MEDIA 2009


Sydney Morning Herald
6 June, 2009

IT'S A sunny spring day in New York, perhaps too warm to wear a suit, but if Liza Minnelli sends an invitation for lunch, it's appropriate to make an effort. That effort, it turns out, will be reciprocated.

Let's be straight. Minnelli comes with some reputation. Never mind she's the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minelli, or one of the finest performers of her generation, or even an Academy Award-winning actress for her role in Cabaret. She has also been described as incoherent, incorrigible and often incredibly late - but not today.

If I'm 15 minutes early, Minnelli is more punctual - already standing on the footpath outside the Upper East Side restaurant where we'd agreed to meet. She's dressed in a red blouse and black pants, smoking a cigarette, and waiting. On past form, the next few seconds could go either way.

"Honey!" she squeals, adding a hug, when asked if she is, indeed, my on-time lunch date. "Can you take my arm and help me down the stairs?" Minnelli, we can report, against many odds, is well and good.

As lives go, hers has been equal part cabaret, horror movie and sit-com. There have been artistic triumphs, personal failures, battles with addiction, bizarre and disastrous marriages. Yet her latest comeback may prompt her greatest standing ovation of all.

Incapacitated in 2000 by viral encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, Minnelli could neither walk nor talk. Her doctor said recovery was unlikely. "If I could have spoken at that moment, I would have said 'bullshit,"' Minnelli recalls, sipping on iced tea.

"But all I could think of at the time was 'nah … that's wrong'. "When facing a problem, my dad always said to me, 'Do what you think.' I couldn't walk and I couldn't talk and I didn't know how to do anything. I thought, 'Oh, rats, now I really have to think.'

"But a voice said, 'You know how to rehearse.' So I said the alphabet to myself, then I would count, until it came back. Then I went back to dance class, which really helped me. That's why I love dancing so much. It not only makes me happy, it makes me healthy."

Aged 63, Minnelli will visit Australia in October for the first time since 1989. A five-city tour has already led to two shows at the Sydney Opera House selling out, reportedly crashing the venue's online booking system.

"Who sold out the Opera House?" Minnelli asks, appearing shocked when told the news. "I did? I did it twice? There's a third show? That's wonderful!"

Where, then, have you been for 20 years?

"Working," she says. "Really. For 20 years, I never stopped working. Don't ask me why I didn't go to Australia. It looks like the reason is none of these booking agents called and asked me."

Minnelli may not visit often but she has a long relationship with Australia or, at least, Australians. It hasn't always gone so well. In 1967, she married Peter Allen, who had been discovered by Garland's fourth husband, Mark Herron. Minnelli and Allen divorced seven years later with the Australian performer subsequently coming out as gay. The two remained friends until Allen's death in 1992.

Perhaps fittingly, Allen's story was adapted as a musical, The Boy From Oz, which played on Broadway starring Hugh Jackman. Did Jackman make a good Allen?

"I have no idea," Minnelli responds flatly. "I didn't see it."

Surely she did - but no.

"I was married to Peter Allen, so I don't want to see somebody else do it," she explains. "I like Hugh Jackman but Fred Ebb, who wrote Cabaret, called me up one day and said, 'I will throw myself in front of the door before I let you go into that theatre. They got it all wrong!' "

Minnelli claims she had no contact with anyone connected with the production about the project. It is, she says, not just disappointing but personal.

"Imagine doing a show about you, or your dad, and somebody else he loved in his life and they never spoke to you about it," she says. "How would you feel? It is kind of bizarre. But I think, mostly, it is rude."

Minnelli remains popular with gay audiences ("They have good taste," she says) but has had difficulties off stage in relationships with other men. This was rawly exposed by her 2002 marriage to David Gest, a flamboyant concert promoter. They married six months after being introduced by singer Michael Jackson but divorced 18 months later.

Minnelli whispers that she's unable to discuss that relationship after a settlement but court documents reveal a dramatic implosion with Gest claiming $10 million in damages from Minnelli, accusing her of alcoholism and violence.

