Richard and I watched *A Love Letter To Liza: A 75th Birthday Celebration* on March 12, 2021. It was a fundraiser for the Actor’s Fund, a celebration of the 75th birthday of the show biz icon, the high priestess of razzle dazzle, the one and only Liza With a Z, Not Lisa With an S, Liza Minnelli! We paid cash dollars for this show, we had to be there!
It streamed on a platform I’d never heard of, Stellar. It was a production of Club Cumming, do you think that has some relationship with the great Alan Cumming? Or is the (ahem) verb form of that word they’re using? Only time will tell.
This was such a momentous night, I felt I should chronicle it minute by minute:
8:02: We heard an orchestra somewhere playing those fabulous chords from “New York, New York.” We saw a few clips of Liza in her prime. The host, Frank DiLella, welcomed us and showed a few photos of Liza as a little girl, often with her parents.
8:05: Lorna Luft, Liza’s sister, sang “Liza.” She sounded a little ragged but what a treat to see her and hear her. She was sitting in front of a Warhol portrait of her and a few Emmys.
8:06: Joan Collins! Looking a bit like a waxed figure but wearing some important jewelry. She told a story about being at a previous birthday celebration, when Liza turned 19. Joan was there, and her then husband Anthony Newley, and Bea Freaking Lillie!
8:07: Michele Lee! What a surprise, she gave a prayer in Hebrew!
8:08: Shirley Maclaine! Another old broad looking old! Wearing a denim cap!
8:09: A video montage of Liza’s Broadway career.
8:11: John Kander and his husband Albert Stephenson. Aw, very sweet to have a tribute from them.
8:12: Lisa Mordente and Chita Rivera, singing “Happy birthday.” Mother and daughter, cute as hell.
8:13: A commercial from *The Rink,* Chita and Liza’s show from all those years ago.
8:13: Jason Alexander? Really? What does he have to do with The Liza? Thanks for answering that question, Mr. Alexander, he was in the ensemble of *The Rink* when he was 24. He talked for a little too long.
8:17: Nathan Lane! He said that Liza is as kind and sweet as she is talented. That’s nice.
8:17: Bernadette Peters! Spoke for less than 30 seconds but, as Richard said, “Ageless!”
8:18: Stephanie Brock! She played Liza in *The Boy From Oz,* the Broadway show about Peter Allen, who was Liza’s husband for a while.
8:19: Lea Delaria! She sang “Everything I Have Belongs To You,” and sounded spectacular. Is it Blossom Dearie who I think of when I hear that song? Or Annie Ross? Or both? Ms. Delaria was especially impressive in her scat solo, I’m gonna think of her when I hear this song from now on.
8:22: Andrew Rannells! So adorable! “We don’t know each other, but in my mind, we are close friends.” He was on the set of *Sex and the City 2.* He said that when Liza wrapped on the movie, Billy Stritch came out of nowhere with a baby grand and she sang “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”
8:23: Mario Cantone! He thanked her for giving him a career. He’s the greatest Liza impersonator ever. Second only to Liza.
8:24: Jonathan Groff? He met Liza during previews for *Spring Awakening* in 2006. How cute is that. He talked about seeing a screening of *New York, New York* at the Castro and how, during her performance of “And the World Goes Round,” it seemed like she leapt right off the screen. He had never seen anything like it.
8:26: Susan Stroman! She started her bit with a video of her dancing with Liza in a show at Radio City Music Hall. She said the audience, a sold out crowd of 6,000 people, were on their feet and screaming. Stroman was standing next to Liza and Liza squeezed her hand and said, “Remember this. It’s not always like this.”
8:28: Julie Halston! I wasn’t quite paying attention, her story had something to do with Madeline Albright.
8:29: Charles Busch! Miss Halston’s partner in crime. He told a cute story about doing an interview with Liza and she redid the lighting to make HIM look better.
8:30: John Sefakis, of Dancers Over 40. He introduced a montage of Dancers Over 40. These folks were over 60, come on! Some of them over 80! They worked with Liza in various shows. So cute seeing these fabulous hoofers giving tributes to La Liza.
8:34: Host Frank DiLella showed a little montage overview of Liza’s movie career.
8:35: Kristin Chenoweth! Looking dazzling, talking about watching her mom and dad watching Liza on TV, knowing that she’d be lucky to captivate an audience in that same way one day. She sang “Maybe This Time” from *Cabaret* and sounded great, of course, though the growl didn’t really suit her. Richard said, “I think they could slow it down a little bit.” I said, “Yeah, and she could use a little more eye makeup.”
8:39: Joel Grey! He sang “Wilkommen” wearing a facial mask, which of course he took off. He had a fabulous birthday cake next to him. He’s the cutest and what he said was genuinely touching, talking about her courage, her sense of humor, and her guts.
8:44: Haley Swindal? Who is she? But she sounded great, she sang “Say Yes!” Sounding more than a little like Liza, which might be baked into the song.
8:46: Michael York, oh he broke my heart. They showed photos of him and Liza in *Cabaret* but no image of him in the here and now. His voice sounded quite hoarse and a little feeble. He has a metabolic disease called amyloidosis. Bless his heart.
8:48: Ute Lemper! Love her! She told a story about Liza visiting her backstage after a show and cuddling with her six-month old son. And she sang “Cabaret,” sounding a little full-blown but totally delivering it and looking like a sequined dream.
8:53: Andrea Martin! Such a scream, love her. “There’s nobody more talented than you, my dear, and nobody more fun”
8:54: Jane Krakowski! A picture of her with Liza and Shelley Winters in the movie *Stepping Out.* She first met Liza when she was 8 years old, she asked for her autograph in Chinatown! And of course Liza gave her that autograph.
