Liza May Minnelli
Paternal 27th cousin, 2x removed
It never ceases to amaze me when I find a super-star celebrity to add to my family tree. EVERYBODY knows who Liza Minnelli is, and when I accidentally stumbled across her equally famous mother (Judy Garland), I knew that I had my work cut out for me. Having two legends like Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli in my tree, and writing a page for both would be a daunting task. What could I possibly add about either of these ladies that others had not already done?
Liza was born on March 12th, 1945 at the famous Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Her mother was Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm), my 26th cousin, 3x removed, and Vincente Minnelli, an acclaimed stage and film director. According to what I have read, Judy and Vincente named their daughter after an Ira Gershwin song called "Liza". Knowing what I know about both Ira Gershwin and my now famous cousin Liza, I think that Judy and Vincente made an excellent choice.
I have personally watched Liza work her magic in film and on TV for longer than I wish to admit. In whatever role the talented Liza Minnelli tackles, she always makes the character seem bigger than life. Maybe it's Liza's incredible smile, or her incredible eyes that have a deep fire in them that grabs my attention, but there is no doubt that Liza's superstar status is well deserved. Liza clearly loves the spotlight and it is clear that she gives her very best performance each and every time.
Being born to two big Hollywood names made have helped launch Liza into show business, but in order to stay in show business, Liza had to have talent. She has that in spades.
Liza attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York City, which is the same high school referenced in the movie and then the television program Fame (from the 1980's - and this writer watched the TV show regularly, as did most of my high school classmates). Liza became an apprentice at the age of 16 at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Liza then performed in the chorus Flower Drum Song and was Muriel in Take Me Along. Liza's first professional performance came at the age of 17 when she was in an off-Broadway musical Best Foot Forward. Liza's performance in Best Foot Forward earned her the Theatre World Award.
In 1964, Liza's mother Judy asked her to perform in London alongside of her at the Palladium for two concerts. The concerts were recorded and later released as the album Live at the London Palladium featuring the mother and daughter duo singing. The album peaked at #41 on the Billboard charts. In fact, Liza had begun to perform as a nightclub singer earlier on and performed in nightclubs from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, from Miami to New York and lot's of cities in between. Liza recorded several albums for Capitol Records. From 1963 to 2013, Liza has recorded 11 studio albums, 10 live albums, 33 singles and numerous other music videos, videos, compilations and other contributions. Liza can definitely belt out a tune, and in this writer's humble opinion, her stage training shines through in every song - she has a crystal clear, powerful voice and it is clear that she loves to sing.
As a stage performer and actress, not only does Liza sing, but she also dances - and boy, can the lady dance! It takes very little searching to find dozens of videos of Liza in action on stage and in film.
Liza has been married 4 times, and divorced 4 times and she does not have any children. Liza has had struggles with alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs. Liza entered the Betty Ford Clinic, a treatment center for people with alcohol and drug addiction problems. This was followed by other treatments at different centers and at different times. Fortunately for Liza, as well as her friends, family and millions of fans, she knows when she needs help and she actively seeks the help that she needs.
Alcoholism is a disease, one that this writer believes to be genetic, or at a minimum, a disease that some people are more prone to having than others. In reading about Liza's struggles with alcoholism, I find stories that focus strictly on the struggles that she has had all too common. What I think people - and writers - should focus on is the strength of Liza and people like her who actively seek help and work to improve their lives. Having the inner fortitude to admit that you have a problem and seek help is an incredibly brave thing to do - to do this publicly is something that only a warrior could do, so let's celebrate rather than denigrate people like Liza.
Liza Minnelli has long been an advocate for HIV/AIDS research, having lost many friends to the disease. Liza told another distant cousin of mine, Elizabeth Taylor, about HIV/AIDS when they were discussing their mutual friend, actor Rock Hudson (who died from the disease in 1985). Liza has given much of her time to amfAR, the HIV/AIDS research foundation co-founded by Elizabeth Taylor. Liza has also served with various charities and causes that she supports.
Although we are definitely distant cousins, with our shared Great-Grandfather being King Henry II (Plantagenet) of England, my 25th Great-Grandfather and Liza's 23rd Great-Grandfather, I am proud to be able to add this extraordinary lady to my family tree.
Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to meet my 27th cousin in person, but if not, I hope that she knows that I appreciate all the wonderful entertainment she has brought into our lives.