Some people achieve greatness, while others are born into it: Liza Minnelli did both, arguably. Born to the Hollywood legend Judy Garland, one would think it would be easy street. Unfortunately, Minnelli’s path to fame was paved with addiction, divorce, and insecurity. It’s a mild miracle she made it to the other side to win awards and be cast in multiple iconic movie roles. Dance to these 42 tapping facts about Liza Minnelli.
1. Winner by a Golden Hair
Liza Minnelli is part of the elite “EGOT” circle—a collection of entertainers who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony over the course of the careers. Of course, Minnelli only belongs there on a technicality; she has never won a “competitive” Grammy. The singer-actress was only awarded the music trophy in 1990 as an honorary “Grammy Legend Award.”
2. House Rules
Minnelli comes from a famous and twisted family tree. In 1946, she was born to the second marriage of screen legend, Judy Garland. Her father was Italian film director Vincente Minnelli. Her parents divorced in 1951, when she was 5 years old. They would each go on to re-marry several times, resulting in a tangle of half-siblings for the little Minnelli.
3. Daddy’s Little Chief Beneficiary
When her father passed in 1986, Minnelli was given the lion’s share of his valued $1.1 million USD estate. However, her father’s widow was bequeathed $100,000—but just $5,000 to went to Minnelli’s paternal half-sister Christiane, on the basis she had been “provided” for already enough in life. Additionally, it was Liza who would get all the furniture and property.
4. Born to Sing
Liza Minnelli was named after the song “Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away)” by Ira Gershwin.
5. Never Too Early to Know Your Lines
Minnelli’s showbiz career began at age 3, when she made a cameo appearance in her mother Judy Garland’s musical, In the Good Old Summertime.
6. Take Your First Bow
Minnelli wracked up musical awards very early. She got her first musical award at age 17 for her Broadway role in Best Foot Forward. Then, at just age 19, she won her first Tony for Fiona the Red Menace.
7. From Recess to Happy Hour
When most girls were playing hopscotch, Liza Minnelli was singing at nightclubs. Since she was a teenager, Minnelli was used to gracing bars with her voice. However, she made her official professional debut at 19 years old in Washington DC’s Shoreham Hotel.
8. Queen of Queen
Liza Minnelli was good friends with Queen singer Freddie Mercury. She performed with the surviving members of Queen at 1992 tribute concert, singing ‘We Are the Champions.”
9. It’s Not a Phase, Mom
We all have an emo phase. For Liza Minnelli, this came much later in 2006, when she lent her backing vocals for My Chemical Romance’s legendary punk emo album, The Black Parade. The EGOT-winning actress even sang part of “Mama” with Gerard Way.
10. Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Following her mother’s footsteps, Liza Minnelli lent her vocals to the animated sequel to The Wizard of Oz titled, Journey Back to Oz. In fact, she specifically voiced her mother’s former role of Dorothy.
11. A Sultry Syllabus
To prepare for her Academy Award-winning role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1972), she studied photos of famous dark-haired actresses of the early 20th century, like Louise Glaum and Louise Brooks.
12. Never Too Sick for Song
In 2000, doctors thought Minnelli would never walk or speak again after she contract a serious case of viral encephalitis. Miraculously—and after intense dance and vocal therapy—she made a full recovery by 2001. She made her return at Michael Jackson’s 30th anniversary special, where she sang “Never Never Land” and declared “I am as stable as a table.”
13. One out of Three Ain’t Bad
Minnelli is just one of the few actresses to have the “honor” of winning both a Best Actress Oscar and a Worst Actress Razzie Award. She won the latter for two different movies in the same year of 1989: Rent-a-Cop and Arthur 2: On the Rocks.
14. Three’s a Crowd on the Mantlepiece
To date, Liza Minnelli is the only offspring of two Academy Award winners (Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli) to have an Academy Award in her own name. Tick-tock, babies of Hollywood.
