Liza May Minnelli (; born March 12, 1946) is an American actress and singer. Primarily known for her Academy Award-winning role as Sally Bowles in the 1972 musical film Cabaret directed by Bob Fosse, she is noted for her energetic stage presence and her powerful contralto singing voice.
Minnelli is the daughter of film actress and singer Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli. Moving to New York City in 1961, she began her career as a musical theatre actress, nightclub performer and traditional pop recording artist, and gave her professional stage debut in the 1963 Off-Broadway revival of Best Foot Forward. In 1965 she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Flora the Red Menace, becoming the youngest ever recipient in this category.Flora marked the beginning of her lifelong collaboration with the show’s composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, who would write, produce or direct many of Minnelli’s stage acts and TV shows. Ebb helped create Minnellis stage persona of a stylized survivalist, including her career-defining performances of anthems of survival (“New York, New York“, “Cabaret“, “Maybe This Time“).
Critically lauded for her non-musical dramatic performance in the film The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), she rose to international stardom with Cabaret and the Emmy Award-winning TV special Liza with a Z (1972). Most of her following film projects received mixed reviews and failed commercially, and she had no more major movie hit except the 1981 romantic comedy Arthur. Her other films have included Lucky Lady (1975), New York, New York (1977), Rent-a-Cop (1988) and Stepping Out (1991). She additionally worked on television, starring several variety musical specials, non-musical films like A Time to Live (1985) and Parallel Lives (1994) and has been an acclaimed guest star in the sitcom Arrested Development between 2003 and 2013. Minnelli successfully returned to Broadway in Kander and Ebbs The Act (1977) and The Rink (1984) as well as various concert shows including Liza’s at The Palace…. in 2008.
From the late 1970s onwards, Minnelli’s work has predominantly focused on concert tours and nightclub performances. She gave highly regarded performances at Carnegie Hall in 1979 and 1987, and at Radio City Music Hall in 1991 and 1992. Between 1988 and 1990 she toured alongside Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. in Frank, Liza & Sammy: The Ultimate Event. Actually best known for her renditions of pop standards, Minnellis albums from 1968 to 1977 contained much of the contemporary singer-songwriter material, and in 1989 she released the electronic pop album Results. In 2014, Out named Minelli a gay icon in a list titled The 12 Greatest Female Gay Icons of All Time.
Minnelli was born on March 12, 1946 in Hollywood, California, to Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli. In 1961 she moved to New York City, attending High School of Performing Arts and Chadwick School. Her first performing experience on film was at age three where she appeared in the final scene of the musical In the Good Old Summertime (1949). The film stars Garland and Van Johnson.
Minnelli has a half-sister, Lorna, and half-brother, Joey, from Garland’s marriage to Sid Luft. She also has another half-sister, Christiane Nina Minnelli (nicknamed Tina Nina), from her father’s second marriage. Minnelli’s godparents were Kay Thompson and her husband William Spier. Her parents named her after Ira Gershwin’s song “Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away)“.
During 1961, Minnelli was an apprentice at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, Massachusetts. She appeared in the chorus of Flower Drum Song and played the part of Muriel in Take Me Along. Minnelli began performing professionally at age 17, in 1963, in an Off-Broadway revival of the musical Best Foot Forward, for which she received the Theatre World Award.
The next year, her mother invited Liza to perform with her in concert at the London Palladium. Both concerts were recorded and released as an album. She attended Scarsdale High School for one year, starring in a production of The Diary of Anne Frank which then went to Israel on tour. She turned to Broadway at 19, and won her first Tony Award as a leading actress for Flora the Red Menace. It was the first time she worked with the musical duo John Kander and Fred Ebb.
Minnelli began as a nightclub singer as an adolescent, making her professional nightclub debut at the age of 19 at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. That same year she began appearing in other clubs and on stage in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and New York City. Her success as a live performer led to her recording several albums for Capitol Records: Liza! Liza! (1964), It Amazes Me (1965), and There Is a Time (1966). In her early years, she recorded traditional pop standards as well as show tunes from various musicals in which she starred. Because of this fact, William Ruhlmann named her “Barbra Streisand‘s little sister”. The Capitol albums Liza! Liza!, It Amazes Me, and There Is A Time were reissued on the two-CD compilation The Capitol Years in 2001, in their entirety.
