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Liza Minnelli’s herself at last

Paley gig is all her own words, she says

I SPOKE by phone with Liza Minnelli only hours before she sparkled at NYC’s Paley Center last week, presiding over a screening of the film version of her now-legendary run at the Palace Theater. (This is the show wherein she paid brilliant homage to her godmother, the great entertainer-author Kay Thompson. She also sang, to spine-tingling effect, her mother’s famous “Palace Medley.”)

When Liza Minnelli is in good form, her energy shoots like an electric charge even through the phone wire. “Hi, honey!!” she boomed in a voice as clear as Fiji Water.

Ever since “Liza’s at the Palace” wowed the Broadway critics and audiences last year, the star has given much credit to the show’s director Ron Lewis, of whom she says, “He finally allowed me to be myself onstage. The real me.” She adds, delightedly, “He even let me light some of the numbers. He listened to my ideas!”

I was a little surprised to hear Liza say she is “finally herself.” The hallmark of her work, her appeal, has been the truth and emotion she offers. “Oh, I’ve always been true and sincere, but … you know Fred Ebb (who died in 2004) and John Kander — they wrote so many of my songs; they wrote almost every word I spoke onstage. When I’d say, ‘They created me,’ I wasn’t kidding. And that was great. But, in this show, I feel I am on my own, more grown-up, the humor is more me. I just feel — like Liza.”

We talk of Liza’s recent gig in Australia, home of her loved and admired first husband, Peter Allen. I’d heard Liza closed there with a song for Peter, which brought the entire house to tears. “It was a song Peter wrote, called ‘The Lives of Me.’ I’ve always wanted to sing it, and I figured Australia was a good place to start. The lyrics are so beautiful.”

And then, without so much as a “let me clear my throat,” Liza Minnelli begins to croon over the phone. Liza sang the entire song to me a cappella. She sounded great. I said, “Liza! Damn! I’m not recording this interview. I could sell that.” The star laughed huskily, “Royalties, Liz. Remember the royalties.”

DIDJA KNOW that Kate Winslet has been la beled as being worth $100 million to the British economy according to the U.K. Film Council? The Oscar-winning 34-year-old has often piqued English ire that she lives part of the time in New York with her director husband. But now she is being celebrated for attracting business to the British movie industry.

Kate is famous for standing up for herself and for other women. She won a big libel settlement recently when she sued a newspaper for writing of her non-exercise regime that “she had to be hiding the truth to look so good.” Kate stood up for women, saying: “I strongly believe that women should be encouraged to accept themselves as they are, so to suggest that I was lying was an unacceptable accusation of hypocrisy.”

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