WINNER OF FOUR TONY AWARDS, AN OSCAR, A GRAMMY, TWO GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS AND AN EMMY, LIZA MINNELLI IS A SHOWBIZ LEGEND. SHE TALKS TO CARY GEE ABOUT HER RETURN TO THE UK STAGE, LADY GAGA, AND WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE A GAY ICON
Last summer, Liza Minnelli was forced to cancel her only scheduled UK appearance on the advice of doctors, leaving many of her British fans fearing that they may never get to see this living, breathing, all-singing, all-dancing icon in the flesh. Imagine the excitement, then, upon hearing that Minnelli, now 70, plans to return to these shores later this year, for a series of “intimate” performances, beginning at her London “home”, the London Palladium, on 20 September. Fittingly it was at this same theatre that a then 18-year-old Minnelli appeared alongside her mother, Judy Garland, in a now legendary concert, in 1964.
An Intimate Evening With Liza Minnelli will adopt the format of “An Audience With…” Minnelli will discuss her life onstage, invite questions from the audience, and sing the songs that have made her an undisputed star. The evening will culminate with Minnelli’s induction into the Palladium’s Hall of Fame.
I tracked Liza down in LA, which in itself proved no mean feat, to ask this living legend how she is, and why has she decided to return to London now?
You’d think that having performed with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr to Donna Summer and Michael Jackson there was no one left on whom Minnelli is still awaiting a call. You’d be wrong. Like her good friend Tony Bennett — is there anyone in Hollywood Liza is not friends with? — Minnelli is still hoping for a call from Lady Gaga.
“I love Gaga. She is so determined and I love that she has chosen to look the way she does. And what a voice!”
I dare to ask how Minnelli’s own voice is right now.
“My voice is good, I think. It’s up to you to come and hear me sing and decide for yourself. But I think I sound good.”
So can we expect any full concert dates in the future?
“Yes. After London we’re going to Biloxi, Mississippi,” she says and once again Liza laughs her head off.
What’s wrong with Biloxi?
“Not a damn thing. It’s just a private joke. Have you been? Biloxi is a long way from London!”
Despite, or perhaps because of being born into Hollywood royalty, Minnelli’s life, like her mother’s before her, has been beset with difficulties. Addictions, ill health and personal calamities which included marriage to a gay husband (Garland’s protégé Peter Allen, in case you were wondering) have all been overcome with resilience and candour. Does she have any advice for anyone struggling to get “from cradle to tomb” without “too much pills and liquor”?
“Well, the advice I’d give is to thine own self be true,” she says. “It’s certainly how I’ve always tried to live my life.”
Is there a particular song that sums up Liza’s life, one song that means more to her than all the others?
“Oh gosh, there are so many, but I’d have to choose I Love a Violin.”
Suddenly Liza bursts into song. It’s a slightly surreal moment, being sung to privately by Liza Minnelli.
“The song was written and performed by my godmother, Kay Thompson, and is very special.” And I can confirm that Liza’s voice does, indeed, still sound spectacular.