From 1968 to the 1970s, she also recorded her albums Liza Minnelli (1968), Come Saturday Morning and New Feelin’ (both 1970) for A&M Records. She released The Singer (1973) and Tropical Nights (1977) on Columbia Records.
In 1989 Minnelli collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys on Results, an electronic dance-style album. The release hit the top 10 in the UK and also charted in the US, spawning four singles: “Losing My Mind“; “Don’t Drop Bombs“; “So Sorry, I Said‘”; and “Love Pains“. Initially released on VHS titled Visible Results, the clips were later issued on a bonus DVD included in the 2005 remastered and expanded edition of the album.
Later that year she performed “Losing My Mind” live at the Grammys ceremony before receiving a Grammy Legend Award (the first Grammy Legend Awards were issued in 1990 to Minnelli, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Smokey Robinson, and Willie Nelson). With this award, she became one of only 16 people in a list that includes composer Richard Rodgers, Whoopi Goldberg, Barbra Streisand, and John Gielgud among others to win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony Award, and Academy Award.
In April 1992, Minnelli appeared at the tribute concert to her late friend Freddie Mercury, performing “We Are the Champions” with the surviving members of the rock band Queen at Wembley Stadium, London.
In 1996, Minnelli released a new studio album titled Gently. It was a recording of jazz standards and also included some contemporary songs such as the cover of Does He Love You which she performed as a duet with Donna Summer. This album brought her a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. Minnelli was nominated in 2009 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for her studio recording Liza’s at the Palace…!, based on her hit Broadway show.
In May 2010, Playbill.com reported Minnelli would be releasing an album on the Decca Records label entitled Confessions, which was released on September 21, 2010.
Her first appearance on film is as the baby in the very last shot of her mother’s film, In the Good Old Summertime (1949). Her first credited film role was as the love-interest in Albert Finney‘s only film as director and star, Charlie Bubbles (1967), although four years earlier, she did voice-over work for the animated film Journey Back to Oz, a sequel to the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz. Minnelli was the voice of Dorothy (a character played in the earlier film by her mother Judy Garland) in what would have been her first credited film role had it been released in 1964 as plannedthe Filmation production was delayed, eventually being released in the UK during 1972.
In 1969 she appeared in Alan J. Pakula‘s first feature film, The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), as Pookie Adams, a needy, eccentric teenager. Her performance won her her first Academy Award nomination. She played another eccentric character in Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), directed by Otto Preminger.
Minnelli appeared in her best-known film role, Sally Bowles, in the movie version of Cabaret (1972). She said that one of the things she did to prepare was to study photographs of classic actresses Louise Glaum and Louise Brooks and the dark-haired ladies of that time. Minnelli won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance, along with a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, and also a Sant Jordi Award and a David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress.
Following the success of Cabaret, Bob Fosse and Minnelli teamed up for Liza with a ‘Z’. A Concert for Television, a made-for-television special. The program aired two times on TV and was not seen again until a DVD release in 2006.
Minnelli worked with her father in A Matter of Time (1976), co-starring Ingrid Bergman. Her appearance opposite Robert De Niro in the musical drama film, New York, New York (1977), however, gave Minnelli her best known signature song. She sometimes duetted live on stage with Frank Sinatra, who recorded a cover version (for his Trilogy: Past Present Future album).
After her performance in Arthur (1981), as Dudley Moore‘s love interest, Minnelli made fewer film appearances, although she returned to the big screen for Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988) and Stepping Out (1991), a musical comedy drama.
