Jun 5 2011 Exclusive by Billy Sloan, Sunday Mail
SHOWBIZ survivor Liza Minnelli yesterday told how she sang through the pain barrier to make an album she has hailed as one of the best of her incredible 50-year career.
The superstar recorded new CD Confessions - a selection of show tunes and jazz classics - flat on her back in agony due to a knee injury.
But Liza proved she was a real trouper when she performed hit songs All The Way, He's A Tramp and I Must Have That Man just days after going under the surgeon's knife.
The 65-year-old promises to be fighting fit when she storms into Scotland on July 6 for an eagerly awaited show at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.
Liza - the daughter of Wizard Of Oz legend Judy Garland and Hollywood film director Vincente Minnelli - confessed: "I had to have a knee replacement.
"It was so painful for the two weeks before the operation I had to lie down.
"After surgery I couldn't walk for a further six weeks and I couldn't just lie there and do nothing.
"So I said to my music collaborator, Billy Stritch, 'What do you wanna do? Why don't we record something'.
"We recorded the whole thing. Half of it before I went into the hospital and the other half when I came out.
"I was propped up in bed or sitting in a tall chair. The music took my mind off the pain. It was so intimate, just like when I sing at home - all hanging around the piano.
"There were a couple of times when the producer would have to say 'cut' as I screamed 'ow' during a line of a song.
"I'm very happy how Confessions turned out. It's the first record I've made in a long time that you can put on while you're having dinner.
"It's not a performance that builds - it's just easy listening and I like that."
Liza was thrilled to record All The Way, the classic hit immortalised by the man she called "uncle Frank" - Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra - in the 1957 movie The Joker Is Wild.
It was penned by Broadway songwriting legends Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and won the Oscar for Best Original Song in the same year.
She said: "The best-known version of All The Way is uncle Frank's. I heard him sing it many times.
"But when I recorded it, I thought of what the words meant to me. It's an obvious lyric anybody can understand - 'When somebody loves you/it's no good unless they love you/all the way'.
"I think that's what everybody wants. So that song says it for al of us."
Recording All The Way brought back happy memories of when Liza toured the world with Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr in The Ultimate Event in 1988.
She had replaced former Rat Pack hellraiser Dean Martin, who quit the tour after four performances. Liza recalled: "At first, it was weird. They asked me to do it when Dean dropped out. I thought, 'Wait a minute, you're uncle Frank and uncle Sammy. I'm not one of your crowd. I'm younger'.
"When I said, 'What do you want me to do?', Frank said, 'Whatever you want'.
"I thought they'd have a team of writers working on the show but they didn't. So I wrote the musical medleys.
"On the road, they were so protective of me.
"When I was 13, Sammy was the first guy who ever talked to me like I was a person and not a kid.
"I was sitting on the steps at one of our showbiz parties when he sat down and said, 'How are you?' So he was my first real friend of my parent's friends.
"Frank was very supportive to me when I was starting my career. Frank loved the tough guy image but he wasn't a tough guy. He was always nice and very generous to me."
It is 62 years since Liza made her big-screen movie debut when she appeared in the final scene of Hollywood musical In The Good Old Summertime with her mother Judy, who died in 1969 aged 47 after an accidental drug overdose.
In a chequered career, Liza won an Academy Award in 1972 for best actress for the movie Cabaret and is one of just 12 performers to also win an Emmy, Grammy and Tony.
In 1972, she starred in the awardwinning TV special Liza with a Z and co-starred with Robert De Niro in the film New York, New York five years later. She also performed with Queen at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert at Wembley in 1992 and more recently guested on Sex And The City and the US version of The Apprentice.
Sadly, most of her showbiz friends - including Sinatra, Davis and Marilyn Monroe - have all gone and in the last two years she also lost Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson.
Does Liza feel like the last survivor of a golden era of Hollywood greats? She said: "Michael was such a good friend. A splendid man who changed theatrical history. I taught him dance steps. We used to dance together all the time.
"As a friend, Elizabeth was always there for me. I'll miss her for the rest of my life. I am so lucky to have known her.
"Of course, you miss being able to call somebody or seeing them. But when somebody passes, they're still with you all the time.
"Those are your friends and that's great. But to me it's now all about new friends and tomorrow."
Liza watched her mother become a Hollywood legend. As a child, she grew up in Beverly Hills and spent time after school hanging out on the back lot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with her mum.
At family parties, she rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest stars of that golden era including Mickey Rooney, Fred Astaire, James Mason, Tony Curtis and Humphrey Bogart.
But Liza dreamed of making her mark as a dancer and achieved that when she made her off-Broadway debut in Best Foot Forward in 1963. She said: "All those stars were... the neighbours. I lived in a place where everybody's parents were famous.
"What I wanted to do was go to Broadway and stand on my own two feet. So off I went.
"I didn't think there was anything special about it.
"When my parents went to the studio, I went to school. The glitter, the glamour... I never saw any of that.
"Everybody worked so hard. I wanted to be a dancer. It was fun. I loved doing it. A good show was almost like a tennis game. There is no wall between you and the audience."
The veteran star has now reached retirement age but does she plan to give up? You must be joking.
Liza said: "I plan to carry on for as long as I can. Absolutely. Why not? I never stay out on tour for more than two-and-a-half weeks and then I go home again.
"I really enjoy it. I have such fun doing my shows.
"There will come a day when I am not doing this but I will do something."
Liza Minnelli plays the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on July 6.
For tickets, log on to www.seetickets.com or www.ticketmaster.co.uk or call 0871 220 0260.