Liza Minnelli On...

The Broadway legend talks Smash, Arrested Development and the timelessness of Bob Fosse.
March 01, 2013

(Alan Cumming and Liza Minnelli at the Ice Palace last summer.)

Happy early birthday!
Oh. Thanks. [Laughs]
Is performing in your blood?
I think there are very few of us. We’re the last vaudevillians. And I enjoy it. If I’m not doing TV or film, I love just going to different cities. I have friends all over the world from just traveling and singing. 
Do you feel more alive when you are performing on stage?
Not really. It is like a conversation but it’s with the audience. So if you’re singing a song about somebody going through a specific thing you let them know how that feels and it’s kind of like how I’m trying to tell you now.
What was it like performing in Fire Island?
It was very hot that night. Oh, it was. You know [I had to reapply makeup] even before the show. I’m sitting around and I suddenly realize that it’s run down my face. So I go in and slam it on again!
How was it reuniting with your Cabaret costars for the 40th anniversary Blu-ray launch?
It was extraordinary. And the film looks like it could have been done yesterday. You know, [Bob] Fosse’s work is so unique. It could’ve been done tomorrow, for Christ’s sake. Fosse was like nobody else.
Does it make you proud to see your Cabaret costar Joel Grey still on Broadway?
Absolutely. There’s no one like Joel. Again, he’s a vaudevillian, too. And I say that in the sickest sense. 
Is there a secret language between people who have been in the show?
Yeah, that’s a wonderful way to put it. We like each other so much that we can look at each other and make each other laugh.
You live here in New York. Were you affected by Sandy at all?
Not as badly as everyone else was. But, oh my Lord. This city is amazing and how it stands up to anything. And to see people really go to work and get out in the streets and help each other and all that stuff. And that, I think, is part of the camaraderie of New York City and the surrounding areas. You go help!
But is there anything about New York you would change?
Nothing! It changes itself. And that is what is so astounding because there is always something new.
How was it being on Smash?
Oh, it was fun! I just sing on it. So it was lovely to meet all of them ’cause I think they’re good and I like the show a lot.
And what about reuniting for Arrested Development?
I play the same role as I did before, Lucille 2. It was great to do! They say, ‘Don’t tell anybody anything’ and you say, ‘Oh, all right’. But it’s so brilliant and everybody is so good. And the writer/director [Mitch Hurwitz] is fabulous I had a wonderful, wonderful time.
Is it surprising how many people know you from that and not from your earlier work?
I know, but that happens. I watch [Arrested Development] with other people and think, thank God, really!
Why do you say you’re one of the last vaudeville stars?
I don’t think it’s because people aren’t as talented. I think it’s because it’s the nature of the game now. It [used to] take years to become a really polished star and now you turn on the TV and there is some kind of contest and suddenly somebody’s a star in 20 minutes! Unfortunately that doesn’t last very long, because there is always someone the very next week. So I think that instantaneous thing has changed. At one point Andy Warhol said, “In the future I think everybody’s going to be famous for 15 minutes.” Right? Well, it’s turned into 15 seconds.