During the early days of television in the 1950s, Minnelli appeared as a child guest on Art Linkletter‘s show and sang and danced with Gene Kelly on his first television special in 1959. She was a guest star in one episode of the Ben Casey television series starring Vince Edwards and was a frequent guest on chat shows of the day including numerous appearances on shows hosted by Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Joe Franklin, Dinah Shore and Johnny Carson. During the 1960s she made several guest appearances on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In as well as other variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, as well as The Judy Garland Show. In 1964 she appeared as Minnie in her first television dramatic role in the episode “Nightingale for Sale” on Craig Stevens‘s short-lived CBS series, Mr. Broadway.
Much later in her career, Minnelli has made guest appearances on such shows as Arrested Development, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Drop Dead Diva. In the UK she has appeared on the Ruby Wax, Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross shows and in October 2006 participated in a comedy skit on the Charlotte Church Show and was featured on the Michael Parkinson Show.
In November 2009, American Public Television aired Liza’s at the Palace, taped from September 30 October 1, 2009 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theatre. The executive producers of the taping, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, previously were involved with the 2005 rerelease of 1972’s Emmy Award- and Peabody Award-winning Liza with a ‘Z’.
She returned to Broadway in 1997, taking over the title role in the musical Victor/Victoria, replacing Julie Andrews. In his review, New York Times critic Ben Brantley commented, “her every stage appearance is perceived as a victory of show-business stamina over psychic frailty. She asks for love so nakedly and earnestly, it seems downright vicious not to respond.”
In 1995 Minnelli and long time collaborator Billy Stritch recorded a number of American standards “unplugged”, and were considered by many to be the Holy Grail of Minnelli’s career, showing a sultrier and softer, more interpretive side to her artistry. The songs were later released in 2010, making the album Confessions.
After a serious case of viral encephalitis in 2000, doctors predicted that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair and would perhaps not even be able to speak again. However, taking vocal and dance lessons daily (especially with Sam Harris, Ron Lewis, and Angela Bacari), she managed to recover. She returned to the stage in 2001 when asked by long-time friend Michael Jackson to perform at Madison Square Garden in New York City where she sang “Never Never Land” and the televised “You Are Not Alone” at the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special concert produced by soon to be husband David Gest. Minnelli told reporters, “I am stable as a table.”
Gest was so impressed with her stamina and ability to stun audiences that he produced her in Liza’s Back in spring 2002 performing to rave reviews in London and New York City. (Most noted in that tour was a tribute to her mother. After years of declining fans’ pleas for her to sing Garland’s signature song, “Over The Rainbow“, she concluded Act 1 with the final refrain of her mother’s famous anthem, to an instant ovation.) Among performing her classic hits, other numbers unreleased in the album version included “I Believe You” by The Carpenters, a rap version of “Liza With A ‘Z'”, “Yes”, and Mary J. Blige‘s “Family Affair”, 2001.
VH1 signed on Minnelli and Gest in 2002 to appear in a reality show entitled Liza & David. The pilot episode was filmed following the couple around as they prepared for a party at their home, with a guest list including Ray Charles, Luther Vandross, Isaac Mizrahi, Anastacia, among many others. The show was cancelled shortly after the pilot episode was filmed due to a dispute between Gest, Minnelli and VH1, and never aired. Recordings of the pilot episode still exist.
From 2003 through 2005, she appeared as a recurring character on the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning TV sitcom Arrested Development as Lucille Austero (also known as “Lucille 2”), the lover of both the sexually and socially awkward Buster Bluth and Buster’s brother Gob. Minnelli reprised the role for the show’s fourth season in 2013.
In September 2006, she made a guest appearance on the long-running NBC drama Law & Order: Criminal Intent, in “Masquerade”, a Halloween-themed episode, broadcast on October 31, 2006. She also completed guest vocals on My Chemical Romance‘s 2006 concept album The Black Parade, portraying “Mother War,” a dark conception of the main character’s mother, in the song Mama.
Minnelli returned to Broadway in a new solo concert at the Palace Theatre called Liza’s at The Palace…! which ran from December 3, 2008, through January 4, 2009. In her second act she performed a series of numbers created by Kay Thompson. The reviews noted that while her voice was ragged at times, and her movements no longer elastic, the old magic was still very much presentfrom first to last, Minnelli had audiences cheering and applauding and begging for more. The show was subsequently staged at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on September 30 and October 1, 2009, at which time it was filmed for broadcast on public television and a February 2010 DVD and Blu-ray release.
