An Interview with Liza Minnelli
On December 10, 2006 Liza Minnelli will play Mohegan Sun's 10,000 seat Arena. The concert follows an incredibly successful 10th anniversary celebration for Mohegan Sun. It is not Minnelli's first time performing at the Uncasville, CT casino, but it will be her debut in the Arena. For ticket holders, the sense of anticipation is palpable; there is no doubt that Liza's Back!
Ms. Minnelli's career is going on all cylinders. Liza with a Z, her 1972 concert directed by Bob Fosse, was released on DVD to great critical and commercial success. She recently re-teamed with her Stepping Out co-star, Bill Irwin, in an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which aired on Halloween. Minnelli makes a cameo appearance on My Chemical Romance's second album, The Black Parade, which sold 200,000 copies in the week following its October 24th release.
The triple-threat entertainer has been touring, non-stop, with two recent, successful, concert runs at the Luxor Casino Resort in Las Vegas. This past Sunday, Minnelli once again made history when she revived the tradition of the "Gypsy Show", a late night / early morning show for Las Vegas entertainers. The 1:00 a.m. show was free for members of the cast and crew of shows up and down the Las Vegas Strip.
When we spoke on the evening of November 30th Ms. Minnelli was strong, focused and excited about her new film project. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Liza Minnelli: Randy?
Randy Rice: Yes.
LM: Hi honey, it's Liza.
RR: Thank you very much for talking with me and doing another interview with BroadwayWorld.com. I am delighted to be speaking with you.
LM: It is my pleasure. Thank you for asking. I love BroadwayWorld.com.
RR: There was such a big buzz going into, and then after your "Gypsy Show" at the Luxor. "Gypsy" is a term that I hadn't really heard used for a late night show. Tell me why you decided to do this type of a show.
LM: A "Gypsy Run Through" is a run through for your peers. A "Gypsy Show" is something that Sammy [Davis Jr.] and I used to do in the '70s and '80s and it was, at that time a third show, for the kids on the Strip. It hadn't been done since then. Now, there are all of these new shows, the Cirque du Soleils, some wonderful magicians and a few celebrities, but [a Gypsy show] had never been heard of, there is no era there [in Las Vegas]. So I thought, "I think I will do this and find all of these new people and see if I can start up this tradition again."
RR: From the coverage and the buzz, it sounds like it went swell and that there was an incredible amount of goodwill generated.
LM: It felt that way too. I looked out there [in the audience] and there are all these great kids. It was great.
RR: This upcoming show at Mohegan Sun will be your first time playing the Arena, right?
LM: I have played Mohegan Sun. I like it a lot. I played the Cabaret, the small room.
RR: The Arena is a great big room. Your playing there reminds me of the first time I saw you in concert. It was in 1988, The Ultimate Event Tour with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. I was a teenager at the time. For me, it was a "moment". You create those "moments" every time you perform. How do you do it?
LM: I love what I do. I was, probably, bred into it. Both sides of my family go back to the circus in the 1700's. We go back to the theater on both sides. I guess it is partly that. I wanted to be an ice skater because I love moving to music. I saw movies being made all the time, and it was slow. For a kid it was kind of boring. When I saw a Broadway show, I saw Bye Bye Birdie and I thought "Oh, that is what I want to do."
RR: What do you expect to sing in your Mohegan Sun Concert?
LM: There are going to be all kinds of old things and all kinds of new things. I put back in something from Liza with A Z, which is the [Charles] Aznavour song the one about the married couple, ["You've Let Yourself Go"]. You find that as you get older you do things differently,Aznavour taught me that himself. He was a huge influence in my life. He said that as you grow, the song will change; you'll find a whole different point of view so that you never try to repeat what you did before, you are always moving forward.
RR: The DVD release of Liza with A Z was such a huge success. It has shown that there is a demand, a market, for your filmed concerts.
LM: I am going to film this new one with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Showtime. We are doing a show called The Godmother and the Goddaughter. It is about myself and my godmother, Kay Thompson. It will be a concert, a show with an audience, like Liza with a Z was and it will be filmed like that.
RR: I have seen you do "I Love a Violin". You had it in your concerts when The Cortes Alexander Trio was touring with you.
LM: He is working with me on this too. I got him back.So the guys [working on this] are Billy Stritch; Billy is doing all of the music. Billy is the head of the whole thing. My friend Michael Feinstein and Cortes Alexander, Jim Caruso and Johnny Rodgers, he is just wonderful. I love finding new talent. He is so good, wait 'til you see him.
RR: Tomorrow is December 1st: World AIDS Day. You are constantly raising money for AmFAR. I remember in '93 you sang "The Day After That" at the U.N. In March 2005 you sang "What Makes A Man A Man" when you got your GLAAD award.
LM: I just did ["What Makes A Man A Man"] at a fundraiser in L.A.
RR: How did you become such an advocate for the GLBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS?
LM: I saw what was happening and it was horrifying and I felt that [the disease] was misunderstood and that people living with HIV/AIDS needed help.
I invited Rock Hudson to a concert with Elizabeth Taylor. I hadn't seen him in a long time.When I saw him he looked different. I thought that he looked like just a couple of friends that I had seen lately in New York, who had this new disease. I said to Elizabeth,"There is something called AIDS, and I don't know, but I think Rock may have it. She said, "He looks ghastly, what is it?" I explained it to her as much as I knew She said, "We have to do something. She stood up and said (voice gets loud and angry), "This is out of the question that people are being treated like this."
RR: The two of you have raised so much money and so much awareness around the issue. I really admire your work on the issue.
LM: Thank you. Thank you so much.
RR: So there are two things that Liza Minnelli fans have waited a lifetime for, probably more than two, but let's say two things. One is a Christmas album. I mean, everyone, has a Christmas album.
LM: Oh yes. I know. Well, you know what's happening with the record companies because of the internet. I am producing the Kay Thompson album myself, with Showtime. I am not going to a record company. First of all, all of the Tower Records stores are closing. It is really tough. I am working so hard on this Kay [Thompson] show and my own show that I haven't really thought of [doing a Christmas Album].
RR: The other thing your fans have been waiting for is your autobiography.
LM: (scoffs) Oh please. No. You will find out everything you need to know about me in my show on Kay, because [those are] great memories of my times and my times with my parents.
RR: I look forward to it. Speaking of the internet, last week, I went to iTunes and downloaded My Chemical Romance's song "Mama". Tell me your reaction when they asked you to record for them.
LM: I immediately said, "Yes". I think they are wonderful. I mean, they take chances and they understand shock value, and yet, the music is good. Everyone is saying, "This is so different." They go for something completely different. That, I love about anybody.
RR: When I was listening to "Mama" for the first time, I couldn't figure out how your part would fit in, and then there it is; and then it is this cacophony of sound, but your part can be heard through it. It is crazy.
LM: It is like the mother's voice is trying to get through.
RR: Liza, thank you for your time. I look forward to seeing your concert at Mohegan Sun on December 10th.
LM: Thank you. I'll see you there.
1) Liza Minnelli at the premiere of Me, Eloise; by David Allocca/Starstrakphoto.com
2) Liza Minnelli, Michael Feinstein and Jim Caruso at Birdland; by Mark Rupp