entertainment

75 reasons we love Liza Minnelli

On Liza's 75th birthday, we look back at the legendary gay icon and showbiz survivor's greatest hits.

2021-03-12

Words: Ben Kelly

On March 12, 1946, a superstar was born.

Exactly 75 years and countless awards, performances and meme-able moments later, we bring you 75 reasons we love Liza May Minnelli, the ultimate gay icon and showbiz survivor...

1) Her Mama was Judy Garland: she played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

2) Her Papa was Vincent Minnelli: he directed An American In Paris and Gigi.

3) She was named after a song by George and Ira Gershwin called Liza (All The Clouds’ll Roll Away).

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4) Showbiz from the start baby!

5) She made her first film appearance at the age of two, in an MGM movie called In The Good Old Summertime – alongside Mama, naturally.

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6) Her entire youth was spent either frolicking around the homes of film stars on Sunset Boulevard....

7) ...or appearing on Mama’s many TV specials.

8) In 1959, she even danced with Gene Kelly in his first TV special – CASUAL.

9) She played an historic 1964 concert with her Mama, Judy Garland, at the London Palladium, which won huge praise and produced a double album.

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10) She played Sally Bowles in the movie Cabaret in 1972 and it was one of the best things that ever happened.

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11) This performance of Mein Herr is probably one of cinema’s most iconic moments:

12) She even won the Best Actress Oscar for it in 1973.

13) In fact, Liza is one of only 15 people to have won the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony).

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14) AND she’s the only Oscar winner whose parents were both Oscar winners too.

15) Fosse, Kander and Ebb helped put together her TV special Liza with a Z, which became the first filmed concert on television.

16) It also gave us the term Liza with a Z, so thanks for that.

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17) In 1975 she played Roxie in Chicago on Broadway for eight weeks.

18) She used to hang out with Andy Warhol at Studio 54 and was generally fabulous.

19) Andy’s famous diaries recall her marching into a party screaming “Give me every drug you've got!".

20) He even put her in one of his famous portraits (or six).

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21) In 1977 she starred with Robert De Niro in New York, New York – the title song is a signature tune she shares with Frank Sinatra.

22) Elvis once showed her his karate moves.

23) Her first marriage was to a man called Peter Allen (1967-1974), who later turned out to be gay.

24) He wrote that song 'Arthur’s Theme' (“When you get lost between the moon and New York City...”).

25) Liza told The Advocate in 1996: "I married Peter and he didn't tell me he was gay. Everyone knew but me. And I found out... well, let me put it this way: I'll never surprise anybody coming home as long as I live. I call first!"

26) Her second marriage was to Jack Haley Jr (1974-1979), whose father was (bizarrely) the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

27) In fact, she liked family links: her third marriage was to Mark Gero (1979-1992), a sculptor whose father had been stage manager for her Broadway debut.

28. Her fourth marriage was to concert promoter and David Gest (2002-2007) - that didn’t go well either.

29. But it did produce this amazing wedding photo, which we dare you to better.

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30. Yes, that’s THE Martine McCutcheon alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson...

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31) Michael Jackson actually introduced Liza and David, and when they split, she blamed it all on him.

32) Anyhow, this all helped the gay equality cause.

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33) She did a brilliant version of Sondheim’s Losing My Mind with the Pet Shop Boys in 1989.

34) First off, Liza's 1989 Pet Shop Boys-produced collection of stately dance pop is one of the very best albums of the 80s. FACT.

35) But it's the ultra-camp video for single 'Don't Drop Bombs' that we always return to: remember back when music videos had ACTING and EMOTION and INCONGRUOUS CHAIR DANCING? Those were the days.

36) Hearing Liza almost-rap the lyrics "I know you carry on / Behind my back / With your secretary / You'll have a heart attack!" is a pretty special moment too

37) She performed We Are The Champions at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

38) Liza is actually a huge advocate for AIDS awareness.

39) In fact, she was the one who told Elizabeth Taylor all about it, thank you very much.

