As old as I am, I can just barely remember her heyday as an actress--or, more precisely, the days when she was more or less defined by the roles she played on stage and screen. Those days have long passed.
However, I do not say that to disparage her. In fact, it's rather a point of honor, in her case. That's not to say that I don't love to see a star playing a big role in a great (or at least big) movie. Instead, that is to say--as others have pointed out--that her life transcended even those highlights, and was so much more than what we heard about her marriages, battles with addiction and other experiences.
For one thing, she will be remembered--and will have my respect--for her courage. She stood with Rock Hudson when he was diagnosed with AIDS in a time when infected people were routinely shunned and even beaten or killed when their status was disclosed, or even alleged. And she is probably the only person in the world who could have gotten away with supporting Michael Jackson the way she did.
She was able to do those things, in fact, for the same reason she became as much of a star as she did: her presence. Whether she was on stage or on screen, she was compelling. It wasn't just a matter of her theatrical abilities: She had them, but other people had more, and better versions of, them. Nor was it solely about her incredible beauty or her unique eyes. Rather, she was one of those rare people who simply seemed to belong on whatever stage she stood. That was also what allowed her to reign as an old-fashioned screen and stage idol long after "celebrity" seemed to become a synonym for "richer and more fucked-up than you or I."
That is also what allowed her to become one of the best public friends of the LGBT community we've had. It's hard not to think that more than a few people thought, "Well, if they're good enough for Elizabeth Taylor, they must be good enough for us."
She loved diamonds, too.
Anyway, we'll miss her. But then again, who won't?