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Interview with Liza Minnelli, David Gest

Aired May 23, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: You weren't invited to Liza Minnelli's star-studded wedding? Well, we're going to show you exclusive inside video. Can't get a ticket for her Broadway concert bash? Well, we've got her singing here, free and fantastic. Liza, her new husband, producer, promoter David Gest, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

They interrupted their honeymoon in London to appear with us in a memorable night on LARRY KING LIVE, and now we're here in Los Angeles with them. Not only will we be talking with them, but we're going to show you exclusive wedding video never seen before, that historic wedding in New York.

And for the last half of the show, Ms. Minnelli is going to sing. She's going to be in concert at the Beacon Theater in New York, opening May 31. Just concluded a tremendously successful concert engagement in England. Who took this video, David, that we're going to be seeing? Did you have a crew there?

MINNELLI: David didn't. I asked for it.

KING: David did not produce the wedding?

MINNELLI: No, I asked for the footage of the wedding, because David was so not only freaked out but busy with the reception, where so many lovely people performed. So I got the wedding video.

KING: You booked it?

MINNELLI: Yes. David didn't even know it.


KING: Was this a regular crew that does weddings, bar mitzvahs, they go around...

MINNELLI: Yes. It was in the church. It's a wonderful marble (ph) collegiate (ph) church, it's true.

KING: Let's see a scene from this historic church in New York on this memorable day. Watch.

MINNELLI: That's my conductor, and my friend, Bill LaVornier (ph) walking me down the aisle. He'll be playing (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) David, I have never heard a bride applauded, walking down the aisle.


GEST: She's so beautiful, and she looked so incredible. Just a vision of beauty all in white. And you know, you wear white on the fourth time, I'm told.


KING: This was your first. How would you know?

MINNELLI: And I never wore white ever.

KING: Never?


No, you never did?

MINNELLI: No. I also -- it's an extraordinary feeling when you have all the witnesses and the friends that we had there.

GEST: They were in black.

KING: That's right.

MINNELLI: Yes, they were in beautiful shades of black.

KING: Well, did you expect that applause?

MINNELLI: Well, in a way, in the business that we're in -- that we're all in, it's normal. But I think there were so many people there who hadn't seen me in a long time...

KING: Yes.

MINNELLI: ... and they thought, "Wow, she looks pretty good."

KING: It was spontaneous, right?

MINNELLI: Absolutely, yes.

KING: David, are you now shocked at all that this has become? This has become an "it."

GEST: Yes, I guess...

KING: I mean, you couldn't have produced this.

GEST: Never...

KING: You couldn't have planned this as a production?

GEST: No,. No. I'm shocked, because every day, you know, we're in the paper. I mean, we've got furniture that's going on the market for $20,000 a piece. The day that I give away furniture for $20,000 a piece...


... will be the say I get into a different business.

KING: You're in -- there's something about you every day, Liza, right?

MINNELLI: Yes, there is.

KING: And this has been a rejuvenation. How do you explain it to yourself?

MINNELLI: You know, I don't explain it. I just enjoy it. I don't know how to explain it except that I think everybody needs heroes in their -- and especially in alcoholism...

KING: People who come back...

MINNELLI: Yes, people who come back and make it. And I think that's what's -- is a great part of what's going on. Because they had written me off, you know. And suddenly, surprise, fooled you. And thanks to, like I said before, the Karen (ph) Foundation and my husband.

KING: Now, you met at the Michael Jackson thing that you produced, right?

GEST: Right.

KING: And how did that occur? Go over it again for us, David. How did you meet?

GEST: Well...

KING: And by the way, what was your preconceived notion about Liza?

GEST: At the time, she wasn't in great form vocally, she needed to lose some weight. And Michael really pushed to have her on the show. I said, "I don't know if she can compete with Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Usher and..."


GEST: "... Mya." And I sent my conductor over because I said, "Listen, I don't want to embarrass the woman."


Truthfully, I really did not. I respect her. I produced her in a show for Frank Sinatra about 15 years ago, a salute I did for him. And Joey (ph) called and said, "She's singing in a three-octave range." I said, "Come on." "Just come over here and hear her."

And when I went over there, not only did she sing great but she's got the sweetest heart. And I looked at her and I said -- you know, we went out the next day. We started living together about a week later.


But I knew, I said, you know...

KING: What did you know?

GEST: I knew that this woman had the potential to fill -- to greater change the world. She could still make films, still perform. And come on, she's lost close to 80, 90 pounds.