8:55: Catherine Zeta Jones! Wearing velour and very carefully lit.
8:56: Lionel Casseroux? Who the hell is that?
8:57: Parker Posey! Wearing a Liza ‘s At the Palace hoodie! Bought at the merch table, I’m sure.
8:57: John Stamos! He took her to the premiere of *Promises, Promises.* How the hell did he get that gig?
8:58: Joely Fisher and Ava Delany? They sang the Judy With a G and Barbra Hold the A duet of “Get Happy”/”Happy Days Are Here Again.” I guess they gave it their all, but that’s not the same as sounding good. Is that rude?
9:00: Frank DiLella gave us an overview of Liza’s concert career, capped off with a truly heart-stopping rendition of “Some People” from *Gypsy.*
9:01: Billy Stritch, that old floozy! He told the story about the first time they met, in March of 1991, thirty years ago that week. His story was somewhat long-winded and then he sang “Teach Me Tonight.” I felt like 9 minutes was a little more time than maybe he should have been allotted.
9:10: Harry Connick Jr! He said that Liza was a true hero of his, somebody who sets a very high bar for people in the show business. He said someone once asked her for advice on making it, and she said, “Always be ready for luck.”
9:11: John Waters! Bless his heart! He met Liza at some opening, she was with Billy Stritch, they all hit it off and she said, “Hey John, we’ve got a limo, let us give you a ride!” And then she invited him to go to Paris with them the next day! And he said no?
9:12: Kathy Najimy! Love her apartment. She talked about Liza’s generosity of spirit. She told a hilarious story about seeing Liza in Vegas on New Year’s Eve. Liza said, “A dear friend is in the audience tonight…” Kathy thought, “Who is it? Barbra? Siegfried and Roy?” Liza said, “My dear friend, Kathy Najimy!” Can you even stand it.
9:16: Annette Mclaughlin? Who is that? She did her bit from London, her little speech consisted of lines from songs somewhat connected to Liza. Not so great.
9:17: Kathy Griffin! Poolside! With dogs! Talking about Olive Garden!
9:18: Jim Caruso! I know the name but who the hell is he. I like that he used the word “cavort,” you know I’m going to support that. And he got special points for bringing up Liza’s godmother, the divine Kay Thompson.
9:23: Frank DiLella brought us to *Liza With a Z.* And “Bye Bye Blackbird” was performed by Ben Vereen and dancers from the Verdon/Fosse Legacy. Dancers wearing all black, including black facial masks. Except for Vereen, who did not have a mask. His voice was not so marvelous but he knew what he was doing.
9:28: Neil Meron, a friend of Liza’s. He talked about restoring *Liza With a Z,* using the negative, which was owned by Liza.
9:31: Barbra Streisand, the one and only! Barbra sang with Judy and made a movie directed by Vincent. How wonderful is that.
9:32: Melissa Manchester sang “Come In From the Rain.” Not a great song and not a great performance. But I’m sure it meant something to Manchester, and it probably meant something to Liza.
9:36: Tony Hale, her costar from *Arrested Development*! Do I need to go back to watching that show? We got derailed somewhere in season two.
9:37: Kathie Lee Gifford! Would you believe it. She said, “I hope you have your best years ahead, Liza.”
9:38: Hoda Kotb! She made Liza promise to do a birthday concert on the plaza for the Today Show. And you know Liza will hold her to that promise. Beware.
9:38: Lily Tomlin, looking so cute! She channeled Ernestine and also Edith Ann! Darling, a highlight of the show.
9:40: Sharon Osbourne! “You made me loff, you made me cry!” She first met Liza at a Royal Command Performance. “I don’t remember what year it was because I’m so f-cking old!”
9:42: Whoopi Goldberg! She sang a strange little birthday song with a Baby Yoda in the background.
9:43: Sandra Bernhardt! She sang “Happy Birthday” with a little “Liza With a Z” inserted into the middle of it. Love that broad. She a mess.
9:43: Craig Ferguson! He said when he was young and pretty he looked like her. But he no longer looks like her because he’s no longer young and pretty.
9:44: Carol Burnett! Liza was one of her first guests on her TV show.
9:45: Coco Peru! They showed a clip of Peru interviewing Liza, telling a funny story about Scorcese telling her not to move her eyebrows. He told a story about how his mother is such a fan and she loved Liza even more seeing how kind she was to her son. Aw, how sweet.
9:48: Frank DiLella did a tour through Liza’s work with and for various charities, capped off by a video starring Kate Baldwin, Michael Urie, Baayork Lee, Ari’el Satchel, and Wesley Taylor talking about The Actors Fund, the beneficiary of the benefit.
9:54: Nicholas King is a friend of Liza’s who’s performed with her many times, back to when he was just a little squirt of a kid.
9:55: Nick Ziobro, who is he? Another guy who worked with Liza.
9:57: Anne de Blok, who is she? Her story went on a little long, it had something to do with sheet music.
9:59: Seth Sikes, who is he? Total cutie! More from him later.
9:59: Alexis Michele, who is he? He had a copy of the Warhol Liza painting on the wall behind him. He won a challenge on *Rupaul’s Drag Race* playing Liza!
10:01: Michael Feinstein! Such a talent, but who is he kidding with that hair. Not me. He sang and played a mawkish little ballad. He said Liza gave him the key change at the end. Wasn’t that nice of her?
10:07: Seth Sikes and a number of friends did a special video version of “Ring Them Bells.” Rewritten for COVID! Adorable!