Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Liza Minnelli’s having too much fun...

Liza Minnelli’s having too much fun
01:00 AM EST on Sunday, January 6, 2008
By Rick Massimo

Journal Pop Music Writer
Liza Minnelli in the red-sequinned mini-dress she wore
during her 1972 performance of Liza with a “Z.”

You’d think that after nearly 50 years in show
business that includes three Tony Awards, an Oscar, an
Emmy and a special Grammy, as well as millions of
records sold and audience members wowed, Liza Minnelli
would be thinking about kicking back.

“I don’t know why!” she says. “Not as long as it’s
this much fun.”

Listen to Minnelli’s voice in conversation; watch a
recent clip of her performing on YouTube; heck, just
look at a picture of her getting out of a car. Either
she’s an even better actress than she gets credit for,
or after two hip replacements, knee surgery, reported
brushes with drugs and alcohol, tabloid-worthy
marriages and the waxing and waning of her brand of
brassy song-and-dance entertainment, she really is
enjoying all of this.

“Oh God yes, or I wouldn’t do it.”

Minnelli’s latest project involves a tribute to her
godmother, Kay Thompson, who was an arranger and vocal
coach at MGM — “That’s how she met my parents, and
that’s how she became my godmother.”

Thompson was also the author of the Eloise series of
children’s books, the title character of whom was a
thoroughly urban girl based on Minnelli. “She had the
most spectacular nightclub act ever,” Minnelli says,
and a section of her current live show, which she
brings to Providence Saturday, is a replication of her
godmother’s act. “It’s her music — her arrangements,”
she says, as well as a few bits from Minnelli about
what Thompson meant to her. “I never talk about my
life, and then here I am doing it!”

Minnelli is also working on a televised version of
Thompson’s show, which she describes as reminiscent of
the Liza With a Z TV special that helped Minnelli make
the transition from star to superstar, and will start
filming in April.

Liza With a Z was restored and re-released on DVD in
2006, so a whole new generation can check out the Bob
Fosse-directed live performance. Minnelli says that
she had always had the footage, “but I didn’t know
what to do with it.” For seven years, the restorer
worked on the footage “and he just did a brilliant
job. I said ‘I don’t have any money to pay you!,’ and
he said ‘That’s OK.’ ”

When Minnelli saw the restored footage, she says, “I
thought, ‘This is what Fosse wanted it to look like.’
Because you couldn’t see it well enough on the 16
[millimeter film]. The lights were blaring and you
just couldn’t see it. Now it’s on film the way he
wanted it on film and I’m just thrilled.”

The variety of Minnelli’s classic singing, dancing act
is becoming a rarity in an entertainment world that is
more specialized and more focused on the screen (large
and small) than the stage. Minnelli agrees, but cites
Michael Buble as an inheritor of her style. “He’s
right up there, and he moves around, and he dances and
sings and he’s wonderful!”

Not that she’s cranky about the modern state of
entertainment. “I like a lot of things, I guess
because I’m a dancer. I love rock ’n’ roll.” She
recently guested on a track on The Black Parade, by
the modern rock group My Chemical Romance.

How’d that come about? “They just called me! And I
love them! The guy (singer and songwriter Gerard Way)
is just great, and he’s so smart! That kid is really,
really knowledgeable. It was fun!”

The death last year of her longtime drummer and
musical director, Bill LaVorgna, left a void, even
though he’s been succeeded in both roles by the
“wonderful” Mike Berkowitz, who had subbed for
LaVorgna in the past. “He’s a good friend, and the
minute Pappy died, I called him.”

“There was nobody like Bill,” Minnelli remembers, not
only for his musicality but his history. “I worked
with him for 33 years, and he knew me since I was 11.
He caught me driving when I was 13! And he never told
my mom! I thought it was great.”

While friends from the old days are, well, getting
older, Minnelli says there are still a few around.
Three of the four dancers who portray Thompson’s
cohort, the Williams Brothers, in the Thompson tribute
knew Thompson herself. “It means a lot to all of us.”

While Minnelli has had plenty of success in the
electronic media, live performance, the most
work-intensive, high-energy way to build a career, is
still her primary focus. And she wouldn’t have it any
other way, even after all these years. “To me, walking
through a show, or taking it easy through a show, is
unheard of. Because all you have to do is take a look
into the audience and you’ll find somebody who hasn’t
seen you. You do the whole thing for them.”

And while she puts new songs in her act all the time —
“I’m always changing it up because it keeps it fresh
for me” — she says she never rolls her eyes when it’s
time to haul out “Cabaret” or “New York, New York”
again. “You find new ways to do them and you find new
thoughts behind them. It’s the work as an actress,
that part of it.” As an example, she cites “Come In
From the Rain,” written for her by Melissa Manchester,
which she recently reintroduced to her show. “You can
just visualize what these two people have been

Minnelli collapsed during a show in Sweden last month,
but says “I feel fine now. Just wonderful,” and is
looking forward to returning to Providence, where she
has performed twice before and where her mother
performed at the Loew’s Theatre, housed in what is now
the Providence Performing Arts Center. “It’s a good
audience. They appreciate what they see, and I always
have a good time there.”

Still, it has to take it out of a 61-year-old, no? “It
does, but I love it and I always have.”

Minnelli is the only Oscar winner (Cabaret in 1972)
who is the child of two Oscar winners (Judy Garland
for The Wizard of Oz in 1939 and Vicente Minnelli for
Gigi in 1968), so while it seems as though there may
not have been much of an alternative to the life she
chose, she says that her early exposure to Hollywood’s
workings left her wanting to be an ice skater.
“Watching movies being made is really boring. Broadway
and live performance is really exciting, but to hang
out in a studio and watch people sitting around is
dull. I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this!’ ”
Seeing Bye Bye Birdie at age 13 “changed everything.”

And even now, the mix of singing, dancing, cracking
wise and entertaining hasn’t lost its thrill.

“Oh yeah! With two false hips and a wired-up knee! And
I still go!”

No comments: