LOS ANGELES, DEC. 5 -- Elizabeth Taylor ignored her ex-boyfriend in court today as their lawyers began selecting a jury to decide a multi-million-dollar dispute over the rights to her Passion perfume.
Taylor walked across the courtroom surrounded by her lawyers and made no acknowledgment of former beau Henry Wynberg, seated at the opposite end of a table.
Wynberg claims he conceived the actress's perfume line, and he's seeking a hefty share of the profits. He says he created the fragrance under the Elizabeth Taylor Cosmetics Inc. banner.
At stake: about $70 million a year in profits.
A panel of 50 prospective jurors sat with their eyes riveted on the actress, dressed in purple, as the judge explained what the trial was all about.
Taylor won permission to tell jurors about Wynberg's criminal record after her lawyers said it would explain her decision to keep him out of her perfume business.
Lawyers for Wynberg sought to prevent jurors from hearing that Wynberg -- who courted Taylor between her two marriages to Richard Burton -- once pleaded guilty to statutory rape, providing drugs to underage high school girls in return for sex and taking pornographic photos of young girls.
The litigation has produced volumes of depositions and affidavits about Wynberg's claim that he had a contract with Taylor for exclusive rights to her name and likeness for promotion and sale of cosmetics. Wynberg sued in 1986 for 72 percent of Passion profits.
Wynberg said he spent years consulting with chemists and manufacturers, smelling perfumes and looking for the perfect bottle.
"I wanted sparkling little lights like stars in there, and I wanted it to look like money, feel like money," Wynberg said.
Taylor contends that Wynberg's failure to follow through on the project violated the contract and made it invalid.
In 1986, she signed with the Chesebrough-Ponds Inc. cosmetics company to market Passion using her name and likeness. It went on to be a big seller.