If Liza Minnelli had her way as a girl, she would have been a figure skater.
“I loved it,” the singer recalled in a phone interview from her Manhattan apartment. “My dad (director Vincente Minnelli) would take me to the ice show every year and I would practice and practice.”
But, her childhood dreams changed at age 14 when her equally famous mother, Judy Garland, took her to see a production of “Bye, Bye Birdie” on Broadway.
Even though she grew up surrounded by Hollywood celebrities and made a cameo appearance in 1949 as a toddler in one of her mother’s films, “right then I knew that was what I wanted to do. Sing and dance, mostly dance. I hadn’t sung anything up until then, I just liked Broadway,” Minnelli said.
Soon, the entertainer was on a trajectory to international stardom that would earn her coveted Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and Golden Globe awards. She would study with “France’s Frank Sinatra,” Charles Aznavour.
“I couldn’t breathe for hours after I saw his show. I went to Paris, introduced myself and asked him to take me on as a student,” she said.
She also launched a lifelong collaboration with composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb that would take her to the Broadway stage for the first time in 1965 and earn her a Tony for “Flora, the Red Menace,” soon followed by the iconic role of Sally Bowles in the duo’s musical and film, “Cabaret.”
This Sunday, Minnelli, 67, returns to Fort Lauderdale to kick off her latest tour, “Simply Liza” at the Broward Center.
She’s tight-lipped about the program, but teases that her song list was compiled from hundreds of requests she received in the mail from fans. Were any of the requests a surprise?
With a throaty chuckle, she elaborated,, “I couldn’t believe anybody could remember anything! I was so pleased.”
Minnelli looks forward to her trips on the road, a lifestyle she got used to early, traveling and later performing around the world with her mother.
“It’s funny, I get to see places and I’ve made so many friends in each place I go,” she reflected. “I love Fort Lauderdale. It’s so peaceful and fun there.”
When she’s not traveling, Minnelli revels in the comfort of her apartment and the company of her three dogs. In addition to a busy schedule of rehearsals and performances, she continues to be active with a number of charities, including HIV/AIDS causes she has long supported.
She admits a guilty pleasure: “Television. I love the TV. It’s so interesting to watch, if you’re a performer, to see what (the public) is in to.”
Having reached the pinnacle of her career, Minnelli is also eager to share her craft and experiences, carving out opportunities in her schedule to train aspiring performers.
A superstar who has lived her entire life in the public eye, including bouts with addiction, four marriages and plenty of health challenges, Minnelli’s advice to her students is simple, “Always be true to yourself.”