At the time, Minnelli said the lawsuit was "hurtful" and "without merit", counter-claiming that Gest stole money from her. The case was settled with a "no-fault divorce" ruling.

What, then, has she learned from men?

"Me?" she squeals. "With my record? I am the last person you should be asking that!"

She laughs.

"What have I learned? To never get married again!"


"Oh, boy! You call me up and you smack me over the head with a newspaper if you hear I'm going to again. Come kidnap me! No, that's it. All right, already! Also, it's wonderful these days - nobody gets married. At 63 years old, what am I going to do?"

Well, there must be plenty of eligible men out there?

"Yeah, I know there is," she says, indefatigable. "I didn't say anything about men not being out there. I just said I'm not signing anything."

Give her an afternoon and Minnelli will tell stories all day. When your mother is Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz, and your father is a famous director (An American In Paris, Gigi), your life's cast is peppered with family friends who read like a credit list: Ira Gershwin (her godfather), Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Noel Coward, Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire.

"They were the neighbours," she says, waving away raised eyebrows. "Think of a coalmining town where everyone goes to work at the coalmine. That was the studio town. We all grew up together, all the kids."

Minnelli speaks just as casually of those who offered advice when she was growing up or, later, as her own career took off. She talks about Marilyn Monroe and Charles Aznavour as if they could drop in at our restaurant table at any time.

"Marilyn said, 'Let's go for a walk,"' she recalls of an afternoon 50 years earlier. "She took the scarf off her head, thrust her shoulders back, tossed her hair and the world was looking at her. We were surrounded in three minutes."

And another: "[Charles] Aznavour taught me to walk around the streets and see what happens. You can't sing about life unless you have a life. So go out and look and you will find something interesting."

Under a spotlight all her life, Minnelli has empathy with the current generation of celebrities, some famous for just being famous and others threatening to come off their own thin rails.

"I respect the people with talent," Minnelli says. "I really do. Britney Spears is a talented girl. She really is. She's gone through a rough time but she's going to be OK. Same with Lindsay [Lohan]. She's a good actress. I have not seen Paris [Hilton] in anything, so it's hard to say but she seems like a nice enough girl. Thomas Wolfe [the American author of Look Homeward, Angel] said, 'Men say that they will live for art alone when in fact they live for fashion.' "

She adds cryptically: "It comes and goes."

Minnelli has proved herself a comeback queen. Just when she seems written off she will - literally - get out of a wheelchair to add a few pages to her story. Brilliantly, she followed her marriage to Gest with a role in Arrested Development - a quirky TV sit-com about a dysfunctional family - playing a socialite. There's a movie adaptation in the works and Minnelli hints she would jump at reprising her character.

"It was hilarious," she says. "For a change I was a fall-down slapstick comic. People who know me knew that I'm like that but the audience didn't. It was great for people to come up to me and say, 'You're funny.' Gee, thanks!"

Yet after so many years and facing yet another tour, even if it is somewhere unvisited for 20 years, what could now possibly motivate Minnelli? Doesn't she want to just stay home and watch TV? The answer is sometimes, yes, but the stage is also in her blood.

"I find the one person in the audience who has never seen me and I do the whole show for that person," she explains. "People pay good money, their money, to come and see me do what I do. So it has to be the first time I ever did it every time. You cannot get blasé about it.

"There's always someone out there in the audience who has gone through what I sing about so you have made a friend immediately. You can say, 'I know how you feel.' That keeps everything fresh."

She pauses to sip her iced tea.

"I have a good life. I've never known anything different but you can only be about now. There's nothing you can do about before. And, so what? People have gone through worse. So much worse. I am very, very lucky. Oh, my God, I appreciate what I have. You have no idea."

Liza Minelli performs at the Sydney Opera House on October 16-17. Liza With A Z screens Monday as part of the Sydney Film Festival;

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A legend called Liza

Written by Peter Hackney
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

No one has endured the gauntlet of scrutiny and controversy more than Liza Minelli. But still, she has always managed to come out on top. Ahead of her Australian tour, the living legend speaks about her life, career and what keeps her going.