KING: What did you know for yourself? What feeling did you have that you hadn't had before, personally?

GEST: I just fell madly in love with her. I loved her personality. She was everything I've always wanted in a woman. She's just -- she's everything I've always wanted. She has a great sense of humor. She's caring. And we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) love the same people.

KING: And how did you feel? Now, you'd met him, what, briefly when he'd produced the Sinatra thing?

MINNELLI: Yes, I did. And I admired him, but I only got to meet him, you know, "Hello," "Hello."

KING: From afar, yes. Then what?

MINNELLI: I don't know. He came over to the house after he sent his conductor, Joey (ph), to audition me to see if I was OK. And he came over, and he was so enthusiastic about what he was doing. And he was funny. And...

KING: Were you feeling a tingle?

MINNELLI: I thought, "This is everything I know and admire." I grew up in the city, in Hollywood, you know, with Arthur Freed (ph) and a whole bunch of other producers. And I...

KING: There wasn't more of a show-business family than your family.

MINNELLI: No. I thought this is -- I know this man. But this man is funny about it. He's not, you know -- and he was smart, and he was caring, and he was so bright.

KING: We'll be right back with producer and promoter David Gest and his newlywed wife, Liza Minnelli, winner of an Oscar, three Tonys, two Golden Globes, an Emmy, a special Grammy, and the Comeback of the Year Award.


And we're showing exclusive scenes from their wedding, never seen before on television. And later, Liza's going to sing. We'll be right back.


GEST: You are everything to me and I can not think of living life without you. And I love you forever.

MINNELLI: David, you don't ever have to live life without me. One day at a time. I belong to you. I honor you. I adore you. You are my (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

GEST: Can I kiss her yet?





MINNELLI: I, Liza...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: take thee, David...

MINNELLI: take thee, David...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be my wedded husband.

MINNELLI: To be my wedded husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To have and to hold...

MINNELLI: To have and to hold...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: from this day forward...

MINNELLI: from this day forward...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: for better or for worse...

MINNELLI: for better or for worse...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: for richer, for poorer...

MINNELLI: for richer, for poorer...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: in sickness and in health...

MINNELLI: in sickness and in health...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: to love and to cherish...

MINNELLI: to love and to cherish...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 'til death do us part.

MINNELLI: 'til death do us part.


KING: What was that like for you, David?

GEST: It's a very great, special moment. You know, you're surrounded by the people, friends you love, the woman you love, and it's just a wonderful, wonderful day. It wasn't made out -- I know the press made it out to be this, quote, "big wedding." But to us, we knew it would be -- if you went -- very simple inside. And that's what you felt, a lot of love there. It wasn't ostentatious...


... it was really ...

MINNELLI: Oh, David, I don't believe you.


GEST: Oh, God -- but anyway...

KING: You weren't very happy, were you, David?

GEST: I love you.

MINNELLI: I love you too.

KING: So you didn't want it to be elaborate, but it became a thing?

MINNELLI: Well, it started out with friends, you know?

KING: This was going to be a small wedding?


KING: You're kidding.

MINNELLI: Then it got big -- no, it started out small. Then it got bigger. And I thought, you know, I thought, wait a minute, I want my friend Janet Leigh to be there. I, you know, grew up -- I knew her my whole life, I want to see her there. And David said, "I know Janet really well. Yes, she should be there." And it kept going like that ...

KING: He should be there, and she should be there, and he should...

MINNELLI: Yes. But, my God, you know, I spent so much time with it. And David, of course, knows everybody, he's worked with everyone. So it just kept growing.

KING: And you did it down in New York, near Ground Zero, right?

GEST: Definitely.

KING: Was that deliberate, too, David?

GEST: Oh yes, oh yes.

KING: Pick it near a place where so much tragedy occurred, to bring some joy?

GEST: Got it. People are not going down there, even now. They go down just to view it, some people. But the businesses around there are not doing the business yet they used to do. So if you bring people back to that area, then now, a lot of more bar mitzvahs and weddings are booked for the place.

KING: And the reception in that (Regent Wall Street Hotel) down there.

GEST: Right, absolutely.

KING: What are you -- do you like still being in the gossip columns every day? Do you like hearing jokes about David? I mean, let's not kid, they make jokes about him.

MINNELLI: Well, I tell you what, I'm used to it. I grew up in it, and I learned from some very wise people to not read it or listen to it. If it's going to hurt your feelings, why go through that? They're going to say what they're going to say anyway, no matter what you do ...

