Minnelli scores in London, looks forward to NY

GOOD MORNING: I spoke with Liza Minnelli after her show Wednesday night at London’s Royal Albert Hall. She was bubbling over in her dressing room after a dozen standing ovations. As I talked with her on the phone, I could hear the excited congratulations behind and alongside her; she was surrounded by adoring fans including John Mills, David Frost, Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard, etc. The 56-year-old Liza breathlessly told me, “I feel great. I am just thrilled. Everyone has been so sympathetic.” Now she is looking forward to the next triumphant return in New York. Plans are for a June 1 bow (the site to be set) for a 14-night stand. After winding in London, she wings to Rome Wednesday to receive the Donatello Award and plans to sing one song at the event. No, it will not be mimed. The reason for lip-synching three songs in her Royal Albert Hall stand, she explained, is because they are numbers that include dancing … I couldn’t help recalling her mom Judy Garland’s love affair with the Londoners. In Variety’s review of Judy on Jan. 15, 1969, Rich said, “Make no mistake, the Garland magic, warmth and heart are as irresistible as ever” … After London, Liza and new hubby, David Gest, head on a honeymoon — no, not Thailand, as erroneously reported, but to Paris, St. Tropez and Belgium … In the midst of all this joy, she took time to decry the stories about Lee Minnelli being evicted from the Vincente Minnelli house. Liza told me, “My father left me the house (he died in 1986), saying, ‘It is my wish if you sell the house that you move her (Lee) to a residence.’ I finally got a nice offer to sell it and offered her a $450,000 condo, tax-free. She won’t move. I’ve been supporting her forever. I did exactly what my father asked me to do. And now we can’t go into escrow because she won’t move. I am willing to give her a happy life.” Gest added that Liza continued to support Lee even when Liza was ill — unable to work, walk or talk last year, when she was over 200 pounds. So Liza’s filing papers requesting a judge to make Lee move.

ALSO HEADING BACK TO WORK, live on stage, is Bob Newhart, 72. He’s heading out on a tour of eastern cities starting this weekend. Howcum? “I decided it wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my days, looking at bad golf swings. Besides, it’s fun getting out. I’ve been doing standup since 1960,” he reminded. I wondered if today’s world made a difference in his unique act and brand of humor? “No, I try to always be true. Comedy breaks down barriers, but I always work clean. I’ll always work clean. I talked to Jerry Seinfeld and we both agreed. I never get into politics. I never thought it was my job to educate — only to entertain.” I asked if he is adding something current in his act. Yes, he adds a celeb voice in a routine on the computerized directional car instructor. Whose voice? “Joe Pesci’s.” Whereupon Newhart did a remarkable imitation of Pesci. “He’s a friend and has a great sense of humor,” Newhart said. “One day I saw him playing golf with Mikhail Baryshnikov. I said to Baryshnikov, ‘You and Joe Pesci?’ ” Pesci replied to Newhart, “What about you and Don Rickles?” The always-modest Newhart was very moved by being named fifth recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, to be presented Oct. 29. “It’s amazing how much of what he said is as valid today.” He’ll also appear on the Letterman show Friday night.

SHOWBIZ AND POLITIX: The Directors Guild Political Action Committee Leadership Council has been hosting gatherings this week with Sen. Max Baucus (R-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; Reps. David Dreier (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Rules Committee, who intro’d the House of Representatives version of the runaway production bill last year; and Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. I asked DGA prez Martha Coolidge the thrust of the talks. They were mainly about runaway production and Internet piracy. “These are subjects that affect our livelihoods,” Coolidge strongly reminded. “And we (the directors) are the leaders on the set. Our members have a deep passion on the economic problems of American product.” As for the solons, she noted their desire to remind the DGA “about the importance of how movies represent our country — to our country and to the world, particularly since 9/11” … Sumner Redstone assures all he’s feeling great and recuped from the accident in which several ribs were broken. He’ll leave for China next month. Yes, there is revenue from there, with more to come, he promises. He firmly believes in “personalized relationships” — while still conducting serious business.

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