Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2009

AmFar honoree Liza Minnelli by Liz Smith

LIZ SMITH ~ Posted: Wed., Feb. 18, 2009

"BABY, WHEN you stop being nervous, you better start worrying!" That was AmFar honoree Liza Minnelli, calming the jitters of young Renee Olstead last week at the AIDS Foundation's annual gala at Cipriani in NYC. Miss Olstead, a veteran jazz chanteuse at 19, out with a new CD, "Skylark," felt she should have been calmer. But after a day at the Donna Karan salon selecting a gown -- a delicious pink parfait number -- and worrying over her rendition of "Thanks for the Boogie Ride," Renee was a wee bit tense. (Fretting over her fashion choice, she glanced over at one of the evening's presenters, Vogue's Anna Wintour and said, "Do you think Anna will approve?") Even Harry Belafonte was moved to reassure the usually composed Renee. He told her, "It's good to be nervous. That means you're going to give a great performance." Wisdom from her elders proved the perfect balm. Renee went out there and knocked the crowd for a loop! That crowd included Mary J. Blige, Cheyenne Jackson, Dick Cavett and Calvin Klein. This was a big night for AmFAR, hosted by Stanley Tucci; raising over $800,000 for research. Liza, Karan, Howard and Cindy Rachofsky were recognized for their efforts in the fight against AIDS.
The highlight of the evening was -- of course! -- Liza. Designer Kenneth Cole presented the great star with her award. She made a few heartfelt remarks, and then sang her full acceptance speech! Later, Cole, who is also AmFAR's tireless chairman of the board, auctioned off a pair of Cartier love bracelets. He egged the bidding by promising a performance by Liza. The jewels went for $90,000, and Liza, glittering in sequins, sang a powerful rendition of "I Would Never Leave You." (Kenneth designed Liza's outfit, which really was a stunner.)
By the way, don't miss my cover story on Liza for Parade magazine, March 1. Mostly, Liza loves to talk about her work, and give credit to others (she is quite modest for a living legend) but I got her onto to a few other subjects. She was in splendid form for our chat.

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