What Is Going On With Liza Minnelli? Longtime Collaborator Opens Up About Her Health
Ahead of a rare live performance, Michael Feinstein says Minnelli is neither sick, nor dying and not addicted to pills: "She’s always obediently followed the directive of her managers and agents — and she’s tired of it."
Liza Minnelli has largely withdrawn from public view in recent years, leading to tabloid speculation about declining health — headlines that have dogged her for much of her life and career.
But the 72-year-old showgal — the daughter of Judy Garland and An American in Paris director Vincente Minnelli — is stepping back into the spotlight for an intimate evening of songs and conversation with longtime confidante and musical collaborator Michael Feinstein, scheduled for Saturday at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, California.
The same event was originally supposed to take place in Las Vegas on March 30, but four days prior to the performance an email went out informing ticket holders that the show was being canceled because "Ms. Minnelli is suffering from an extreme viral infection," fueling even more speculation.
Fear not: According to Feinstein, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter, Minnelli is feeling fine. She's sober. She's happy. She's partying with Darren Criss. And most importantly — she's doing whatever she damn well pleases.
This show was originally scheduled for Las Vegas in March, but was called off at the last minute. What happened?
The concert in Vegas was canceled because Liza had to go into the hospital for a couple of days. She felt so bad about it, because she’s very mindful of her reputation. Especially these days where she doesn’t appear very often. She wanted so much to be there, but things happen.
And how is her health?
She’s feeling very good now and we both are very excited about this show because it will be the first time that she’s done anything where she’s appeared in a casual setting, singing songs extemporaneously and taking questions from the audience.
What will she sing?
What she said the other day is that she wants to do what she calls her "chair songs." She always does a segment in her show where she sits in this director’s chair and does these acting pieces like material by Charles Aznavour, which are acting pieces that are lyrically driven, like "You’ve Let Yourself Go," "What Makes a Man a Man." In addition to some of her standards or chestnuts.
Yes, of course. She will not disappoint her audience.
This is her first live performance in a long while. Has it gotten too exhausting?
It’s not that it’s too exhausting. It’s that she’s done it for 60 years and she’s at a point now where she’s actually taking time to relax and enjoy her life. She moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago and she’s decided that she wants to have some fun. She’s always obediently followed the directive of her managers and agents and she’s tired of it. She’s been sober for many years and she’s been taking stock in her life. Her priorities are different. She says, "I wake up every morning and I think, ‘What do I have to do today? Nothing.'"
Does she enjoy living in Los Angeles?
For years she told me that she’d never move back. But her life has changed to a point where all the ghosts that used to bother her about being here have dissipated. From the moment I met her she seemed like the quintessential New Yorker in the way she lived. But she loves the gentler lifestyle in L.A. and a lot of her friends are here.
Who is in her squad these days?
She’s close to Michelle Lee and she’s close to George Hamilton. Marisa Berenson’s daughter had a baby, so Marisa — who did Cabaret with Liza — comes to California from Paris quite often. They’ll see each other whenever she’s here. Michael York, also from Cabaret, she loves him. Recently we had a little party and I introduced Liza to Darren Criss and his fiancee Mia Swier, because Darren is a big Liza fan. They kind of fell in love with each other, so I think Darren will become part of the parties that we have where we have music and just kind of hang out. It’s a lot of fun.
She made a rare statement on Facebook distancing herself from the new movie Judy, starring Renee Zellweger as her legendary mother Judy Garland. Has she spoken to you about that at all?
She has talked about it. The important thing to note is that was a specific response to an article Radar Online printed. Radar Online has for years printed stories that she’s dying. But they published another story that said she spent several hours on the phone with Renee Zellweger and is coaching her on how to play her mother and they fell in love with each other and happy she is with the movie. Which is total fiction. And even though Liza’s policy has been to ignore stuff like that, it really irritated her that Radar and other publications have gotten so ballsy about quoting things that she never said. TMZ quoted something about Lady Gaga that she never said. She loves Lady Gaga, but it just happened that she never said what they quoted about A Star Is Born. She wanted to respond because otherwise that fictitious Radar article would have been repeated and published all over the globe. So that’s why she made that statement. Because she’s never met Renee Zellweger.
But it doesn't sound like she wants this movie to exist at all.
She’s not happy about it because the producer said it was going to be in the same vein as this play that was on Broadway a few years ago that was horrifying, because it was this fictitious imagining of Judy Garland’s last days on earth with all of this bullshit dialogue that was created. There were tragic aspects to her mother’s life, no question. But her mother also lived very joyously. People never emphasize those things. So it’s a no-win as the daughter of Judy Garland to see something like that happen. As she put it, "The greatest tribute to my mother is to watch her own movies, not a film about her. No one can sing like Mama!"
What about an authorized Broadway musical based on her own life? There’s already been ones about her ex-husband Peter Allen — The Boy From Oz starring Hugh Jackman — and this year brings ones about Cher and Donna Summer.
She would never authorize that. She said to me, "Michael, you can say anything you want about me after I’m dead." She tells me lots of stories about her that are confidential. People are constantly portraying her in shows around the world and it’s very painful for her. She doesn’t want to see somebody do her. She says, "Honey, not when I’m alive and can still do it."