Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Minnelli a down-to-earth diva at heart
By PAM KRAGEN - firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 11:24 am
Liza Minnelli may be a legend, but the down-to-earth diva isn't one to stand on ceremony. Just try greeting her with the courtesy title of "Ms. Minnelli."
"Oh, honey, just call me Liza," she responded enthusiastically in a telephone interview from her New York home. The 64-year-old actress/singer/dancer is hitting the road for a 20-date concert tour next month, but she'll warm up first with the San Diego Symphony on Saturday night at the Salk Institute in La Jolla.
The Symphony at Salk event, a fundraiser for the research institute, will include a pre-concert cocktail party, dinner al fresco and lab tours. The concert will be presented in the U-shaped institute's ocean-facing courtyard.
One of the few artists to win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar, Minnelli said she's most at home onstage and can't wait to hit the road with her new album, "Confessions," a collection of favorite songs set for release Sept. 28. Although this tour won't include as much of Minnelli's signature dance moves (she's recuperating from knee replacement surgery), she's excited to get back in front of audiences again (her last stage show, "Liza's at the Palace," concluded a sold-out Broadway run in January 2009).
Question: What will you perform at the Salk concert?
Answer: I do some things from the new album and some things by Fred Ebb and John Kander (songwriters for "Cabaret," "Chicago") like "Maybe This Time" and "New York, New York." It's a program I've done before and people seem to like it. I put a bunch of new stuff and old stuff together and it works.
Q: What's a typical day for you?
A: Well, I can walk again, thank goodness. Getting back into shape is hard. But I'm back taking dance lessons again and it feels wonderful. In the mornings I'm going to the gym and dance class. Then I usually have lunch with friends. Then I come home and do my business and either go out to dinner or stay home and someone comes over. Mornings are when I usually cook. I don't exercise my voice every day. I save it, and then go back into my vocal exercises a week before I go out on tour.
Q: How did you choose the songs (including "At Last" and "He's a Tramp") for your new album, "Confessions"?
A: Almost every Saturday night in the fall, I have friends come over and we sing to each other softly, and funny songs. It's not performing, it's just sharing. Finally, Billy (Stritch, her longtime stage partner/accompanist) said, "Why don't you do this on an album?" It's all the songs I learned growing up at different people's houses. When I was a child, I'd sit under the piano and listen to my mother and others sing, and these songs are drawn from those memories.
Q: How is it different from your other albums?
A: I think this is my favorite album. It' very quiet and completely intimate. It's just wonderful.
Q: You recently had a cameo in the movie "Sex and the City 2" singing Beyonce's "Single Ladies." How did that come about?
A: I've known all those girls for a long time, so I was happy to do it when I was asked. That wonderful dance that Ron Lewis choreographed for me was hilarious.
Q: You also had a long-running role as the kooky neighbor Lucille Two on the cult favorite TV show "Arrested Development." Any truth to the rumors that an "Arrested Development" movie is in the works?
A: Wasn't that fun? I had such a ball working on that show. They had such brilliant writers and an incredible producer. I keep hearing rumors about a movie, but nobody's told me that a movie is going to happen yet.
Q: You also poked fun at yourself on a recent "Snickers" bar television commercial, acting the diva with Aretha Franklin. Do you often find worshipful fans treating you like a queen?
A: I thought the "Snickers" commercial was so funny. People do treat me as if I'm royalty until they meet me, then they see I'm just Liza. It's funny, I know a lot of real royalty and they're very down to earth because they were born into it. I was born into Hollywood royalty (her parents were Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli), and there's nothing to be snobby about. You just do your job and live your life.
Q: Who are some of the artists you look up to?
A: I was lucky to work with Charles Aznavour (the French singer/songwriter), Fred Ebb and John Kander. They were all a big influence on me.
Q: What about some of the contemporary performers out there today?
A: I love Pink, and Lady Gaga is great. I watch it all and enjoy keeping up on everything ---- that's how you learn.
Symphony at Salk with Liza Minnelli
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Aug. 28
Where: Salk Institute, 10010 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla
Info: 858-453-4100, ext. 1262