KING: Yes, but when you grew up ...

MINNELLI: ... but now David's in it.

KING: There's more of a proliferation of them now than when you grew up. I mean, it was a few of them.

MINNELLI: Oh, you mean the rags?

KING: And your mother was the target. Yes. Now the rags, there is a multitude of rags. How do you handle it, David? It's got to be new to you.

GEST: Yes, but I laugh about it, because if you have something to worry about, then you take it seriously. Every day, we see our names in the paper. We just go, "OK, go on." People come up to us, though. The people on the street love us. They come up -- and yesterday, we went to -- late at night to a little coffee shop where we live, and this woman came up and said, "Thank you for bringing Liza back." And she was just incredible, I mean, she really loved the story. To her, it was Cinderella. So the people have been great.

KING: Has everything been resolved with your stepmother?

MINNELLI: Oh, yes.

KING: There were stories. She's 94 years old now.

MINNELLI: Of course she is.

KING: Minnelli's wife. MINNELLI: That's right. Daddy's wife, yes. His last wife.

KING: Was there a rift?

MINNELLI: No, there was, I think some -- again, it was blown out of proportion, Larry. It was just a matter of finding Lee -- I wanted Lee to make sure she had a really nice place to move to. My dad left me the house, and I would never, you know, sell it without making sure that Lee had some place that she really liked ...

KING: And she did.

MINNELLI: ... to live. And from that came, well, "She's kicking her out of the house." No, I'm looking for someplace else nice for her to live.

KING: And, David, how about the stories that you run everything? You moved into her apartment, you sold furniture, you changed this, you -- that you are a controller? I'm just telling you things that are printed. Your chance to respond.

GEST: Believe what you want to believe. We know what the truth is. It's -- once again, if we go to the bathroom, it's in the paper. So who cares?


KING: So it's not true. He doesn't control you?

MINNELLI: Oh, David's a producer.

KING: Meaning produces ...

MINNELLI: But I understand, I grew up with this. David is an absolute producer, and he's very precise. He knows what he wants, and he likes it done a certain way. But it's not, you know, silly or anything, it's very ...

GEST: Well, she controls in a certain way. She says, "I want those new diamond earrings."


And she begs for about two weeks, and she gets what she wants.


KING: Tell me about that furniture thing in New York, what's the true story? The report that you unilaterally -- that's where it said -- redecorated her whole Upper East Side apartment and tossed out furniture.

MINNELLI: Well, hey, it needed redecorating.

GEST: It needed redecorating.

MINNELLI: And rehauling.

GEST: It hadn't been done in 20 years. So there were some pieces that were not worth any amount of money because it would take $20,000 to refurbish them and to re-upholster them. And we got rid of them, and...

KING: Mutually?

GEST: Mutually. Oh, yes.

MINNELLI: Oh, yes, sure.

GEST: You think I'm just going to take my wife's things and say, "Oh, here's the Warhol, take that. It's only worth a half a million."


You know, come on, everybody.

KING: All right, tell me about London and the concert there. You did how many nights?

MINNELLI: Darling, this is your...

GEST: We did five nights, five nights. Unbelievable business.

KING: I heard.

MINNELLI: It's amazing.

KING: Business and performance.

MINNELLI: Thank you. Thank you, Larry.

KING: What was it like to go on that stage there? You're now married, the whole world is centered on you. This ain't Liza in a club somewhere.


KING: What was that like?

MINNELLI: I don't know, it seemed kind of normal.

KING: And, David, you weren't nervous?

MINNELLI: Sure, I was nervous. But I feel so good, I feel so well, you know, and so centered. And I know what I do and I know who I am.

KING: Were you nervous, David? Opening night in London?

GEST: Not at all.

KING: Not at all?

GEST: Not at all, because I saw the rehearsal, and when I saw her -- I would egg her on. I'd say, "I know you can't do this flip...


... because you've got two fake hips," and she'd go, "What do you mean I can't do it?" I said, "You can't do it, I understand it, you know, maybe if you were a little younger."


And that was it. She was up there in the air, she was being flipped by eight dancers, and she's doing hip-hop. And she's dynamic.

MINNELLI: Manipulation is funny. It makes ...


KING: You do have two new hips, huh?

MINNELLI: Oh, I got new everything almost.

KING: Well, you dance like a -- you're a killer with it. Wow, I can't believe that.

MINNELLI: Well, thank you. But I kept my -- I have the two false hips, I have a fake knee, and I have two crushed discs and two rotated...

