Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Friday, May 9, 2008

Web extra: A conversation with Liza Minnelli


Liza Minnelli, who performs live in concert 8 tonight at the Beau Rivage Theatre in Biloxi, spoke last week with the Sun Herald by telephone about her new show; the pros and cons of being an icon; about growing up next door to Lana Turner; why she decided to set a different path from her parents and embark on the Great White Way; and how to stay grounded in the tempestuous whirlwind that is mega fame. She also, not for nothing, on more than one occasion threatened to slap me. And now I call her friend. (For more background info on Ms. Minnelli, see this week's Marquee cover story, also available at
Q: Hey Ms. Minnelli, how are you?
A"Oh please, call me Liza. How are you man?"
Q: Thank you so much for taking a few minutes. We really appreciate it.
A"Oh, it's my pleasure. Are you kidding?"
Q: Well, right off the bat, what would you like to talk about first?

A"I don't know. What do you want to talk about? Anything you want to talk about is fine with me."
Q: Well, what have you been up to lately?
A"Well, I'm doing this new show about my godmother, Kay Thompson. And I'm bringing part of it to you."
Q: Well, tell us about the show. What can audiences expect?
A"Well, my godmother was an extraordinary woman. Her name was Kay Thompson, and she was probably single-handedly the biggest musical influence in Hollywood history, as far as harmonies and vocals go. And she was a huge, you know where you would have seen her? Did you see 'Funny Face'?"
Q: Yes ma'am.
A"Do you remember...If you call me ma'am again, I'll slap you (laughs). Do you remember the woman who played the head of the magazine?"
Q: I do.
A"That's Kay. So that maaarvelous woman was my godmother. And she wrote all these incredible, incredible arrangements. First for herself on radio, she was an enormous radio star. And then MGM hired her to come out and be the vocal director - A woman! In her late 20s! - for all of MGM. That's unheard of."
Q: That's quite impressive.
A"And she probably revolutionized movie musicals because of the way she used voices. And she became great friends with my parents, and they made her my godmother and it was the greatest gift they ever gave me."
Q: And the show, is it kind of a re-creation of that? Or you kind of tell the story?
A"Well she did a nightclub act, which I saw when I was 2. And I can only remember these beautiful feet and long arms and legs flying around. But over the years she was such a wonderful godmother. She stayed close to me, you know? So I'm re-creating part of her nightclub act. Not re-creating but, how do you say it, paying tribute to."

Q: How did this idea come to you? It was just overdue, or the time was right?
A"I don't know. It just came to me. I thought, This music is hipper than anything I'm hearing now, these harmonies. And everybody who's seen it, I'm talking about all of the rock 'n' roll people, said 'holy Christ, those harmonies are just incredible.' And that was Kay. She was always so exciting when she sang. And she built it properly, and she did it properly, and she was just, I was so, so lucky to have her."

Q: Well, that sounds really neat. I'm sure there's a lot, lot of people who will appreciate that material.
A"Well, it's entertaining, and it's downfront in one entertainment, meaning it's for the audience."
Q: Well that's great. And is this the beginning of the tour, the middle or...?
A"No, I'm going to do part of it. It will eventually end up being a show called 'Bazzaz,' which is a song that she wrote, that will be a television show...and part of it I'm going to bring to you."
Q: Great. Now have you done it before, or is this just the beginning of the tour of this particular presentation, or...
A"It's part of a new thing, so it's exciting for me. And hopefully for the audience. So far, the few people that have seen it have really liked it, so I'm thrilled."
Q: Well, that's great. Is it OK if I hit you with a few general questions, ma'am?
A"Of course. If you call me ma'am one more
Q: I'm sorry. I was warned. You gave me fair warning. I do apologize.
A"You can call me Liza May. I'm Liza May."
Q: Liza May. There you go.
A"That's my name."
Q: I feel honored. Honestly, I do.
A"Honey, I feel honored too, but I'm not going to call you sir."
Q: What's it like, being Liza May, Ms. Minnelli?
A"You know what? That's just who I am, is Liza May. I learned very early on to just relax, and be yourself, and each day you get up, you do the best you can. All I can say is I got up this morning, and put my own clothes on. You know what I mean?"
Q: Well God bless you ma'am. I'm sorry. God bless you.
A"That's really simple, and that's what I'm talking about."
Q: What do you think, I was going to ask you about both the best thing and the worst thing about being, really, an icon I guess would be the best word?
A"I guess the best thing is that people appreciate you. And the worst thing is that you believe it. So the point is, you always strive. You never get there. And that's the point. Everything I've done, I want to do better. I want to do it again. (Laughs) I'm sure I can do it better."
Q: I guess it's all a journey, so to speak?
A"It is. And it's an adventure. And that's what makes it interesting."
Q: What about you would surprise folks?
A"I guess I'm more normal than people think I am."
Q: Is that right?
A"Yeah. I mean I was raised in a household, believe it or not, like every other household in California with a working family. It's like, it's a weird thing to compare it to, but think of a mining town. OK? And every morning, the miners get up, they have breakfast, they go to work. Right? They come home, you have dinner together and you all go to bed. Right?"
Q: Yeah.
A"My parents got up, I went to school, they went to MGM. They came home, we had dinner, and that was it. You know, it was more organized, I think, than people thought. And much, there was no glamour whatsoever, because it was a working town. It's a town where everybody worked. And all the publicity stuff made it sound glamorous, but the point was to stay normal."
Q: Sure. Normal, I guess, for y'all that was just...I guess just life inside the bubble, and looking out versus looking in, it seems all glamorous and over the top, but really...
A"You know what it's like? It's like if you live in a town where you're this enormous mathematician, and you live next to Einstein. He's your next-door neighbor. You're not Einstein, right?"
Q: Yeah, exactly.
A"So Lana Turner was my next-door neighbor! I'm not Lana Turner. Everybody did the same thing. And that's why I wanted to do Broadway. Because it was different."
Q: And, did that kind of open up a whole new world for you?
A"Oh, indeed. I always wanted to, I wanted to be an ice skater, first. I really did. And then I saw 'Bye Bye Birdie' on Broadway, and I thought, 'maybe that's what I want to do.' I want to dance in a Broadway show."
Q: Well you know, I think you anticipated my next question, which is, if you weren't an entertainer what path do you think you would have followed?
A"I have no idea. I have no idea. But I'm a passionate person, so whatever I would have been introduced to, hopefully I would have taken to and followed through with."
Q: How would you describe yourself?
Q: Yes.
A"First of all I'm fairly normal. Like I said, I got up this morning and put my own clothes on, that's the best..."
Q: I guess no one word seems to do it justice, but I was trying to think of a word that encapsulates everything that you've done and do. Entertainer? Entertainer extraordinaire? Is that an accurate statement?