A byword for Broadway, a synonym for ‘star’, Liza Minnelli is Hollywood royalty. An Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy – all hers. Throw in three Tonys and two Golden Globes.

Her personal life is no less compelling. From disastrous marriages to successful affairs, from booze to pills to health problems – she’s always been her mother’s daughter. Judy Garland’s daughter. Dorothy’s daughter.

How surreal to be speaking to the woman herself. I tell her as much when she calls SX from New York.

“But don’t be silly!” she replies in her distinctive voice. “I’m just a person like everyone else. I’ve had two hip replacements, honey!”

The response is pure Liza. Like her mother, she’s always seemed very human and vulnerable. Another example: the nerves she exhibits. The morning of our chat coincides with the ticket release for her tour – and Liza is nothing if not nervous.

“Well, of course I’m nervous!” she says, when I express my surprise. “I get very nervous before tickets go on sale because I want people to come and see the show! Every time is like putting myself on the line.”

She has nothing to worry about, of course. Tales subsequently emerge of ticketing sites going into meltdown. In Sydney, demand was so great that her two Opera House shows are supplemented with an extra date at the much larger Sydney Entertainment Centre.

The show itself is based on her recent New York engagement, Liza’s At The Palace – the Broadway run of which provoked ecstatic reviews from The New York Times (“Liza is a pure entertainer”) and The New York Post (“A triumph of which show business mythology is made”).

“I’ve got the best show I’ve ever done in store for you!” she promises. “I’m gonna work my butt off and give you everything I’ve got!”

And I, for one, believe her.

This is a woman who was told she’d never walk again after contracting viral encephalitis in the year 2000. She had to learn to talk again, let alone sing.

At several points, she was reported close to death and media outlets the world over readied obituaries.

And today? Forget walking and talking, she’s singing and dancing like a mad woman, getting some of the best reviews of her career.

So what got her through?

“Faith,” she replies. “I had faith. Faith in myself, faith in God, faith in the people taking care of me, faith in my fans. There was no great plan, I just had faith.”

And so Australia gets to see Liza’s Lazarus-like ‘second wind’ when Liza Minnelli in Concert begins in Sydney on October 16 and visits Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne, before winding up in Brisbane.

It marks Minnelli’s first visit to these shores since 1989, when she toured Australia with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr in The Ultimate Event.

“It’s been looong time,” Liza concedes. “And you know what? I don’t know why! I love Australia and Australians!”

Of course she does. She spent seven years married to one of us – one of our own famous stars, the late Peter Allen.

“He was just the best,” Liza recalls. “Absolutely the best. He wrote the best songs, he was so sensational. He was the kindest man you’d ever want to meet. And I was so lucky to get to know him.”

There was just one problem. Peter Allen was gay.

It’s been variously reported over the years that Liza knew this when she married him, but the Cabaret star categorically denies it when asked by SX.

“Why would you ask that, honey?” she says, just a trifle testily. “I didn’t know. No, of course I didn’t know! And I don’t think he knew either. He hadn’t come to terms with it yet. And when he did, of course he told me and of course I said, ‘I understand’. But it was hard.”

Liza is less understanding, however, of The Boy From Oz, the jukebox musical based on Allen’s life, which played to 1.2 million Australians in the late ’90s before moving to Broadway starring Hugh Jackman as Allen.

Liza was one of the main characters portrayed in the musical, as was her mother.

“I didn’t see it,” Liza replies airily, when I ask her opinion of it.

“I didn’t feel the need to,” she says, when pressed for a reason.

And then there’s a pause, followed by: “I had no need to see it, I lived it. I was there the first time. And nobody asked me anything about it; nobody could ask Peter anything. It was absolutely done without input from the people who were there.”

It should be noted that she says none of this with rancour. The words are delivered casually, almost sweetly.

Nor is she rancorous when asked about the image portrayed of her in some sections of the media; that of an out-of-control, drug-fuelled virago with a loose grasp on reality, to put it bluntly.

“I’m not a mess,” she maintains. “If I was a mess, there’s no way I could perform night after night, like I do. I’m one of the most disciplined people I know! But you know what? I don’t care what people say. They’re gonna say what they’re gonna say.”

