The high point of last night’s Astaire Awards for Broadway/film dancing had Liza Minnelli winning the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award amidst a sea of applauding Fosse hands.
“She’s a standup, knockaround broad,” said Tony Danza by way of tribute.
“She goes for the kill and always comes back with a trophy,” crowed Mikhail Baryshnikov about the honoree.
And Chita Rivera remembered being told she’d costar with Liza in The Rink, a show about a mother and daughter. “Who plays the mother?” Chita said she deadpanned after a beat.
Then Liza herself sashayed out and was funny and warm and grateful.
She said she just doesn’t get the word “diva,” which is often applied to her.
“What I am is a gypsy,” Liza told the crowd, “who is more alive onstage than anywhere else, because I’m with you.
“You’ve given me everything I’ve ever needed–and my friends have given me everything I’ve ever wanted.”
She also relayed an interesting story about dancing with Baryshnikov. When Liza told him she couldn’t get the hang of a certain choreographic bit, he replied, “Then do it harder.”
And that’s what legends like Liza and Chita always do.
I saw them in the original Chicago together–Liza filled in for ailing Gwen Verdon at one point–and it was beyond magical.
Someone in last night’s audience called out that Chita should do it again.
“If you wanna kill me,” she laughed.