15. Never Too Early to Build That Resume
If we want to get really technical, Minnelli was in show business before she was even born. Judy Garland was pregnant with her first daughter when she filmed Till the Clouds Roll By. Minnelli’s prenatal existence (and Garland’s stomach) was obscured behind a stack of dishes.
16. Gals and Palindromes
For her 1963 TV debut on The Jack Parr Show, Minnelli was introduced by the name “Yduj Dnalrag.” After her performance, it was revealed that she was Judy Garland’s daughter, and her on-screen name was merely “Judy Garland” spelled backwards.
17. Four Strikes, You’re out
To date, Liza Minnelli has been married and divorced four times. This matches the record of her mother, Judy Garland, who was also divorced four times—but had five husbands.
18. Mother’s Milk Is Toxic Today
It’s believed Minnelli’s prescription drug abuse began with her use of Valium to cope with the death of her mother.
19. If He Only Had a Heart
Minnelli almost built a Wizard of Oz family dynasty with her second husband, Jack Haley Jr. He was the son of Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man alongside Minnelli’s mother in The Wizard of Oz. Alas, this magical union was not to last. They divorced after just five years of marriage in 1979.
20. A History of Violence?
Minnelli’s most recent marriage, to TV personality David Gest, was explosive. They were married for just a year before accused her of being violently abusive, citing her chronic alcoholism. In 2003, he launched a $10 million lawsuit against her. Minnelli would insist Gest only made up the accusations for money. Whatever the truth, the case was kicked out of court in 2006 for lack of evidence.
21. Hollywood Royalty Dates Together
Minnelli has a history of dating other second-generation Hollywood elites. One of her ex-boyfriends is Desi Arnaz Jr., the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Sr.
22. The Golden Couple
In a case of Oscar winners dating Oscar winners, Minnelli was also romantically attached to acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. Why isn’t that talked about more?
23. Had Enough Vows
Minnelli’s third marriage was to stage manager and sculptor, Mark Gero. The two were married in December 1979, but divorced in 1992. At 13 years, this is her longest-lasting marriage. Minnelli has not been married since.
24. Laugh or Cry
While Minnelli has no children to speak of, most tragically, she was pregnant once, but she experienced dire complications. The baby did not survive, but Minnelli did get a severe hernia from the procedures that doctors performed trying to preserve the pregnancy. In a 2008 interview, she was able to laugh about the twisted trade-off.
25. Love is Love
Like her mother, Liza Minnelli is a beloved icon in the LGTBQ community. Just as Judy Garland was declared “the Elvis of homosexuals” of her day by The Advocate, Minnelli made Out magazine’s 2014 list of “12 Greatest Female Gay Icons of All Time.”
26. Second Choice, First at the Podium
Minnelli’s most famous role in cinema almost went to Barbra Streisand. In fact, Streisand was the first choice to play Sally Bowles in Cabaret. She turned it down, which paved Minnelli’s path to Oscar gold.
27. It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Miscast!
In addition to Natalie Wood and Raquel Welch, both Streisand and Liza Minnelli were in the running to play Lois Lane in Superman (1978). Both stage icons lost out; the part of Superman’s love interest went to Margot Kidder.
28. Not Time for Losers
Ouch: Liza Minnelli’s cover of “New York, New York” used to be played at Yankee Stadium every time the home team lost. The original Frank Sinatra version was reserved only for when the Yankees won. Not one to stand for insult, Minnelli gave them an ultimatum: play her version when the Yankees win, or don’t play it at all. They chose “don’t play it at all,” so the Sinatra version is the only one you hear.
29. Calling His Bluff
The movie version of the hit musical Evita had been in production since the 1980s. Liza Minnelli blew everyone away in her audition for the titular role…or at least, she wowed director Ken Russell. In fact, Russell refused to let the show go on without Minnelli. He made a fatal gamble with the studio: Russell told the studio to either cast Minnelli or he would walk. Russell was fired and the movie didn’t get made until 1996. By then, Minnelli was a little too long in the tooth to play Evita, so the role went to other gay culture icon, Madonna.
