This Wednesday, I went to the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills to check out Love, Liza: The Exhibit, a showcase of over 1,000 items by showbiz entertainer Liza Minnelli. It would be a disservice to the skills of the lovely Liza to boil her down to “actress”, “singer”, or “performer”. As the kind of shooting star who lights up the screen with her very presence and attitude, Liza Minnelli is nothing less than a born entertainer, regardless of career or medium.
To the right of the Danny Thomas Lobby was a vast collection of Minnelli’s wardrobe over the years. You forget just how slinky and slender Minnelli can be in those thin, flowing dresses. There’s something of the Roaring Twenties in her fashion, combined with the overflowing colors of ’70s glitter. Liza was made for discotheques and smoky nightclubs.
At the very end was Sally Bowles’s iconic ensemble from Cabaret!
The colors of the exhibit were just drop-dead gorgeous. Liza was never afraid of being bold with her sparkling Technicolor choices, even if they sometimes veered a little close to kitschy. The genius of Roy Halston Frowick, Chanel, Versace, and other designers come through.
At the top of the stairs were some memorabilia and personal belongings of Liza and her parents, Judy Garland, and Vincente Minnelli. The love letters between Judy to Vincente were deeply personal and touching – Judy even sealed them with a lipstick kiss! I was very pleased to see some items relating to An American in Paris, which I’ll be covering for The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon on May 16, 2018.
What I’ve always found fascinating about Liza Minnelli is our perception of her as this brilliant stage and nightclub performer. We associate her with Radio City, Carnegie Hall, with Las Vegas, with Broadway, and the Tonys – yet this woman is true Hollywood royalty. As much an East Coast icon we think of her, she was still conceived under the tinsel-town supervision of MGM Technicolor musicals. She was made possible by the machinations of the studio system – in the end, she still sprang out and became this liberating force for avant-garde camp and theatricality.
In a jazzy sort of way, I’ve always viewed Liza Minnelli as a kind of glammed-up Judy Garland impersonator. Like the many Elvis impersonators who dress up in track suits and hang around Vegas with their sunglasses and karate kicks, pretending it’s still the ’70s, Liza has that Judy Garland moxie. It’s not just that she’s her daughter, but she seems to have absorbed all the defining traits, vocal patterns, and celebrity expectations of what we think a showbiz Judy Garland is. It’s that, combined with the flashy 1970s wardrobe, and we’re left with a Vegas nightclub tribute act to the beloved Hollywood star. It’s Judy Garland meets Andy Warhol.
And we just love it.
Wandering the Paley Center for Media, surrounded by showbiz royalty and Al Hirschfeld caricatures had me feeling nostalgic for those old days of showbiz with its “the show must go on” attitude. Back then, the glamor was infectious and hotsy-totsy.
Admission to Love, Liza: The Exhibit is free and it runs until April 29, 2018. All items are up for auction by Profiles in History. I highly recommend checking out the gorgeous items if you’re in Beverly Hills. The Paley Center for Media is located at 465 N. Beverly Drive.