Liza with a Z and Me
In late 1992 I found out that Liza Minnelli would be performing at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Liza had played many big venues, and Radio City was another dream realized.
I'd first met Liza as a little girl at her mother 's Hollywood home in 1959. I was three at the time and Liza's mother, Judy Garland, was a big star having made many films including the Wizard of Oz.
My mom and dad were friends with Judy and her husband Sid Luft. It wasn't uncommon for them to be invited to their home for parties. With Dad's career in show business, they attended many a star studded affair. But this particular party was Liza's little brother Joey's birthday. So I got to tag along. I was only three yet I remember bits of the day. According to Mama, Liza was very taken with me. I spent a good deal of the party on her lap while she fed me cake. Liza was 10 years my senior, and developing her singing career.
Liza May Minnelli was born in Los Angeles on March 12, 1946 to Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli. She has a maternal half sister, Lorna Luft and a paternal half brother Joey. She also has another paternal half sister from her father's second marriage.
Liza started young in film and theater. By 19, she’d made her professional nightclub debut as a singer. Liza made several films, winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best actress in a leading role for Cabaret. She also won four Tony Awards and an Emmy.
The first time I really remember meeting Liza was on the set of the Otto Preminger film, "Tell Me that You Love Me Junie Moon.” My dad was Mr. Preminger's First Assistant Director. I was 13 at the time and as always a welcome guest on the set. The film was shot it Salem, Massachusetts; Naples, Florida; San Diego; Sequoia National Park and on Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, which is where I visited. Dad reminded Liza of our visit on Joey's birthday. She remembered and was genuinely sweet and warm to me. We spent time in her trailer, and later she bought me an ice cream cone, saying, "Well I better keep up my reputation giving you sweets!"
Liza is a warm, talented and smart lady. And, as all of us, had her demons. She dearly loved her "mama" and spoke of her often. Over the years, I felt concern for her when I read that she was going through a divorce or having issues with drugs and alcohol. I prayed she wouldn't end up down the same path as her sweet mom, dying of an accidental overdose of barbiturates.
Liza was married four times: first to Peter Allen, then to Jack Haley Jr., then to Mark Gero and finally to David Gest, who she divorced in 2007.
By November 1992. It had been more 20 years since I had seen Liza. I was elated to hear she would be playing Radio City. That was a big deal for any performer. It was truly a sign that "You had Arrived" --Come into stardom. And indeed she had.
My ex and I had wonderful seats - about eight rows back, center orchestra. I came prepared with two dozen long stemmed red roses and a note reminding her who I was and congratulating her on her performance.
There was a fall chill in the air as we arrived 30 minutes early to Radio City. We toasted to a great show with a glass of wine and walked down to our fabulous seats. The orchestra was playing a soft montage of Liza's hits as the chandeliers twinkled above us.
I carefully grabbed the attention of one of the security guards. I asked him to take the note and the roses to Liza's dressing room. He agreed.
And then the clock stuck 8. Showtime. Curtains up...and there was Miss Liza looking fabulous and so very animated. You could tell she was very excited to be performing in the historic theater. She started her set with "Teach Me Tonight", continuing with "Old Friends", "Sara Lee", "Stepping Out", and many more. She ended, of course, with her signature song, New York, New York. And boy did she belt it out! A standing ovation ensued. In fact, if you look on YouTube, she had an album made called "Liza Live from Radio City Music Hall".
About 30 minutes into the show, the security guard came back to see me. He knelt down and whispered that Liza would love to see us in her dressing room after the show. I was elated! It had been way too long and major congratulations were in order.
Right as the show ended, the guard escorted us to the backstage door. There were many fans outside trying to get in. We slid in quickly as security locked the door behind us.
There were eight or nine people waiting for Liza to come out- family and friends that I didn't recognize. And KD Lang. KD was quite famous at the time. She had just released her big hit, "Constant Craving".
Sparkling water, fresh fruit and a cheese tray were laid out on a table along with several bouquets of flowers, mine prominently displayed.
We waited a good 40 minutes for Liza. When she finally entered, everyone cheered and applauded. She was freshly showered and wore a fuzzy bathrobe and slippers. The first person she greeted was KD. They hugged for what seemed to be forever. It was evident they were very close friends. She said a few other hellos then came over to me. "Remind me again how we know each other, darling", she asked. I went over to the roses, took the note and handed it to her. "Oh wow", she exclaimed. It has been a long time! I reminded her of our last meeting on "Junie Moon". She smiled and asked about my dad. "He passed away 11 years ago, Liza" , I said. "And I miss him everyday". She was saddened to hear it and gave me a big hug. "He was a great guy. I'm so sorry. We never really get over losing our parents, do we?” A look of sadness crossed her face. "I'm tickled you came to see me. Did you like the show?, she asked. Like it?! I loved it! And I'm so happy for you. She gave me another hug, wished me well and excused herself to go and greet the others. We stayed another 20 minutes or so, then waved goodbye and left.
It was a special night not only for Liza, but for me. On the drive home I reminisced of my years in Hollywood and how very fortunate I had been.