On January 10, 2009, Minnelli made a rare live TV appearance in a surprise cameo on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, playing the best friend of “Penelope” (Kristen Wiig). On January 26, 2009, she made an appearance on The View, singing “I Would Never Leave You” (written by Johnny Rodgers, Billy Stritch, and Brian Lane Green) from her new CD Liza’s at The Palace…!. She was also interviewed by the cast of The View.
She was a character in the Australian musical The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman. In the show’s Broadway production, she was portrayed by Stephanie J. Block. In October 2009, Minnelli toured Australia, and appeared on Australian Idol as a mentor and guest judge. In February 2010, Minnelli appeared in a Snickers commercial along with Aretha Franklin and Betty White. Minnelli made a cameo appearance in the May 2010 release of Sex and the City 2, in which she covered Beyonc‘s hit Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) and Cole Porter’s Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye. She also made a starring appearance in December 2010 in NBC’s The Apprentice.
On June 14, 2012 Liza headlined at Hampton Court Palace Festival, an annual event which takes place at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England. On May 9, 2014, Minnelli had a guest appearance on Cher‘s Dressed to Kill Tour in Brooklyn, performing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” alongside Cyndi Lauper and Rosie O’Donnell. On July 24, 2015, Minnelli performed at the IP Casino Resort & Spa, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the closing of Flora the Red Menace.
Minnelli has long suffered from alcoholism, and has been addicted to prescription drugs, originating from a Valium prescription after her mother died. Minnelli left her 1984 musical The Rink to enter the Betty Ford Clinic. Her use of recreational drugs in the 1970s was noted by Andy Warhol, who in a 1978 diary entry recalled Minnelli arriving at Halston‘s house and imploring the host to “Give me every drug you’ve got.” Along with Warhol and Bianca Jagger, Minnelli made frequent appearances at New York City nightclubs during the late 1970s.
Minnelli has stated that she is an Episcopalian.
Minnelli has married and divorced four times. Her first marriage was to entertainer Peter Allen on March 3, 1967. Australian-born Allen was Judy Garland’s protg in the mid-1960s. They divorced on July 24, 1974. Minnelli told The Advocate editor-in-chief Judy Wieder in September 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!”
She was married to David Gest, a concert promoter, from March 16, 2002, until their separation in July 2003, and their divorce in April 2007. In a 2003 lawsuit, Gest alleged that Minnelli beat him in alcohol-induced rages during their marriage.
Minnelli has no children; one pregnancy left her with a hiatal hernia as a result of the medical steps taken to try to save the baby.
Minnelli has, throughout her lifetime, served various charities and causes which she considers important. She served on the board of directors of The Institutes for The Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP) for 20 years, a nonprofit educational organization that introduces parents to the field of child brain development. In a 2006 interview with Randy Rice at Broadwayworld.com Minnelli said that she was the person who told Elizabeth Taylor about HIV/AIDS while talking about their mutual friend, Rock Hudson. She has also dedicated much time to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which was co-founded by Taylor.
