An Evening With My Guy, My Parents and Liza With A “Z”
When it came in my email that I could get four free tickets to Liza Minnelli I couldn't log on fast enough. I don't care what people say about us gays and our female icons, for weeks my mother had been hounding me about getting tickets to Ms. Minnelli's concert and I just let it pass as it was an hour outside of Vegas where she would be playing and I didn't know the auditorium, etc. But when fate presented tickets (and free no less) what kind of gay man or Jewish mother's son would I be not to take the tickets? You see, there's a site for us Vegas locals called, "House Seats" where they supposedly give the best seats in the house (normally saved for press or VIPs) once the box office releases them (usually the day of the show when they know that no celebrity wants to use the tickets). It was really the first time I had used the site for an event that was to have reserved seats so I was excited to think I'd be close enough to see whether or not Liza would be donning her "Sally Bowles" from Cabaret's beauty mark or not (but more on that later).
My parents picked us up at around 6pm to begin our double date. Though the show didn't begin until 8pm, there was the hour drive and I needed to pick up the tickets from the box office by 7pm. So we arrived only to find that the line to pick up your tickets at the box office was almost out the door. As I traversed the line to make sure that this was indeed the line to just pick up tickets, I couldn't help but notice the diverse crowd in line. Most had an oversized postcard (probably from the casino's player's club) to pick up their tickets but the "house seats" crowd found one another soon enough. I, of course wasn't surprised by the forty to fifty-something gays with their mothers in line but what I was surprised to see was a younger crowd in this same line. Did they know who they were going to see? When I finally got the tickets I was delighted to see that we were in row "H" (I quickly counted on my fingers to get to the fact that we would be in the eighth row) immediately I thought that I probably wouldn't have to ever give my mother another gift as long as I lived, the eighth row at Liza Minnelli? I was in, big time!
We entered the venue where the concert was to take place and immediately my heart went into my throat. It was an arena. A huge arena that was barely full but still had a lot of people in it. In my heart (that was still in my throat) I knew what was coming. The usher showed us to the upper most section of the arena. Sure the seats were dead center to the stage but they were so far away that we all knew immediately that unless there were large screens (which were not in evidence anywhere) that this was a job for binoculars and none of us had them.
The orchestra came out and played some familiar song associated with Liza Minnelli and I had to wonder if the small child (couldn't have been more than eight) seated in front of me knew or cared who was about to enter the stage. To tell the truth I thought the same thing of the others around us too. Oh, not the man who had to be in his mid-fifties who was wearing red jeans and a sleeveless top that had a floral pattern encrusted with rhinestones and sequins. His hands were covered in silver rings on almost every finger and only his sandals seemed to be out of place as he clutched the hand of what most likely was his partner for years. The partner was dressed in jeans and a faded shirt and although they looked as though they were going to two different events you could feel their excitement.
There was no mistaking the iconic sequined pantsuit that walked on the stage complete with long scarf hanging down the back as she made her entrance but honestly, it could have been anyone in that pantsuit and we would never have known the difference. You see, from as far back as we were sitting it just looked like a sixty year old pair of eye lashes attached to a Liza wig. I was suddenly reminded of a time when I had another brush with Cabaret greatness that turned into a less than great experience. Joel Grey was starring in a tour of Cabaret in the 90's and my mother had gotten us tickets to see him in Philadelphia. I was beside myself to think that I would see my idol, Joel Grey in the role that made him famous. (Never mind that years previously my father had filled a prescription for him and had begged for an audience with him for his son who was an aspiring actor. Mr. Grey did not respond and I never met him. I should also say at this point that my father has hated Joel Grey ever since.) As the lights began to go down the announcer made the usual announcements but then he said something I couldn't quite believe, "As you may have read, Mr. Grey has been very ill however he did not want to disappoint you so Mr. Grey will be performing in this evening's performance however his role will be sung by his understudy." What?!? Are you kidding me? The "Emcee" is a role that is completely sung, has no lines whatsoever. We sat there stunned, as Mr. Grey lip synced his way through two hours of Cabaret and his understudy trying to sound his Joel Grey best singing on a mic in the wings.
I can't tell you the first or first three songs that Ms. Minnelli sang because frankly she sounded so hoarse and was clearing her throat so much that all any of us could do was hold our breath and be very frightened for her. I do remember that in one of the first numbers she went to hold a note out and her voice cracked pretty badly, in a voice that wasn't her usual "on" Liza she said, "Dammit" almost seeming as if she didn't realize she had a mic on that was catching every word, breath and clearing of the throat along with her singing which was more like warbling I'm sorry to say. I looked over to my father (who seemed completely bored and was probably thinking about where he parked, how soon he'd have to get out of there after her last number to get the car to avoid the crowds and whether or not there would be traffic on our way back to Vegas). My guy was sitting there telling me that we may as well have watched one of her old specials on television as who could even see her, even with all our squinting and glasses. And then there was my mother, her cheeks stained with tears as she sat so close to the edge of her seat I thought she'd fall off. She was just so delighted to be in the same room with Liza.
The whole concert timed at about two hours and during the course of the two hours, Liza did four or five costume changes and even brought out four singing/dancing boys who helped her recreate the nightclub act of her godmother, Kay Thompson. What was interesting was that while Liza seemed horribly winded and in vocal trouble at the start of the show but by the end of the show she actually sounded like Liza and was even able to belt out her signature New York, New York like the Liza we all know and remember. Which could only make me think that she hadn't warmed up before the show and it took the hour and a half for her to get vocally warm, only problem was we were sitting there watching the whole warm-up/performance and it was downright painful until she got to that last half hour or so.
After her rendition of New York, New York I could feel my father next to me watching everyone and the exits all at the same time to make his getaway. My mother sat there wiping her cheeks from tears as she looked over and said in a whispered tone, "She'll do an encore, just wait, I know she'll do an encore." And so she did, a couple of them. The last thing she sang was sans orchestra, just Liza on the stage singing "I'll Be Seeing You" - it was poignant and sweet and she sounded pretty good. And as we left the arena (passing all the Vegas gays in their full makeup that had gotten a little shiny from sweating in the less than well air conditioned arena and perhaps from a little crying) we dished about how Liza sounded in the beginning of the evening, how she got better, how lousy our seats were and finally my mother vowed to get great seats the next time Liza played Vegas.
All in all, I'd say it wasn't the evening that I expected to have (especially the seats we had) but as Liza sang herself, "What good is sitting alone in your room, come hear the music play..." It may not have been a Cabaret, ol' chum but my mother saw Liza Minnelli and I smiled to myself thinking what a good Jewish gay son I was, am and will be when I pay for good seats next time!
Read More Scott @ www.somelikeitscott.com