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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love Tokens

A quandary for many a lover (or aspiring lover) on Valentine's Day is the selection of the perfect love gift or token. Let's take a look at some memorable ones:

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's "Rock"

A roller-coaster relationship - they married and divorced each other twice — but Burton's 69.42-carat diamond gift to Taylor was a grand gesture. Burton bid on this Harry Winston stone at an auction in 1969, but lost out to business tycoon Robert Kenmore, who paid just over a million bucks for the gem. Burton didn't take the auctioneer's hammer for an answer, though, and after some heated haggling on the phone, Kenmore sold the diamond to Burton for an undisclosed sum. The Taylor-Burton diamond, as it's called, was sold by Taylor in 1979 for $5 million after the couple parted ways.

The Taj Mahal

India's most popular tourist attraction is actually a tomb, created for emperor Shah Jahan's wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. Heartbroken, the Shah commanded 20,000 workmen to spend 22 years building this marble and jewel studded effigy to emulate the Islamic version of Paradise. Legend has it that upon its completion, the Shah ordered that the right hand of the chief mason get chopped off so the building could remain truly one of a kind.

Monroe's Roses

Marilyn Monroe dated some powerful guys, but no man showed her more affection than her husband of nine months, baseball player Joe DiMaggio. After Marilyn's death in 1962, Joe placed a 20-year standing order with a local flower shop to have long-stemmed roses placed on her grave three times a week. Talk about touching.

O. Henry's Gift of the Magi

This author crafted what many consider to be the most generous — and yet cheapest — romantic gesture ever. In this short story, a poor-in-pocket but rich-in-love couple secretly makes huge sacrifices in order to buy each other Christmas gifts: He sells his grandfather's gold watch to buy his wife a set of tortoise-shell combs for her beautiful hair; she cuts off that beautiful hair and sells it to a wig-maker to buy her hubby a platinum chain for his watch. When they realize what's happened, they're wise enough to just be thankful that they have each other.

Clapton's Layla

When guitarist Eric Clapton moved into best friend George Harrison's neighborhood, he fell in love with Harrison's wife, fashion model Pattie Boyd. Clapton pleaded for her to leave the Beatles band member, but Pattie tuned out his requests. Despondent, he began recording a song, fueled by the words of the ancient love poem, The Story of Layla and Majnun. The resulting tune, "Layla" — which included the lyric "Please don't say, we'll never find a way, and tell me all my love's in vain" — was a hit in more ways than one. Pattie soon left her husband and got hitched to Clapton. Even though they divorced nine years later, the popularity of "their song" will probably last forever.

Wagner's Symphony

Some lovers bring their ladies breakfast in bed; others, like Richard Wagner, bring them symphonies. To celebrate his wife Cosima's 33rd birthday, the famed composer had written Siegfried Idyll for her and, to boot, hired a fifteen-piece orchestra to play the tune on their staircase as he conducted them. Recalled Cosima in her diary: "When I woke up I heard a sound. What music!" Wagner kept this intimate ditty private until 1877, when financial strains forced him to publish.

Clark's Car

Past Hollywood actor Clark Gable loved fancy cars, and screen siren Carole Lombard could afford to buy him the best. However, on their first official date in 1936, she bought him a beat-up Model T Ford for just fifteen bucks and had it painted white with red hearts all over it, delivered with a note saying, "You're driving me crazy". Thoroughly swept off his feet, Gable got to return the favour to his future wife that evening when he picked her up in his newest set of wheels.

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