In 2007, she stated in an interview with Palm Springs Life magazine, “AmfAR is important to me because I’ve lost so many friends that I knew “. In 1994, she recorded the Kander & Ebb tune “The Day After That” and donated the proceeds to AIDS research. That same year she performed the song in front of thousands in Central Park at the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
|1949||In the Good Old Summertime||Veronica and Andrew’s Daughter||Uncredited role|
|1964||Mr. Broadway||Minnie||Episode: “Nightingale for Sale”|
|1968||That’s Life||Secretary||Episode: “Twas the Night Before Christmas”|
|1969||The Sterile Cuckoo||Pookie Adams|
|1970||Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon||Junie Moon|
|1972||Cabaret||Sally Bowles||Academy Award for Best Actress|
|1972||Journey Back to Oz||Dorothy (voice)||Recorded in 1962, released in the U.S. in 1974|
|1976||A Matter of Time||Nina|
|1977||New York, New York||Francine Evans|
|1984||Faerie Tale Theatre||Princess Alecia||Episode: “The Princess and the Pea“|
|1985||A Time to Live||Mary-Lou Weisman||TV film|
|Arthur 2: On the Rocks||Linda Marolla Bach|
|1991||Stepping Out||Mavis Turner|
|1994||Parallel Lives||Stevie Merrill||TV film|
|1995||The West Side Waltz||Cara Varnum||TV film|
|Arrested Development||Lucille Austero||21 episodes|
|2006||The Oh in Ohio||Alyssa Donahue|
|2009||Drop Dead Diva||Lily Wells||Episode: “Make Me a Match“|
|1963||The Judy Garland Show||Episode: “The Judy Garland Christmas Special”|
|1964||Judy and Liza at the Palladium||TV special with Judy Garland|
|1965||The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood||TV special|
|1972||Liza with a “Z”: A Concert for Television||Special|
|1974||Love from A to Z||TV special with Charles Aznavour|
|1976||Silent Movie||Cameo appearance|
|1979||The Muppet Show||Episode: “Liza Minnelli“|
|1980||Goldie and Liza Together||TV special with Goldie Hawn|
|1980||An Evening with Liza Minnelli||TV special|
|1983||The King of Comedy||Credit only|
|1984||The Muppets Take Manhattan||Cameo appearance|
|1986||Liza in London||TV special|
|1987||Minnelli on Minnelli: Liza Remembers Vincente||Documentary|
|1988||Sam Found Out: A Triple Play||TV special|
|1989||Frank, Liza & Sammy: The Ultimate Event||TV special with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.|
|1992||The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness||TV special|
|1992||Liza Live from Radio City Music Hall||TV special|
|1993||Liza and Friends: A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.||Special (with Charles Aznavour, Tom Jones, Jerry Lewis & Cliff Richard)|
|1999||Jackie’s Back||TV film (cameo appearance)|
|2010||Sex and the City 2||Cameo appearance|
|2013||Smash||Episode: “The Surprise Party”|
|1961||Wish You Were Here||Ballet solo||Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, Massachusetts|
|1961||Take Me Along||Muriel||Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, Massachusetts|
|1961||Flower Drum Song||Chorus||Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, Massachusetts|
|19611962||The Diary of Anne Frank||Anne Frank||Scarsdale High School, Scarsdale, New York and Israel Tour|
|1963||Best Foot Forward||Ethel Hofflinger||Off-Broadway (Stage 73, New York City)|
|1964||Carnival!||Lili||Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, New Jersey|
|1964||Time Out For Ginger||Ginger||Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, Pennsylvania|
|1964||The Fantasticks||Luisa||US National Tour|
|1965||Flora the Red Menace||Flora||Broadway (Alvin Theatre, New York City)|
|1966||The Pajama Game||Babe Williams||US National Tour|
|1974||Liza||Herself (one-woman show)||Broadway (Winter Garden Theatre, New York City)|
|1975||Chicago||Roxie Hart||Broadway (46th Street Theatre, New York City)
Note: replacement for Gwen Verdon
|19771978||The Act||Michelle Craig||Broadway (Majestic Theatre, New York City)|
|1978||Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?||Letter Reader (cameo)||Off-Broadway (Promenade Theatre, New York City)|
|19781979||The Owl and the Pussycat||The Storyteller||Metropolitan Opera House (Lincoln Center), New York City|
|1984||The Rink||Angel||Broadway (Martin Beck Theatre, New York City)|
|1994||Love Letters||Melissa Gardner||Coconut Grove Playhouse, Miami, Florida|
|1997||Victor/Victoria||Victoria Grant||Broadway (Marquis Theatre, New York City)
Note: vacation replacement for Julie Andrews
|19992000||Minnelli on Minnelli: Live at the Palace||Herself (one-woman show)||Broadway (Palace Theatre, New York City)|
|20082009||Liza’s at The Palace….||Herself (one-woman show)||Broadway (Palace Theatre, New York City)|