Liza’s Back


Pride Life Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

Last sum­mer, Liza Min­nelli was forced to can­cel her only sched­uled UK ap­pear­ance on the ad­vice of doc­tors, leav­ing many of her Bri­tish fans fear­ing that they may never get to see this liv­ing, breath­ing, all-singing, all-danc­ing icon in the flesh.

Imag­ine the ex­cite­ment, then, upon hear­ing that Min­nelli, now 70, plans to re­turn to th­ese shores later this year, for a se­ries of “in­ti­mate” per­for­mances, be­gin­ning at her Lon­don “home”, the Lon­don Pal­la­dium, on 20 Septem­ber. Fit­tingly it was at this same the­atre that a then 18-year-old Min­nelli ap­peared along­side her mother, Judy Gar­land, in a now leg­endary con­cert, in 1964.

An In­ti­mate Evening With Liza Min­nelli will adopt the for­mat of “An Au­di­ence With...” Min­nelli will dis­cuss her life on­stage, in­vite ques­tions from the au­di­ence, and sing the songs that have made her an undis­puted star. The evening will cul­mi­nate with Min­nelli’s in­duc­tion into the Pal­la­dium’s Hall of Fame.

I tracked Liza down in LA, which in it­self proved no mean feat, to ask this liv­ing leg­end how she is, and why has she de­cided to re­turn to Lon­don now.

“Well, I’m re­hears­ing a brand new show. I’m try­ing to put in ev­ery song that any­one has ever re­quested — all of the old favourites — and I’m really look­ing for­ward to it. I love Lon­don. I moved there as a lit­tle girl, Lon­don was really my sec­ond home, and I have so many friends there. And now I have a new one! The rest of the show, well… you’ll just have to wait and see!”

Liza’s laugh­ter sug­gests that not only is she feel­ing more than fine, but that she is also in a play­ful mood, en­gag­ing with her gay fans as only she can. To what does she at­tribute her sta­tus as a gay icon, a so­bri­quet that, in her case, is fully de­served?

“Good taste!” Liza shrieks with laugh­ter. “I mean that. That and our shared sen­si­tiv­ity, the fight we have all gone through not to be la­belled. I mean, I really have no idea. I’m just so grate­ful.”

Of course, Min­nelli’s life has been more than just a cabaret. There is a se­ri­ous side to be­ing a gay icon, a re­spon­si­bil­ity that she has never shunned. It was Min­nelli, a good friend of Rock Hud­son, who first alerted Liz Tay­lor to the scourge of Aids.

Tay­lor es­tab­lished amfAR, the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Aids Re­search, which has so far raised and dis­trib­uted more than $300m to more than 3,000 re­search teams around the globe, in an ef­fort to com­bat the syn­drome. Min­nelli con­tin­ues to work tire­lessly for amfAR. Why is this work so im­por­tant to her?

“Be­cause friends are dy­ing. Peo­ple I don’t even know are dy­ing. I mean, it’s get­ting bet­ter, but it’s still hor­ri­fy­ing. I knew so many peo­ple af­fected per­son­ally. Now we are win­ning and gay peo­ple have worked hard for this vic­tory. I think it’s karma. It’s get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter each year.”

You’d think that hav­ing per­formed with ev­ery­one from Frank Si­na­tra and Sammy Davis Jr to Donna Sum­mer and Michael Jackson there was no one left on whom Min­nelli is still await­ing a call. You’d be wrong. Like her good friend Tony Ben­nett — is there any­one in Hol­ly­wood Liza is not friends with? — Min­nelli is still hop­ing for a call from Lady Gaga.

“I love Gaga. She is so de­ter­mined and I love that she has cho­sen to look the way she does. And what a voice!”

I dare to ask how Min­nelli’s own voice is right now.

“My voice is good, I think. It’s up to you to come and hear me sing and de­cide for your­self. But I think I sound good.”

So can we ex­pect any full con­cert dates in the fu­ture?

“Yes. Af­ter Lon­don we’re go­ing to Biloxi’, Mis­sis­sippi,” she says and once again Liza laughs her head off. What’s wrong with Biloxi? “Not a damn thing. It’s just a pri­vate joke. Have you been? Biloxi is a long way from Lon­don!”

De­spite, or per­haps be­cause of be­ing born into Hol­ly­wood roy­alty, Min­nelli’s life, like her mother’s be­fore her, has been be­set with dif­fi­cul­ties. Ad­dic­tions, ill health and per­sonal calami­ties which in­cluded mar­riage to a gay hus­band (Gar­land’s pro­tégé Peter Allen, in case you were won­der­ing) have all been over­come with re­silience and can­dour. Does she have any ad­vice for any­one strug­gling to get “from cra­dle to tomb” with­out “too much pills and liquor”?

“Well, the ad­vice I’d give is to thine own self be true,” she says. “It’s cer­tainly how I’ve al­ways tried to live my life.”

Is there a par­tic­u­lar song that sums up Liza’s life, one song that means more to her than all the oth­ers?

“Oh gosh, there are so many, but I’d have to choose I Love a Vi­o­lin.”

Sud­denly Liza bursts into song. It’s a slightly sur­real mo­ment, be­ing sung to pri­vately by Liza Min­nelli.

“The song was writ­ten and per­formed by my god­mother, Kay Thomp­son, and is very spe­cial.” And I can con­firm that Liza’s voice does, in­deed, still sound spec­tac­u­lar.

Fi­nally I ask her if she has a spe­cial mes­sage for all her gay fans who will be out cel­e­brat­ing Pride this sum­mer.

“Yes. Re­mem­ber that life is grand. And thank you so, so much for my life, and for my ca­reer. I can’t wait to see you all in Septem­ber. It’s go­ing to be one hell of a show!”

“Now we are win­ning and gay peo­ple have worked hard for this vic­tory.

I think it’s karma”

Live And In Con­ver­sa­tion — An In­ti­mate Evening With Liza Min­nelli is at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium on 20 Septem­ber, and con­tin­ues at Sh­effield City Hall on 22 Septem­ber and Glas­gow Clyde Au­di­to­rium on 24 Septem­ber

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