A"I guess so. I think that would be up to you, more than me. Do you know what I mean?"
Q: I do. In the eye of the beholder type thing.
A"Oh great."
Q: Would you have any advice for young people, stars in the spotlight today who are, obviously for people at the level you are there's the scrutiny, and the pressures. How do you deal with all that?
A"Well, I think that the thing is to remember where you came from, who you are, have your feet on the ground and your head in the sky. And you'll be all right. But it's when you start believing what other people say that you give your power to them."
Q: So really, be true to yourself and don't forget who you are?
A"Yeah, and always do the best you can. And stay curious. That's the thing I would say. Never, ever lose your curiosity. Or you're finished."
Q: What do you do, I don't know if you have downtime, but what do you do to relax?
A"Me? Oh I go to the movies, I do everything you do. I go to the movies, I have dinner with friends, I hang out. I don't go to clubs and stuff like that. I used to, but I don't anymore (laughs)."
Q: Just too hectic, I guess?
A"Well, it's not only that. I just don't have the energy."
Q: Just evolved past that, I guess?
A"No honey I've been there."
Q: Been there, done that. You can't top those days, I guess?
A"No, I'd rather sit and talk with great friends and have a good Sinatra album playing in the background."
Q: Just out of curiosity, is there any movie/show that you've seen recently that you really enjoyed, or struck you as neat"
A"I'm a great audience, and I'm a fan of everybody else. You know what I mean? I love going to see other people's work. I mean, I love Michael Buble, what he's doing is incredible. And I love the Pet Shop Boys, I always have. And My Chemical Romance, I've worked with. So, I think it's interesting to see every aspect of, not only the music I sing, but of rock 'n' roll, of rap, of what's happening dance-wise...I just love watching other people perform."
Q: Two last questions, then anything you want or you're free to go, because you've been more than gracious. Now forgive my ignorance in asking this question, and I won't be offended if you tell me to mind my own business, but I genuinely don't know you're current status. Are you seeing anybody, are you single, are you married, are you just kind of..."
A"I'm THRILLED you don't know. I am single and I intend to stay that way!"
Q: There you go. Learned your lessons, huh?
A"Honey (laughs)... I guess what we do is kind of look at it, learn and go on."
Q: Finally, this is just a Journalism 101 question, so forgive it. But, what would you like your tombstone...
A"Oh my God! 101?"
Q...50 years from now to read?
A"You mean IN DEATH?"
Q: Well, theoretically.
A"Huh. I don't know if I like that question."
Q: Well, if you'll notice I said 50 or 60 years from now, so.
A"I don't know. What would you want yours to say?"
Q: Huh. He did his best?
A"You know, I was going to say that."
Q: Were you?
A"I was. I was going to say, 'She always tried her best.'
Q: I think that's all people can ask. Or more importantly, all you can ask of yourself.
A"I think so, too... Your life is in your own hands."
Q: I can't tell you what a pleasure it has been, honestly, to speak with you. Ms. Minnelli, thank you so...
A"If you call me Ms. Minn... I'm Liza May to you."
Q: Liza May. OK. I'm speechless.
A"You don't have to be. I'm your friend now. It's just me, honey."
If you goWhat: Liza Minnelli in concert.
Where: Beau Rivage Theatre, Biloxi.
When: 8 p.m. today.
Cost: $74.95 and $94.95 (plus tax and service charge). To reserve tickets call 1-888-566-7469.

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