Liza Minnelli Reveals Intimate Details On NJPAC Performance, 'Hot In Cleveland' Role And Judy Garland
She's captivated standing-room-only audiences across the globe, nabbed an Oscar for her role in a celebrated Hollywood musical and held court amongst New York's famed glitterati at Studio 54.
However, one week before she is set to take the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) on Feb. 4, Liza Minnelli has something considerably less glamorous on her agenda: a visit to the dentist.
Calling just minutes following her appointment, Minnelli apologizes in advance if she is difficult to understand over the telephone. Of course, something as minor as dental anesthetics would never be able to numb this ever-shining star; after all, it's Minnelli's well-established survival skills -- not to mention her unique brand of wide-eyed, precocious spunk -- that helped make her a gay icon for multiple generations, with a legacy rivaling only her legendary (and similarly tenacious) mother, Judy Garland.
Busy as ever, the 65-year-old singer-actress who Joy Behar once jokingly introduced as having "entertained more gay men than Larry Craig" will be whisked off to rehearsal shortly after the phone call. Still, she speaks enthusiastically and at length about her highly-anticipated NJPAC performance as well as her forthcoming guest-starring turn opposite Betty White on the hit series "Hot In Cleveland," while sharing memories of working with famed Broadway and film choreographer Bob Fosse and, of course, the beloved Judy.
HuffPost Gay Voices: Congratulations on your upcoming NJPAC performance. What sorts of surprises do you have in store for us?
Liza Minnelli: My show is called "Confessions," and it's really a collection of various songs about how I feel about different things, what I believe in, people I've known -- some of whom nobody would ever know. "Confessions" is really all these different points of view; it's something I learned from [Armenian-French singer-songwriter] Charles Aznavour when I was 19. I saw him perform in Paris, and his show just killed me because each one of his songs was like a movie.
I knew I could dance and I knew I could act, but I never thought I could sing, so I went to Aznavour in Paris and I asked if I could be his student, and he said, "Sure." And he really taught me everything I know about singing -- how each song is a different movie.
You've also signed on for an episode of "Hot In Cleveland," set to air later this season. What's your character going to be like?
They haven't told me a thing! I'll be out there Feb. 12, so I'll just see what they tell me and I'll do it, kind of like what I did with "Arrested Development" -- everybody was just so excellent on that show; I just respected everybody on that set so much. Of course having the chance to do anything with Betty White is great.
Two living legends, united on the small screen...
What the hell is a "living legend"? (laughs)
Well, in my opinion, a living legend is someone whose work and career are immensely respected across multiple generations and in various industries.
Well, thank you -- I guess as long as it's a living one, it's OK! (laughs) But I always think of myself as a gypsy, a Broadway performer who travels from show to show.
You're one of the few entertainers who has won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Grammy, not to mention four Tony Awards. Is there anything you're dying to do, either personally or professionally, that you haven't already?
I won't know until it happens -- that's it. I love it because things just come up! I rarely plan anything unless it's a tour or a show I'm working on, and in the meantime, all of these mad, wonderful things have happened, like My Chemical Romance calling me up and asking me to sing with them.
2012 marks 40 years since the release of "Cabaret," for which you won the Academy Award. What comes to mind when you look back on that film?
Bob Fosse. And just how extraordinary it all was. Bob took immense risks in terms of how he depicted sensuality in the choreography, the photography. It was so fun. We were away in Germany and we were doing this kind of outrageous, wonderful film. We wanted to make a musical about Nazis, so we could really kind of do anything we wanted. And our cinematographer, Geoffrey Unsworth, was just so great. At one point they sent him a letter that said there was too much smoke in the cabaret...Bob took the letter from him and tore it up.
What Bob did was just extraordinary. I came on before Bob, as you know...[his work] really reminded me so much of a film called "The Damned," which was just so dark and wonderful and bizarre. I remember seeing that film with my dad [director Vincente Minnelli], who was always there for me. He helped me so much all of the time.
Your mother, Judy Garland, remains one of most fascinating stars in Hollywood history. Even though there's been a tremendous amount of research into her work and analysis of her life, what do you think is the biggest misconception audiences still have about her?
The biggest misconception people have about my mother is that she was so unhappy. I think people enjoy thinking that -- some of them, anyway. They see the tragedy as opposed to the fact that she understood how to play tragedy.
I remember somebody at school once said something really mean about her: "Oh, Judy does too much of this or that, she drinks too much." And I came home from school crying; my mother asked me what was wrong and I told her. And then she said, "You know what? You let everybody say what they're gonna say, and we'll go get a hamburger."
Liza Minnelli performs at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Feb. 4. For more information click here.
Check out some of Liza's best moments over the years below: