It may well be the most outlandish road trip since the wheel was invented: a cross-country dash featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The trio reportedly took turns driving, with Brando allegedly fueling himself on a diet of junk food.
Details of the trip emerged in a Vanity Fair interview with Tim Mendelson, Taylor’s former personal assistant. It came about after Jackson invited the two Hollywood actors to be his guests at a pair of concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden in early September 2001. Following the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the subsequent grounding of all internal flights, the trio were forced to find alternative transport back to the west coast. Mendelson claims they wound up driving a modest rental car all the way to Ohio – a distance of more than 500 miles.
The trip was not all plain sailing. “Brando allegedly annoyed his colleagues by stopping at every KFC and Burger King they passed along the highway,” writes Vanity Fair reporter Sam Kashner. “One can only imagine the shock their appearance caused at gas stations and rest stops across America.”
But Mendelson’s freewheeling picaresque has already hit a bump in the road, with another of Taylor’s aides insisting the actor was never in the car. “Elizabeth stayed behind,” the anonymous aide told the magazine. “She went to a church to pray, and she went to an armory where people were who couldn’t get home or who’d stayed behind to look for the missing. She also went down to Ground Zero, where she met with first responders. Eventually, the airports opened and she flew home.”
Unhappily, the trio at the centre of Mendelson’s story are now unavailable for comment. Brando died in 2004, Jackson in 2009 and Taylor in March of this year. The method of their escape from New York looks set to remain a mystery.