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40) She screen-tested for Alan Parker’s movie version of Evita.

41) She even went to visit Ms. Peron’s tomb to show her dedication.

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42) She didn’t get the part.

43) Though she absolutely loves wearing sequins.

44) There’s one note she’s really great at singing, as parodied in this great Forbidden Broadway send-up.

45) In 1997, she filled in for Julie Andrews for four weeks in the gender-bending Broadway musical Victor/Victoria.

46) Needless to say, Liza’s had her battles with addiction – as eloquently explained to Ruby Wax in 2003,

47) Also in that documentary, she forced David Gest to buy her a very expensive necklace as Ruby egged them on.

48) During this very sentimental moment, Liza says she wears a cross round her neck because she “believes in everything” – so that’s something.

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49) The necklace was so expensive, they had to call THE PRESIDENT OF CARTIER to buy it.

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50) She has the president of Cartier’s number - NO BIGGIE.

51) She had previously given this bonkers performance in a Ruby Wax documentary a few years earlier.

52) In an equally bizarre interview with Rosie O’Donnell, she recalls how she promised Mama she’d never ever sing Over The Rainbow, before describing how David Gest managed to get her to sing it, and then offering to sing it right that very minute for Rosie if she wants (which she does), because of the post 9/11 spirit, before finally deciding not to (2.42 – 5.25).

53) She was absolute lols on Larry King Live in 2006, and we thank whoever made this highlights edit.

54) She also made this amazing appearance on the Home Shopping Network in 2010 to promote a new range of clothes and jewellery she’d made.

55) She just started working with clay...

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56) Our favourite moment? The caller who congratulates her on having "overcome so much diversity," and pronounces Liza her "mentor". Liza's response? "You're my mentor too, honey!"

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57) She even cockblocks the host's attempts to sell the damn products ("How about two or three bracelets?" "No! One will do.")

58) She gave this beautiful performance of Quiet Love, with accompanying sign language, on Parkinson in 2006.

59) She loves to tell everyone that her Mama was Judy Garland.

60) She even sang a verse on this My Chemical Romance song in 2009, just because it was called 'Mama' (probably).

61) She had a recurring role in Arrested Development which is very cool.

62) It was an inspired bit of casting, enlisting her to play Bluth family matriarch Lucille's best friend/arch nemesis (also named Lucille - or 'Lucille 2') on this brilliant comedy series.

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63) Lucille 2 had serious vertigo issues and a hopeless devotion to her frenemy's youngest son, the Oedipal Buster Bluth.

64) She returned for the show's 2013 fourth season reboot, which wasn't anywhere near as funny but at least gifted the world the unforgettable image of Liza Minnelli wrestling an ostrich:

65) She was the best (and least offensive) thing in Sex and the City 2.

66) She inspired this unforgettable Kristen Wiig skit on Saturday Night Live:

67) She loves Lady Gaga, and swung by her gig at Madison Square Garden to give her some pre-show advice.

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68) She also inspired a track by Rufus Wainwright #PlugForRufus

69) At 68, she was unafraid to rock an electric blue streak to match her 2014 Oscars outfit.

70) She tried her best but just missed out on the already legendary selfie, but she didn’t mind really.

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71) Her shaky-but-ultimately-triumphant performance at Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary concert.

72) OK, there's no getting around it: Liza's vibrato-filled performance of MJ's ballad 'You Are Not Alone' at his 30th anniversary concert is painful listening. But consider this: After a serious case of viral encephalitis in 2000, doctors predicted that Liza would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair and would likely not even be able to speak again. Liza didn't like the sound of that and, with the help of vocal and dance lessons, she was able to make her live comeback at this September 2001 concert. "I am stable as a table," she told reporters at the event.

73) In 2015, she took an Uber 200 miles so she wouldn't miss a show. No, really.

74) Also, did you know her Mama was Judy Garland?

75). Anyway: Happy Birthday Liza!

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