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Liza Minnelli describes best and worst of times

Liza Minnelli, the singer and star of stage and screen talks with “Today” host Matt Lauer about her public battle with alcohol and bitter divorce.
/ Source: TODAY

Liza Minnelli was born into Hollywood royalty. The daughter of actress Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, she quickly became a star in her own right. By the time she was 25-years-old, she won an Oscar for “Cabaret.” Since then, she's since won numerous other awards for her work on Broadway. But in recent years, her personal life has prompted many of the headlines, including her short-lived marriage to David Gest.  There are also concerns about Liza's health. "Today" host Matt Lauer talks to Minnelli in her first television interview in a long time.

Matt Lauer: Liza Minnelli, good to have you here.

Liza Minnelli:  Thank you, Matt.  How are you?

Lauer:  I'm doing well, thanks.  I was thinking about this interview last night and for some reason I thought of Dickens’s "Tale of Two Cities": "It was the best of times..."

Minnelli:  It was the worst of times.

Lauer: …it was the worst of times.

Minnelli:  Yes.

Lauer:  Is that a fair description of the last couple of years for you?

Minnelli:  Oh, absolutely. But you know something?

Lauer:  Ups and downs.

Minnelli:  Yeah, and I think we've all been there. Mine just happened to be public.

Lauer:  Yeah, right in the headlines.  I want to talk about both — the best and the worst.

Minnelli:  Sure.

Lauer:  Let me start with your health, though. There was concern at the end of December, the 27th, I think — you took a fall out of bed.  You were taken to the hospital because you hit your head.  First of all, how are you feeling?

Minnelli:  I'm fine.

Lauer:  All right.

Minnelli:  I'm fine, and my hips are fine. My false knee is fine. My false hips are fine.  Everything's cooking.

Lauer:  All the bionics also working again?

Minnelli: The bionic woman is working again here.

Lauer:  You admitted in an interview last week that the fall was drinking-related.

Minnelli:  Yes, it was.

Lauer:  Okay.  Tell me about that.

Minnelli:  Well, you know something?

Lauer: Your fans, who are the most loyal...

Minnelli:  Yes, in the world.

Lauer: the world, I should say...

Minnelli: And also, I think...

Lauer: ...are concerned about that.

Minnelli:  But they shouldn't be.  It was a time of great pressure. I mean, some people say, “You're a slob,” or, “You're this or that.”  It can't be dismissed like that.  You can't.  That's unfair.

Lauer:  You think it's a disease you inherited from your mom?

Minnelli:  Well, I think it's been in my family for years.

Lauer:  Right.

Minnelli:  It's been proven.  I mean, I'm not going to sit here and argue that — that's medical history.

Lauer:  But what triggers it in your life, because you've been through...

Minnelli:  Well, pressure.

Lauer:  ...treatment a lot of times, since 1984...

Minnelli:  Yeah.

Lauer: went to the Betty Ford Clinic.

Minnelli:  I had a one day slip, Matt.  So what do you do?  You get up and you go on, and you try not to do it again. I mean, now look at me, I feel wonderful, I'm strong, I'm rehearsing [and] I'm healthy.

Lauer:  Sober?

Minnelli:  Absolutely.

Lauer:  You said in the interview that you...

Minnelli:  Look in my eyes.

Lauer:  They look clear to me.

Minnelli:  You can tell.

Lauer:  You said in the interview that you had one drink and you immediately called for help.

Minnelli:  Absolutely.

Lauer:  The fact that you fell out of bed makes some people think you had more than one drink before you called for help.

Minnelli:  No, no, no.

Lauer:  But I guess that can do it to you, one drink.

Minnelli:  No.  I had the drink after I fell out of bed.  It hurt.

Lauer:  Really?

Minnelli:  Yes, I hurt my hip.

Lauer:  These days when something like that happens to you, Liza, who do you call for help?

Minnelli:  Oh, I call my sponsor.

Lauer:  You do?

Minnelli:  Yeah, sure.

Lauer:  And immediately say, “Look, I've had a problem [and] I've had a slip.”

Minnelli:  “Help,” you know?  “I'm in trouble.  Help me.” The thing is, is to raise your hand.  It's not to hide, and it's not to try and pretend or do anything like that.  You raise your hand, that's the best thing about it.

Lauer:  It was the best of times.  Okay, let's...

Minnelli:  Yes.

Lauer: about something.  In the midst of all of these headlines, you are still getting critical raves for your role on "Arrested Development" …

Minnelli:  Thank you.

Lauer: ...on Fox Television.  People love the character that you play.

Minnelli:  Isn't she funny?

Lauer:  Well, how do you describe her?

Minnelli:  Well, she's nuts.  I mean, she's a very wealthy woman, as opposed to me, she's a very wealthy woman who has vertigo and she has — her nemesis is Lucille, Lucy in the Blues family. I'm Lucille, too. 

