That time I interviewed Liza
A STAR IS REBON: The resilient Liza says she's now addicted to health and happiness
By DANIEL KUSNER | Life+Style Editor
As she races to the airport, Liza Minnelli has only five minutes for a phone interview.
That's not enough time for someone who's involved in so many lurid, headline-grabbing scandals.
What about the bitter divorce from estranged husband David Gest?
Since they're battling it out in court — last month, a New York judge chided them for their "whiny" behavior — Liza can't comment on it.
Nor can Liza discuss the recent sexual harassment allegations (and $50 million lawsuit) made by former bodyguard M'hammed Soumayah.
And what about in December 2004?
When Liza was raced to the hospital after falling out of bed?
First and foremost, Liza is a showbiz legend.
When it comes to probing interviews, she usually pivots her answers to reflect a 59-year-old entertainer who hasn't lost her sparkle.
With that in mind, I drafted questions that might draw out how she manages to keep working. Because it's a miracle she's alive.
Four years ago, Liza was struck down by a brain disease and could neither walk nor talk.
On top of that, she has had two new hips, surgery on her knees and back, double pneumonia and polyps on her vocal chords — not to mention battles with booze, pills and flab.
Now she's on television, getting rave reviews for her role in "Arrested Development."
She just finished a movie, ''The OH in Ohio," which stars Parker Posey and Paul Rudd.
And she's back singing and dancing.
On Wednesday, Minnelli returns to Dallas to perform at the Meyerson Symphony Center to benefit the Vogel Alcove Childcare Center for the Homeless.
Liza calls from her limo with her 9-month-old schnauzer, Emmy, in her lap.
A faint image of Dorothy and Toto springs to mind.
ME: I just saw a picture of you taken with Dame Edna.
Liza: How weird that you've seen that already.
I just saw her show last night.
That's when they took the picture.
You look pretty good.
Thank you so much.
The last time you performed in Dallas was at the 2003 "Two X Two for AIDS-and-Art" benefit.
And you helped raise $1.5 million.
Yes, it was.
And thank you for remembering that.
I was thrilled that that happened.
Is your upcoming Dallas gig all part of an enormous comeback?
No, not really.
You sit down for 20 minutes.
And they tell you you're having a comeback.
I hear you're still a big junkie — that your drugs are adrenaline and audience feedback.
I have always loved being onstage and being with an audience.
It's so wonderful to feel so healthy and good about my life.
I'm just so happy.
Are you at your best as a live performer?
I feel like I'm at my best when I have the right direction and the best people to work with.
I'm a director's daughter.
So I appreciate and listen to other people's talent.
Onstage, it's always been with Kander and Ebb.
There have been great directors in film — Scorsese and Alan Pakula.
I've been so lucky in television because I've worked with the best.
You're performing in concert, shooting a TV show and you just wrapped on a film.
Is the 'Bionic Liza' slowing down at all?
It sounds like I'm doing a lot.
But I don't do all those things at once.
They're spaced out properly.
And I have a wonderful, terrific life.
I wake up and go to dance class for an hour-and-a-half every morning with my dance teacher, Luigi.
And then I'm ready to do anything.
Is the dancing painful?
It's only painful when I don't do it.
Luigi's motto is to never stop working — when you stop moving, things tighten and freeze up.
So I always keep stretching and moving.
I came back from brain encephalitis and complete paralysis by learning slowly to move again and to never stop moving.
Over the years, you've had such an unwavering loyalty from your fans — especially your diehard gay fans.
They've watched you go to court and get rushed to the hospital.
They've seen your name appear in so many juicy headlines.
Any chance your Dallas gig might be interrupted by some new scandal?
My gay fans are just fantastic.
As for being rushed to the hospital...
Just don't get up in the middle of the night and trip over your dog.
Because it hurts.
But the headlines and everything else...
Oh, just tell them to come see me.
When performing, do you feel like you have a lot to prove?
All I have to do is look into the audience and realize that I'm singing to human beings.
When I'm onstage, I'm not all alone.
"A star in the spotlight ...." and all that baloney?
I'm communicating with people.
Like a conversation.
I've never been bored onstage or thought "Ugh! This is a drag!"
I love it too much.
Some people may think of you as Judy Garland's daughter.
Some people see you as an unforgettable, tragic diva.
Do you think you're misunderstood? Do you know who you are?
Ha, I'll say.
If they think of me as Judy Garland's daughter, they might be right.
If they think of me as Vincent Minnelli's daughter, they're really right, too.
I don't know what a diva is.
I guess it's a big compliment.
I just think of myself as somebody who works hard.
Do you consider yourself a star?
I think of myself as an entertainer.
ls your sister Lorna in your corner nowadays?
Oh, of course.
Sometimes she keeps her distance.
I think she does that because she may need to.
I don't know why.
She's my younger sister and she's got issues.
And they're not my issues — they're hers.
All I know is that I adore her. And I'm always there for her.
And she's always there for me.
Someone else who has been there for you and who was at your most recent wedding: Michael Jackson.
How do feel about what he's going through?
I don't feel legally qualified to answer any questions about that.
All I can tell you is that he's a wonderful friend — a great entertainer.
And I love him.
The hardships in your life.
Do they stem from being needy?
Are you nuts?
Of course they do!
What on earth do you need?
I don't know.
If I did? I would have found it already.
Actually, I think I got exactly what I always needed and didn't know it.
And that's my health, my happiness and my career.
Are you still reaching for the brass ring?
When I walk onstage. I still feel like I've never sung anything good enough.
So when I get up in the morning, I'm so excited about might what happen.
I don't feel my age at all.
I'm too curious.
Do you think your Dallas performance could be the last time you ever play here?
Are you nuts?
I can't believe you just asked me that.
Let me ask you, is this the last interview you' II ever do?
Gosh, I hope not.
Well, I'm with you.
You're almost 60.
Are you planning a career with many decades to come?
I'm planning for every day of my life for as long as I got.
As many as God will give me.
Liza performs at Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. April 20. $35-$150.
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