Strong words, but again delivered sweetly, even pleasantly.

And again it strikes me that there’s nothing rancorous about Liza, nothing bitter.

Despite the well-documented heartaches, the very public relationship breakdowns, the near-death experiences, the drug addictions (Andy Warhol once recalled her demanding “every drug you’ve got”), and the mantle of tragedy surrounding her upbringing, Minnelli consciously chooses to focus on the good times.

The woman who once said “reality is something you rise above” seems to live by the words.

“Life is here to enjoy,” she tells me. “It’s a gift we’ve been given. There’s just no point dwelling on the bad times.”

Life is a cabaret, old chum?

“Yeah, that’s it,” she laughs.

And she sings in that unmistakable voice, loud and clear, quavering only so slightly with its 63 years.

“Life is a cabaret, old chum / Only a cabaret old chum / And I love a cab-aar-reeeeet!”

Liza: Australian Tour 2009, October 16-17, Sydney Opera House (both sold out); November 2, Sydney Entertainment Centre. Tickets from $99 from

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The Daily News
16 May, 2009

The New York Post described her as a triumph and a true legend and the Times said she was a pure entertainer.

Now, Liza Minnelli is about to bring the show that inspired such glowing reviews to Australia.

She is the ultimate diva, the mistress of showbiz, and her fans all around the world worship her in an almost god-like way.

She hasn't graced Australian shores for two decades but her upcoming tour is one of the most anticipated and eagerly awaited, by both her fans and Liza herself.

“Oh I can't wait. I really can't wait,” she said by phone last week.

“I can't wait to get there and I am so excited and I will give my all. I have wanted to come back and I am so excited to bring you this show that I just did on Broadway.”

The daughter of legendary showbiz couple Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, Liza practically has Hollywood coursing through her veins. She is one of the most awarded performers alive with a swag of Tonys, Grammys, Golden Globes, Emmys and Oscars to her name, and she has just added a fourth Tony nomination to the list for Liza's At The Palace - a version of which she will bring to Australia.

“If I go to see a show, I want it to be wonderful, so I always think from the audience's point of view… you know, if I was sitting there what would I like to come next. What would be good,” she said.

“What I have tried to do is put in songs that people have requested and songs that I like to sing.”

But with a career spanning 50 years, what does the acclaimed performer like to sing?

“There's so many songs that I have been lucky enough to have written for me, like As The World Goes Round, Maybe This Time, Cabaret and New York New York … they are such fun to sing,” she said

The world almost lost this incredible talent in February, 2000, when Liza was diagnosed with encephalitis and was told she would never walk, talk, dance or sing again. But the draw to the stage proved stronger than the illness and, just two years later, she was back on the stage and she has never looked back - making her one of the most enduring performers alive.

It is the time she has spent in showbiz that Liza attributes to her continued popularity.

“It might just be longevity,” she said.

“I have been doing it for so long and I still love it. I think that people understand that when they come to see my show. I give my best every single night.”

And it is clear her Australian fans understand that with her shows at the Sydney Opera House selling out quickly.

Liza promises to make the evening a very special experience for all those who go along.

“This show is really fun. It was directed by a brilliant man,” she said.

“It is interesting, too. It's not just a bunch of songs … each piece is like an acting piece.”

Liza Minnelli will perform at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Friday, October 30. Tickets start at $99 for sapphire reserve seating and go up to $279 for the best seats in the house. Tickets are available through Ticketek at
or on 132849.

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Liza Minnelli is a web crash hit in Sydney

The Daily Telegraph
30 April, 2009

WE'RE sure it has absolutely nothing to do with Sydney being the gay capital of the nation but interest in pre-sales for Liza Minnelli's Sydney concert tour crashed the Sydney Opera House's website yesterday.

The site went down at midday, with interest in the two Sydney shows - on October 16 and 17 - so great it took tech staff hours to get the site up and running again.

Minnelli, the daughter of legendary singer and movie star Judy Garland, will be accompanied by her 12-piece orchestra when she tours.

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