30. Taking the Lead
According to Liza Minnelli herself, she’s the one who gave Elizabeth Taylor the idea to be involved in AIDS activism. Taylor would go on to be one of the biggest names in fighting for funds and awareness at the nadir of the crisis.
31. A Miss With a KISS is Better Than None
Once upon a time, in 1989, KISS frontman Gene Simmons served as Minnelli’s music manager. Her album “Results” did well in the UK, but not so great in the US. I guess she could KISS his advice goodbye the next time.
32. Hit or Kiss
Due to their close professional relationship, it was rumored that KISS singer Gene Simmons and Liza Minnelli were romantically attached to each other in the 1980s.
Although her fourth marriage to David Gest didn’t pan out so great, it did get off to a scandalous start. It’s said their wedding kiss ran for an uncomfortably long amount of time…
34. Bad Boss
Not long after her fourth divorce (which also ended in lawsuits), Liza Minnelli was sued by her former chauffer for sexual abuse, battery, personal injury, and other breaches of contract. The driver alleged that Minnelli coerced him into sexual relations under threat of termination. Minnelli counter-sued for defamation. As the suit was settled out of court, it’s doubtful we’ll get the details.
35. Man of Regrets
Liza Minnelli was good friends with Michael Jackson, who served as best man at her (fourth) wedding to David Gest. After the marriage fell apart, she jokingly (we think) blamed Jackson for ever marrying him. To quote Minnelli, “I grabbed [Michael]… And I said, ‘Why did you let me marry this idiot?’ He said, ‘I thought you liked him! You look so happy. Your dress was so beautiful. I don’t know. Let me go!’ And I said, ‘Michael, how could you.’ He said, ‘It’s over, relax.’ Then we looked at each other and we started to laugh. We really started to laugh.”
36. Not Suitable for All Readers
Is Liza Minnelli the inspiration for the mischievous “Eloise” of Kay Thompson’s Eloise children’s book series? As much has been speculated. Thompson was Minnelli’s godmother, and the young starlet’s wild youth could certainly inspire a few stories or more.
37. The Insecurities of the Mother
Liza Minnelli’s inheritance isn’t so charmed. Her mother suffered from addictions from adolescence due to the abuse and pressure from the Hollywood system. Minnelli is public about comparing her own struggles to her mother’s saying, “My whole life, this disease has been rampant. I inherited it, and it’s been horrendous, but I have always asked for help.”
For the record, Garland died of barbiturate overdose when Minnelli was only 23 years old. Minnelli also inherited Garland’s physique of a large chest, short waist, and long legs—the same physique for which Garland was endlessly insulted by her studio executives. Due to her similar body and unique features, Minnelli grew up thinking she was ugly too.
38. Climbing the Rainbow Mountain
Judy Garland’s shadow hung so wide over Minnelli that, for years, she was hesitant to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That number was deeply tied to her mother. However, her illness probably shifted some priorities. In 2002, in a comeback performance, she finally sang it in public and received a standing ovation for continuing her mother’s legacy.
39. One Pill Makes You More Notable
In 1978, Minnelli crossed paths with Andy Warhol, who observed her drug problems. According to Warhol’s diary, Minnelli once charged into the house of a New York fashion designer and demanded the host “Give me every drug you’ve got.”
40. Friends With No Benefits
Minnelli’s first marriage to Peter Allen ended when he came out as gay in 1974. According to her, she was the last to know: “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!” Nevertheless, the two stayed close friends until Allen’s 1992 passing.
41. Love Square
While still in the closet, Minnelli’s first husband Peter Allen embarked on a secret affair with Minnelli’s own stepfather, Mark Herron. He was still married to Judy Garland at the time, which must have made an awkward event of both family dinners and red carpets.
42. In Love With the Wrong Team
Minnelli’s father, Vincente, had rumored relationships with other men. It’s said her mother, Judy Garland, tried to take her own life upon finding her husband in bed with a male lover. Biographers have made this unfortunate connection between mother and daughter’s love lives.