Lauer:  The Chicago Tribune wrote that you play the part fabulously.  The New York Daily News wrote that the part "gives Minnelli a part to play that she plays to the hilt."  I know Ron Howard basically called you...

Minnelli:  Yes, he did.

Lauer: ...and asked you to do it.  Are you going to continue to do it? Because what I've heard, your last appearance is Sunday night.

Minnelli:  Well, for this year, it is.

Lauer:  And so you'll come back and do more?

Minnelli:  Well, I don't know.  Whenever Ron calls me I go out there.  I just love doing it.

Lauer:  All right.

Minnelli:  But I'm doing a lot more in Los Angeles, you know.

Lauer:  They...

Minnelli:  I also just finished a couple of days on a movie.

Lauer:  I know.  I want to talk about the movie.

Minnelli:  Yeah.

Lauer:  I want to talk about a screenplay you're working on as well.  In your interview with Newsday, you said your battle with alcohol and drugs, "had never affected a performance or stood in the way of my work."

Minnelli:  No.

Lauer:  That's hard to believe when you really think about it, after all the struggles you have been through.

Minnelli:  Right.

Lauer:  You never think it's affected you professionally?

Minnelli:  No, I've never missed a performance because of it. 

Lauer:  There's never been a time onstage where you thought maybe you weren't at your best because of it?

Minnelli:  No, I've always been very disciplined, you know?  I've never done it while I'm working.

Lauer:  So if it...

Minnelli:  It's only on my own time.  But you know something? Let's not talk about that anymore.  I have said enough about that. 

Lauer:  All right.  I do have to ask you about a couple of other reasons you've been in the headlines.

Minnelli:  Sure.

Lauer:  You can comment to whatever degree you can.  You are the subject of a lawsuit from your former bodyguard.

Minnelli:  Oh, I know.

Lauer:  [A] Hundred million dollar lawsuit against you for sexual harassment, claiming battery, assault, breach of contract and that you forced him to have a sexual relationship with you.  What was your reaction when you heard the charges?

Minnelli:  I couldn't believe it. I mean, really, Matt. Come on!

Lauer: Was there any sexual relationship with this man...

Minnelli:  Are you bananas?

Lauer:  ...M'Hammed Soumayah?

Minnelli:  Listen, I'm not allowed to say anything about this because it's so nuts, and legally, I can't say anything.  But look at my eyes.

Lauer:  You filed a lawsuit — a counter-lawsuit of $250,000...

Minnelli:  Oh, please!

Lauer: ...saying that he violated a confidentiality agreement.

Minnelli:  Matt, I can't say anything.

Lauer:  Okay. Got it, got the eyes. You're not a fan of having your ex-husband's name mentioned, so let me just say that you're facing another lawsuit. 

Minnelli:  I'm in such good company.  Look, this is happening to everybody.  I mean, it's happening to, did you say, to Cosby, now?

Lauer:  Yeah.

Minnelli:  Somebody's gone after Cosby?

Lauer:  When you two got married your vows were this:  “David, I belong to you. I honor you.  I adore you.” When you hear those words now, how do you feel?

Minnelli:  I feel like I made a mistake in saying those things.

Lauer:  When did you know there was a mistake? I think the marriage lasted about 16 months?

Minnelli:  Yes.

Lauer:  So how soon into it?

Minnelli:  Shortly after.

Lauer:  His allegations of physical abuse to the point where he's got permanent neurological damage — you respond how?

Minnelli:  I think that will come clear.

Lauer:  Not able to talk about it?

Minnelli:  No, I can't. But I think that that will clear itself up.

Lauer:  How has it changed you in terms of men?  I mean, do you see yourself ever getting married again?

Minnelli:  Are you crazy?  I see myself...

Lauer:  I take that as a no.

Minnelli:  That's a nay.

Lauer:  No?

Minnelli:  No, I mean, I most certainly date and go out. But I don't think there's any reason to get married again, especially after what I’ve been through.

Lauer:  Do you think you attract the wrong guys?

Minnelli:  No, I have been very, very lucky.  I've known some wonderful men.  I mean, my god, Jack Haley Jr. was a marvelous man.  Mark Gero is a wonderful man.  I made a mistake and you pay for that.

Lauer:  I mentioned that your fans out there are about as loyal as fans in show business get.

Minnelli:  Yeah.

Lauer:  When they hear these stories one after the other, the fall from bed, the lawsuits and things, they worry that you are a person spiraling out of control. What would you say to them?

Minnelli:  Relax.  Don’t worry.  Just stick with me.  I’ll never let you down.  I won't.  Just believe me, not what you read.  Just believe what you see, all right?  Come and see me!  I am at Westbury.  Come and see me. Ben Vereen is going to be on the show with me, too.

Lauer:  Liza, it's always good to see you.

Minnelli:  It's good to see you too, Matt.

Lauer:  Thanks very much.