KING: Does she fall apart at night?

MINNELLI: I used to be...

GEST: Not at all.

MINNELLI: I used to be Dorothy's daughter, right? Now I'm the Tin Man's kid.

KING: We'll be right back with more. In a little while, Liza will sing. She opens at the Beacon Theater in New York, limited engagement, May 31 through June 8, I think. And they're going to sell that out quick. So if you're getting into the city, you'll see a great performer in a great performance. And you're seeing exclusive shots, film of the wedding -- the historic wedding that took place in New York. We'll be right back. Here's more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this ring...

GEST: With this ring


GEST: I thee wed.


GEST: Amen.






KING: Shirley Caesar, the queen of gospel, they call her, singing at the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest. And you're seeing this for the first time. David, the producer-promoter, Liza, the newlywed. Her appearance in London, the one-woman show called "Liza's Back," and that's what they're going to call it in New York, too?

GEST: Yes.

KING: OK. The London Times said, "Minnelli is as good as it gets. She tore the roof off." The Guardian, which likes nothing: "Her voice emanates from a body that seems to small to house it. Liza's back, and she's one of a kind." And The Evening Standard said, "What the audience has come to hear, they got their wish in true, spine-tingling passion." You even sang a memorial to Queen Mum, I understand, right?


KING: Are the Londoners -- are good audiences the same anywhere?

MINNELLI: Yes, they really are, but London is very special.

KING: Because?

MINNELLI: They're givers. The English people are givers. You know, when you get in a taxi -- I know you spend a lot of time in England...

KING: Some time.

MINNELLI: ... you get in a taxi in England and it's like somebody you've met and you chat with. They're so friendly. Something happened to them during World War II, and World War I, where they all came together. There's a spirit in England that is quite different from anyplace else.

KING: Your Michael Jackson specials are being shown where now?

GEST: VH-1 beginning in June, 12 runs.

KING: Twelve runs?

GEST: Twelve runs for the next year. And it's being played everywhere in Europe and all over the world.

KING: Was that the most successful performance special done on television?

GEST: The highest rated...

KING: Yes, the highest rating...

GEST: ... musical special in history, yes.

KING: Highest rated musical special.

GEST: Yes. Forty-four million people.

KING: Explain to me, David -- there's Michael dancing -- explain to me that kiss we saw. What were you up to there?

GEST: We were just -- we were caught in the moment. I mean, we thought the ceremony had ended.


And we just love each other. I mean, we're like that all the time. It's not just in a church, I mean, we're like that every...

KING: This is not a show.


KING: Look at that scene. David, you have been quoted as saying this will be her last appearance in New York, that you're going to shift now to do films and television and face Hollywood. Is that true?

GEST: Yes. She's going to take some time off. She wants to do a movie. She wants to do a play. And we'll tour for the rest of the year. And we're going to raise a family.

KING: You going to adopt?

GEST: Yes. We're adopting.

KING: Have you already made applications and the like?

GEST: We've talked to...

MINNELLI: We've done the groundwork, yes.

GEST: ... some people, and the groundwork is done.

KING: Excited?

GEST: Very.

MINNELLI: Yes. That's the most important thing to me, you know.

KING: Boy, what's that going to be like for you? You said it on this show, that you are going to adopt.

MINNELLI: Yes. GEST: First here.

KING: The tour is all over the United States?

GEST: Yes.


KING: You want to do a movie. You want to do Broadway.

MINNELLI: I'm doing a film first, which I'm very happy about.

KING: I mean, she could go the Palace and sell out for a year now, couldn't she?

GEST: Absolutely.

KING: So why are you limiting her in New York?

GEST: Because...

MINNELLI: It's hard.

GEST: She's been doing this all her life. She needs now -- she really gave up her film career about 10 or 15 years ago and needs to go back to film. She gave great performances.

KING: Some other areas. Do you react harshly when people say you're gay?


Yesterday, Mike Piazza, the ballplayer in New York, had to deny a story in the New York Post...

MINNELLI: I know. Please.

KING: ... that he was.

MINNELLI: What about J.R. (ph)? (CROSSTALK)

MINNELLI: It's stupid.

GEST: You know, you just...

KING: Do you resent it, get angry at it or...

GEST: Why would you get angry? You only get angry and upset if something bothers you and it's true. If it's not, you just go, "You know what? If it's going to sell papers, they all know my name. And people are calling for deals. They can write whatever they want. I don't care. Really don't."

