Thursday, June 3, 2010
Liza Minnelli ~ Powell Symphony Hall, 8 p.m. Saturday
When: 8 p.m. Saturday Where: Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard How much: $40-$85 More info: events.stltoday.com, 314-534-1700
Our extended interview with Liza Minnelli
So you’ll be performing with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Tell me about the show.
Oh, my God. Well, it’s a wonderful symphony. I’ve performed with them before, and I love it. And I love Powell Symphony Hall. And I’m going to bring you the best show I can, as always. What kind of music? Old favorites? Stuff from your new CD?
I think what I’m going to be is I’m going to do some of my favorite symphony songs in the beginning. First, the symphony will perform, and then I’m going to come on and do some of the ones that I just love that I haven’t done for a while. And then the second part is really just the introduction of this new album I’ve made. Tell me about the album. Well, the new album is called “Confessions,” and it’s every song that I ever heard sitting under the piano at my father’s house and my mother’s house and a lot other people’s houses — like Ira Gershwin. (Laughs)You had quite the family growing up. Yeah, but everybody else had the same family. It was like a coal-mining town, you know. Everybody went to work and came home the same time. But there’s things like “You Fascinate Me So,” “Moments Like This,” “If I Had You,” “I Got Lost in His Arms” — isn’t that a good song? — “Close Your Eyes.” And it’s just myself and Billy Stritch. And you’re also in the new “Sex and the City” movie! Yes! Singing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”? I’m not allowed to tell you. Under pain of being shot in the foot. What can you tell me?
That I’m in the new movie, and I had a ball doing it. And I know all the girls, and we had great fun. I love the new Snickers commercials. Aren’t they funny? Me too!They do a really job of reaching a lot of demographics at once. I think so, too! (Laughs) So can you define “diva” for me?
I can’t. I grew up in Europe a lot when I was a kid, and “diva” was always an opera singer. You know, a grand dame — an opera singer. So I don’t get “diva.” Do you think you’re a diva? I’m not an opera singer — no! I don’t live like a diva. I live like a worker. I get up, I go to dance class, I’m on schedule. I don’t quite know, really, what it means. I’m very happy about it, if it’s nice. (Laughs)You were on one of my favorite TV shows — “Arrested Development.” Oh! Wasn’t that great? Lucille 2 was such a funny character! Oh, I know, but all of them were so wonderful. We had such fun on that set. I think it was ahead of its time. Oh, it was. We worked together like a real troupe. It was wonderful. Will you come back for the movie?
Oh, sure, if they ask me. You never know. And if I’m not working! (Laughs) What have been some of your favorite roles through the years? Oh, I think “The Sterile Cuckoo” (1969) is the part that I fought for. I never wanted to be in movies, and then I read that book. My friend Tony Bill sent it to me, and I fought for that part for two years. I sat in offices, I did everything. All the girls that I sat in offices with had on kooky clothes, and I wore a pleated skirt with a zipper, and I didn’t think about that too much. That was my idea on the character. Her father ordered out of a catalog, and that’s how she dressed. But they were in such wacko clothes, I thought, “Oh, this’ll never happen.” And I get a call from Albert Finney saying we’d like to see you for a movie called “Charlie Bubbles” (1967). I said OK, and I go into the office and everybody’s dressed exactly the same, and I thought, “Oh, I’m never gonna get a part, and I don’t quite know what I’m doing here.” But he was so great, and he realized that I learned from that. He also realized he directed me in several very different directions. He saw that I was a director’s daughter, so I’m kind of used to seeing people being directed. Anyway, we hit it off, and a day later he called me and said, “Well, do you want to go to London?” I said, “Sure!” And that was that. Who’s been your favorite performer to work with? Oh, God. There’s so many wonderful things about so many different people. I mean, standing on a stage with Frank (Sinatra) and Sammy (Davis Jr.), who are you gonna pick? I’ve been on stage with Aretha Franklin. You can’t pick — there’s something wonderful about everybody, if you look for it. And I think that’s the trick: to look for the good. Anybody you’d like to work with? Lady Gaga! Oh, I think she’s great. That would be so fun! Maybe if we did a disc together, we could do the video together. That would be funny. I think it would be interesting, because I think she respects me too. I think we’d get a kick out of it. Have you met her? No, I haven’t met Lady Gaga. I’m sure you could arrange that! No! Well, I could, but I don’t want to bug her! I’m sure she won’t want to bug me! And we’re both so busy! (Laughs)You’ve said you consider yourself more of a storyteller than a singer. Explain what you mean by that. Well, when I was about 17, I went to see a guy called Charles Aznavour. I didn’t know who he was, and he was singing in French — I thought, “OK.” And this guy walked onstage, and I held my breath, and I don’t think I breathed once until he walked off. And I thought, “That’s what I want to do.” Each song was a little movie. There was a different character in each song — he was in the moment. So he became my mentor, and I asked him if he would be. I was singing one of his songs at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood, and he came in to see me — I had just started — and I looked down, and he’s sitting there. I thought I’d fall off the stage! And then he came backstage afterward. His English wasn’t great at that point — it was 120 years ago, right? (Laughs) So he wrote me a beautiful letter, and I asked him if he would be my mentor, and he said, “Of course!” And he literally became that. And he taught me, and he guided me, and he wrote songs for me. He was a huge influence in my life — as big as (John) Kander and (Fred) Ebb. “Liza with a Z” in 1972 was the first live TV concert. What was it like to be part of something so groundbreaking? Normal? (Laughs) Because I’d worked with all these people before — remember, I’d just done “Cabaret.” ... But we went to rehearsal, and we rehearsed. And then we did it. It seemed odd to only have one performance, but that was OK, too.That does seem odd. Well, not if you’re in the moment. And, boy, do you have to concentrate to do that. But it does take away nerves. I’m sure people have no trouble pronouncing “Liza” now. Oh, thank you! That was Freddy (Ebb, who wrote “Liza with a Z”). Your favorite movie of your mother’s is “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Yes! I’m here because of it. Does our city hold a special place in your heart? Yeah! That’s where my mother and father met — making the movie. What project will you tackle next? Oh, honey! I’ve got so much in front of me. I really go one step at a time and put my full heart and soul into what I’m doing. It’s the only way you can do it properly, and that’s how I was raised, you know? You do it right. By Gabe Hartwig