partnership continues through the campaign Thanks For Sharing.
Patrick was an amazing partner to Elizabeth in the fight against AIDS. We miss Patrick, but have faith that he and Elizabeth are conspiring in heaven to put an end to this dreadful disease once and for all. We are waiting for the miracles to happen and we know they’re the ones to do it!