KING: Last time since you were with us Dudley passed away.

MINNELLI: I know. KING: Were you in London when that happened?

MINNELLI: Yes, I spoke to him on the phone actually.

KING: Oh, really?

MINNELLI: I talked to him the day before I got married.

KING: Could he speak?

MINNELLI: No, but I...

KING: Spoke to him.

MINNELLI: ... spoke to him like there was nothing wrong, you know. And he finally, evidently, for the first time said something in months and months and months. I said, "Dudley, you better be there." And he said, "I love you." So that killed me. But at least I made him laugh, and that's what he used to do for me always. He was such a genius.

KING: Few would deny that "Arthur" is one of the great films of all time...

MINNELLI: It's very funny.

KING: ... and one of the funniest performances ever.


KING: And he was as great off as on screen, right?

MINNELLI: Absolutely.

KING: Did you know him?

GEST: I had met him.

KING: They didn't come any better than Dudley.

MINNELLI: No, they didn't.

KING: That was a real, real tragedy.

MINNELLI: And a great musician. He was a wonderful musician.

KING: We're so happy that you're going to sing for us tonight. We're going to do little intros into your numbers. You got a whole big band here.


KING: Is this the group that plays in concert with you?

MINNELLI: Absolutely.

KING: David, are you going to produce other things, or is now Liza your life?

GEST: No, I'm producing a lot of other specials. Got about four specials coming up and a lot of other projects. But she's back on track now, and that was the idea, let people see her.

KING: Is it good to be performing again?

MINNELLI: Oh, yes, I love it so. You know, there's part of me that only lives on the stage. And for a while, I thought it was the only part of me. And then I met David and I found out there's a lot more.


KING: You got the genes. Do you ever sense your mother around you?

MINNELLI: Oh, and my father. And Kate Thompson (ph) my godmother, and Ira Gershwin, my godfather. I -- you know...

KING: ... godmother and godfather.

MINNELLI: No, man, I lucked out on everything. And my parents were wonderful parents.

KING: Minnelli and Garland.


KING: Not bad.

MINNELLI: They were great to me.

KING: David, you're a very lucky man.

GEST: I am.

KING: You should feel that. And I thank you for making possible these videos we've been shown.

MINNELLI: Thank you.

KING: We'll show some more. And when we come back, you're in for a treat. We've talked with them about the wedding. We've shown you exclusive scenes of the wedding. Now you'll get a chance to see a brief thing of what New Yorkers and people all across America are going to see when she tours, opening in New York at the Beacon on May 31. You're going to see Liza in action. So get ready. We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now pronounce that you are husband and wife together. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit... (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We go from exclusive shots of the wedding to an exclusive appearance on LARRY KING LIVE for Liza Minnelli, who opens at the Beacon Theater in New York starting May 31 for eight nights. If you're in New York, contact them for tickets. We're going to do two songs back to back. "Some People" from "Gypsy" -- I love this song, and "Crying," and lots more to come. And here's my lady, Liza.

MINNELLI: Thank you, Larry. Now, like Larry said, this song is from "Gypsy." And the lady who sings it is called Mama Rose. And she's singing about getting her kids into show business. She's a very determined lady, as I hope you'll see.


I love opening with something slow. Now, let's see, how do I go from that song to this song? Well, I guess this is something that I understand, that we've all done a lot of. And hopefully, we won't, any of us, have to do it so much anymore. Ladies and gentlemen, Roy Orbison's "Crying."


KING: She has it all. She stars at New York at the Beacon, opening on the 31st of May through the 8th of June. She's with us tonight. What a pleasure. No song more celebrated than her and this. Awards for her, awards for it. What else can we say? Liza Minnelli and "Cabaret."



KING: We hope you've enjoyed this very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, featuring exclusive shots of the wedding of David and Liza. Don't forget Liza opens May 31, at the Beacon Theater in New York. We are going to close tonight. I will exit, she will close it out with -- I was going to say "Cabaret's" -- but this is probably her most memorable performance, and certainly one befitting of where she was married, where she'll be appearing in May and June, and where all our hearts lied since 9/11. Here's Liza. We know the song.

MINNELLI: Thank you, Larry. I want to thank you for listening to me. I want to thank you for coming to see me at the Beacon, those of you who've ordered tickets. I'm so excited. Come see me. I live for you. You know I do. This song was written especially for me, I'm proud to say, by the one and only Fred Ebb and John Kander. My friends, "New York, New York." OK.





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