On a recent rainy day in Manhattan, Ms. Minnelli, 66 years old, was dressed in a Geoffrey Beene Ultrasuede jacket over a black turtleneck and black slacks, adorned with Elsa Peretti jewelry and a Chanel quilted purse. With her signature coif, scarlet lips and sparkly diamond earrings, her iconic look was instantly recognizable to passersby.
When she took the stage recently for "The Talk"—the Los Angeles-based CBS CBSA +2.00%chat show that was filming in New York for the week—Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne and the rest of "The Talk" ladies couldn't hide their reverence for Ms. Minnelli's impressive career. They greeted her wearing Liza Minnelli-style wigs.
"It was hysterical," Ms. Minnelli said after the show. "That was so much fun. Their energy level is so high and they're so revved up."
Settling in at the tea lounge inside the Plaza Athenee on the Upper East Side, Ms. Minnelli sipped English Breakfast with milk and nibbled on tea sandwiches and scones while chatting about her new live album, "Liza Minnelli Live at the Winter Garden."
The album was recorded at the venue during her month-long run of performances in 1974, when she was 27 years old. The show was a collaboration of Ms. Minnelli's all-star team: It was written by Fred Ebb and John Kander, choreographed by Bob Fosse and Ron Lewis and featured costumes by Halston. The live recording wasn't released at the time due to a conflict with the soundtrack for the film version of "Cabaret," for which Ms. Minnelli famously won an Oscar for her turn as Sally Bowles.
Ms. Minnelli is one of a handful of entertainers who has won all four of the big American entertainment awards: the Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony. In addition, she's been recognized internationally with prestigious awards like France's Légion d'Honneur, for which she was elevated to the rank of Officier last year. As the child of Hollywood golden girl Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli ("Meet Me in St. Louis," "Gigi") she was born to be a star, so much so that when her mother thought to name her "Liza Minnelli" she said it would look great on a marquee. Ms. Minnelli said her parents were instrumental in nurturing her talent—with her realistic mother providing her drive and her fanciful father encouraging her dreams—yet is quick to point out that she paid her dues just like everyone else.
"I learned from moving scenery to making paper flowers for 'The Chocolate Soldier' in stock. I did lots of stock, I learned everything about it because it fascinated me," she said, adding that this necessary step tends to be lacking in today's climate of create-a-star reality shows. "They become an instant star. They go and put them in the starring position, if that doesn't work out they'll put them in second place and they'll carry them for a year, two years, and then they're on their own broom so to speak."
Ms. Minnelli enjoys many of today's top performers, including Lady Gaga, Madonna and Beyoncé—whom she famously paid tribute to in "Sex and the City 2" with her own rendition of "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)."
When asked if she feels the press has been particularly hard on her throughout the years—during her life's struggles, such as addiction and failed marriages—she relayed an anecdote from her time living in London as a child with her mother.
"I went to school and they were saying mean things about her: 'She's fat'; 'My father says she gets drunk' and so on," she remembered. "And I came home and I started crying and mom said, 'You know something, they're going to say what they're going to say. Let them say what they're going to say, and you and I are going to go get a hamburger.'"
She appreciates how precious life is, especially after being diagnosed with brain encephalitis (a potentially fatal swelling of the brain) in 2000 and being informed by doctors that she would never walk or talk again.
"I got really frightened and I could hear my father's voice: 'Think about it.' So I thought, well, I don't know how to do anything else. I started to count the lines in the hospital on the wall as far as I could just to learn to speak again. Every waking minute I was doing that and pretty soon I could talk," said Ms. Minnelli, who was walking within a year. "And now I have 16 pins in my leg. They're so big, I mean it looks like nails and a plate, but I'm rehearsing every day. Just keep working it. It's perseverance and humor, that's what I believe."
Up next for Ms. Minnelli is a 14-stop tour for her last studio album, 2010's "Confessions," that kicks off in June in London and includes performances in Montreal, Rio, Santiago, Los Angeles and Niagara Falls.
She doesn't limit herself in her creative endeavors, taking on surprising projects, such as recording with emo-punk outfit My Chemical Romance and appearing on the cult TV comedy "Arrested Development."
"Just keep not taking yourself too seriously," she said of her own approach to life. "And just remember to go get a hamburger."
A version of this article appeared May 29, 2012, on page A20 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Tea and Burgers: Chatting With Liza.