Here in Virginia, the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican John W. Warner may yet be subtitled, "The Perils of Elizabeth."
The candidate's movie actress wife, Elizabeth Taylor, was admitted to Richmond Memorial Hospital yesterday after suffering her third physical mishap of a campaign barely two months old.
This time, it was a chicken bone that lodged in her esophagus Thursday night just as she was complimenting the chef of Fraley's Coach House in Big Stone Gap on his southern fried chicken.
Taylor and Warner were attending a Columbus Day campaign dinner in the far Southwest Virginia town when she went to the kitchen to greet the chef and sample his chicken. A two-inch bone caught in her throat and refused to budge, despite efforts to dislodge it with a chaser of soft bread.
Accompanied by her husband, Taylor was taken to nearby Lonesome Pine Hospital, where Dr. H.T. Patel, using rubber tubing, dislodged the bone and pushed it down her esophagus into her stomach. The doctor described that as a simple, nonsurgical procedure. But while it was being performed, Patel found a pear-shaped "out-pouching" of the esophagus requiring further treatment by a specialist.
Dr. Patel said the ailment is known as Zenker's diverticulum and is a stretching of the esophagus that occurred before Taylor choked on the bone.
After the bone was dislodged, Warner addressed the Columbus Day banquet by phone from the hospital and then spent the night with his wife at the hospital.
When they returned to Richmond yesterday, Taylor entered the hospital here on the area of her husband and was taken away in a wheelchair to the office of Dr. Owen Gwathmey, a specialist in thoracic and vascular ailments. She was admitted for treatment.
Taylor was briefly hospitalized once before during the campaign in Richmond when a sliver of metal became lodged under an eyelid.
Then on Monday, Taylor was making her entrance at a reception featuring former President Gerald R. Ford at the Omni International Hotel ballroom in Norfolk when she caught a heel in a hole in the carpet and almost fell.
She wrenched her back in that incident and caused Warner to be late to a appearance before a group of black ministers in Richmond. "I felt I had to stay with her for awhile," Warner explained to reporters waiting at the Richmond church. "She just needed a little love and affection."
Taylor's mishaps have focused even more attention on her role in the campaign. Many Virginia politicians are uncertain whether her Hollywood past and life style will help or hurt Warner in his race against Democrat Andrew P. Miller.
A recent poll by The Richmond-Times-Dispatch, however, found that 41 per cent of those questioned thought she would help, 34 per cent thought not and 25 per cent did not have an opinion.
Warner himself said in a recent interview that he thinks Virginia voters admire his wife because they "look at what she has overcome, the health problems, the marital problems - and they look on her as a survivor."
Not only illnesses, but rumors of illnesses have dogged the actress career. Taylor watchers who thought they detected puffiness in her face recently, speculated that she was suffering from a fatal ailment. When asked if she in fact had an incurable disease, she replied: "Yes, I'm in love with John and it's incurable."
The bad night at Big Stone Gap caused Warner to miss a debate with Miller in Williamsburg yesterday morning, but he was back on the campaign trail by midafternoon at the Clifton Forge Fall Festival in the Allegheny Mountains.
Campaign spokesman Bill Kling said Taylor probably will be forced to cancel a weekend of campaigning that was to have included: a luncheon and two public receptions in the Shenandoah Valley, a tour of a safety razor plant, a high school football game, a Lions Club convention, a rally at a Loudoun County farm, the Fairfax City Fall Festival, a campaign dinner in Arlington and a Sunday matinee of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at Norfolk State College.