Stephen Mosher on Liza Minnelli
I am nearing the end of my days as a blogger and as a photographer. I am stepping back, completely, from the arts. The chance that I will ever get to meet or say this to Liza Minnelli are slim. Actually, I have been in the same room as Liza Minnelli on more than one occasion. And I have friends who know her. But none of them have ever offered to introduce me to her, all the while knowing how I feel. So the best I can do is post this on the internet and hope that someone who knows her will forward it on to her.
Dear Liza Minnelli.
I was 11 years old when my mother said to me “I sure do like that Liza Minnelli” and I, a true Mama’s boy, had to examine the artist. So I looked up what I could (which, in the 70’s, took work) in books I could find at the library and in the popular magazines at the time, Rona Barrett’s Gossip and Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. Sometimes there were stories in People Magazine, once it became the magazine to read, and TIME and Newsweek. But we were living in Europe and what was available to me was limited. Also, movies and records came to Europe later than they did in America. So when I was able to find a Liza Minnelli record I bought it – usually under the guise of a gift for Mama, a gift that I immediately usurped and made my own. I bought her Liza at the Winter Garden and Liza with a Z. I played the records so much that they eventually had to be replaced. When Cabaret came to Portugal I got my Daddy to take me. I was 12 or 13 so I didn’t quite understand all of the film — mostly the political aspects, because I totally got the sexual nature of the film. There were occasional televised specials on European TV that featured an appearance from my new idol and, vhs not having been invented, I would put my portable cassette recorder up to the speaker and record these specials. I had been bitten by the Liza Minnelli bug.
A few years later my family moved from Portugal to Switzerland. I was 14 now. I could go around the city by myself. After school I would roam the streets of Zurich and go to the picture show. That is where I saw New York New York and it was one of the greatest films I had ever seen. My love for Minnelli was growing in leaps and bounds. I bought all the records, saw the movies, the TV specials and wore out my cassette player listening to my home made recordings of Lucky Lady, New York New York, Baryshnikov on Broadway, the Night of 100 Stars and more. I was definitely a fan.
The thing is I was a gay teenager. I knew it when I was five. But I didn’t know that, as gay rules went, I was supposed to love Liza Minnelli. Nobody gave me a handbook or a list and said “These are the women you must love” I just did. And I loved all the ones I was supposed to love, particularly the holy trinity: Liza, Barbra, Judy. I loved the divas.
But Liza was mine.
There is always one diva who seems to be speaking directly to you.
Liza was mine.
I was 11. I am 53.
Dear Liza Minnelli.
Since I will never get to meet you and tell you this face to face: Thank you. You have made my life different. In the darkest moments, you have lifted me out. In the most joyful of times, you have helped me to celebrate. You have inspired me, you have lead me, you have made my life wonderful. I listen to the song Cabaret every day. For a while I didn’t. There were other songs that captured my attention and Cabaret went to the back burner because, well, it had become cliche. It had over saturated my life. I wanted to listen to New York New York. I wanted to hear Stepping Out. I needed to listen to Maybe This Time and But the World Goes Round. But about seven years ago I was watching the movie Cabaret for probably the 70th time and during the song Cabaret I said “this is freaking ASTONISHING”. And I put the song in my phone and play it once a day. It is my way of making sure that, at least once a day, I am happy and carefree. These are difficult times in the world and some days it is hard to happy throughout the day. But thanks to that song being in my phone, at least once a day, I know I will be happy.
I have an entire Liza Minnelli playlist in my phone. The days I play it are super happy days. Those days happen a lot.
My first ever concert in life was Liza Minnelli in Lausanne, Switzerland. I was 15. My parents let me travel from our home in Berne to Lausanne by train to see the show. I was beside myself. It was one of my most memorable nights. Imagine my joy to discover that show was recorded at Carnegie Hall and filmed in New Orleans. Both the record and the video are still played in my home with great regularity. It was the first of 11 times I have seen you live.
I met you once, Liza Minnelli. It was a real meeting. You were in Dallas promoting the cologne Metropolis (I still have a bottle and the scent is still active, it hasn’t faded). A friend got me in the press line at the Macy’s in Dallas and I got to take some photos of you. Some of them aren’t very good but one or two are among my favorites I have ever taken. After I made the photos I was allowed to stand in line and get a signature on an 8×10 glossy. As you signed it, I was allowed to make a straight on photo of you, which I did. Afterward I looked you in the eye and said “I love you” and you said “I love you too”. I knew it is impossible to love a stranger with whom you have never shared time; but I also knew that you did, indeed, love your fans. So I was happy to take the love offered me.
I passed you at Mark Sendroff’s 50th birthday party but was not able to say hello. A propriety geek to the core, I cannot speak to people to whom I have not been given a proper introduction, especially a celebrity. But I passed by you. It was enough.
I came to New York hoping to get a photo shoot with you, my idol, my diva. I was never able to. I was never an important enough artist to get a shoot with you or my other ungettables: Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Julie Andrews, Nicole Kidman. But I did photograph you from the 22nd row of a concert hall in Dallas when you did the Stepping Out tour. Between the photos I made that night and the Macy’s/Metropolis photos, I feel like I did right by my diva.
I remember one year stating on Facebook that “The BCEFA Legend ornament really needs to be Liza Minnelli in the red sequined pantsuit from The Act” and my friend Tom Viola emailed me privately to say “This year is Julie Andrews and next year is, indeed, Liza Minnelli in the red pantsuit – this is a SECRET and PLEASE tell NOBODY”. I never did. The following year that ornament came out and is always hung right at the top of the Christmas tree, with the customary angel. Because you are a guardian angel to me, Liza Minnelli.
So before I take my life as a struggling artist, tuck it away and go to radio silence, I want to tell you something, from the deepest place in my heart: You have mattered. You have made a difference. You have made my life so wonderful. So, with every fiber of my being I want to say
Your devoted fan forever,