Liza Minnelli has never been easy to pin down—and these days, she’s more elusive than ever. Lucky for New Jersey, she will play her one-woman show, “Liza Minnelli: In Concert,” September 28 at Caesars Palace in Atlantic City.
Minnelli, 67, is an icon and has the requisite honors to prove it: an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, four Tonys and two Golden Globes. The actor/dancer/singer—daughter of singer/actress Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli—is so famous she’s been immortalized in an Andy Warhol portrait.
The eyeliner-loving living legend, who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the career-defining film Cabaret, for which she won an Oscar and Golden Globe as best actress, talked with New Jersey Monthly in August from her home in Manhattan.
New Jersey Monthly: If I can speak for all of New Jersey, I’d like to say welcome back. Are you looking forward to playing Caesars Palace?
Liza Minnelli: It’s a place I like to play because the audiences are fabulous. They really are. They’re enthusiastic. They show what they feel.
NJM: Are audiences elsewhere less expressive than in New Jersey?
LM: No—it’s just that every audience has its own thing. The Caesars Palace audience is always a good one. They’re not shy. They let you know how they feel, that they like what you’re doing. And it’s exciting to go there—you hear about Atlantic City from the time you’re a kid. Going there is wonderful.
NJM: I imagine you’ll perform your signature songs – “New York, New York” and “Cabaret.” Do you ever get bored singing them?
LM: No, it makes me feel good to sing them because they’re good songs. I love them. I don’t get bored because every time I sing them I approach them as if I’ve never sung them before. That keeps it fresh for me and for the audience. It always feels new.
NJM: Here’s a little-known, New Jersey-related Liza fact: In 2006, you did a guest vocal on a My Chemical Romance album. Gerard Way and several of his pop-punk bandmates are from New Jersey. You contributed to a track called “Mama.” What was that like?
LM: Well, it was fun. [Gerard] is just great, and I had a wonderful time doing it. It was a very interesting thing to do and I was so surprised when I was asked.
NJM: You have a role as Lucille 2, rival of Bluth family matriarch Lucille, in the TV series Arrested Development, and there are rumors a movie of the TV show is in the works. Do you ever want to move away from standards and theatrical, diva-esque parts you’re best known for?
LM: No, I love doing the show I’ll be doing at Caesar’s Palace, with all my best-known songs. Every time I walk out onstage, all I have to do is look at the audience and it’s like meeting a new group of friends each time.
NJM: You, like your mother, are something of a gay icon in an era in which gays are making important strides, winning rights and respect. What are your thoughts about gay rights?
LM: I think everybody should have equal rights. For gays not to have them is insane. It’s something I watch and pay attention to, because it’s so prevalent. Also it’s interesting.
NJM: What was the inspiration behind your most recent album, Confessions, which came out in 2010?
LM: Well, I had an operation on my knee before we made the album, and I couldn’t walk around and I was going crazy. I couldn’t do anything. So I called my friend Billy Stritch and said, “We must do something. Let’s do something.” He said “great.” Then he came over and brought a small piano, and we did the whole album like that in my bedroom in New York.
NJM: That album has a lot of standards, some of which you’ll be performing at Caesar’s Palace. Is there a style of music that people would be surprised to know you’re a fan of?
LM: I really like everything. Ira Gershwin was my godfather, so I grew up around that kind of music. But I also love rock. I love country. I’m also a dancer so I like to move around when I hear music.
NJM: I read that as a very young person, you “yearned to step out of your mother’s formidable shadow.” Do you like reminiscing about your mother now?
LM: It wasn’t that I wanted to step out of her shadow. It was that I never wanted to use her. I wanted her to be proud of me for what I did. I also wanted to do something on Broadway; I was always conscious that I wanted to do Broadway [Garland was better known for her movie roles, particularly for playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.]
NJM: You have won four Tony Awards. You have also won an Oscar, an Emmy, two Golden Globes and a Grammy Legend Award for your contributions and influence in the recording field. Is there one award or honor that matters to you more than the others?
LM: Honestly they all mean a lot. But I was thrilled when I won the Legion of Honour Award in France [in 2011], because my father had also won it.
NJM: What do you think you’re best known for in the minds of the public?
LM: I don’t know. That’s for you to tell me. Performing?
NJM: What would you like to be best known for?
NJM: What’s one thing we don’t know about Liza Minnelli?
LM: I love to cook. I cook all kinds of food—French, Italian, Hungarian. My friends know that I cook well.
NJM: Anything we should know about the upcoming show at Caesars Palace?
LM: You should know that the wonderful Billy Stritch will be with me. I’ve been performing with him 17 years, and I love him. Also, that it’s going really well. People really seem to like it, and I hope Caesars Palace will too.