A free Liza Minnelli concert at Coney Island? Now that's an event.
There was no way I could refuse such am offer. Personally, I don't really like Liza Minnelli. I don't dislike her. And she seems like a nice enough performer, but I was never into her corner of entertainment - "show business." The grand, gaudy costumes, the kitschy songs, and the giant finales never really did much for me. Admittedly, I'm from a generation where such material comes off tired and cheesy, where her act doesn't mirror any sense of isolation or loneliness I recognize (as it did for older gay men in decades past). So there really was never an interest invested in Liza...
Until Rich cut together this gem:
She works with "'jitarded children." She laughs at musical theater majors. And she loves Bette Midler. A lot. Liza Minelli or not, this lady is hilarious! It's as if she's doing a spot-on impersonation of herself, but WASTED! Some friends and I, upon hearing about her performing a live, free show outside - in the southern pocket of Brooklyn, to boot - were ready with out blankets and binoculars, ready to place bets on how long it would take before Liza fell, died, or...spilled Gatorade onto the stage.
We didn't even have to start the timer:
If you heard correctly, you caught Liza yelp like a bird, which she did at several points throughout the evening, thus making my favorite part one of many moments. These yelps, you must understand, weren't necessarily initiated by emotion. It wasn't happiness or sadness or even excitement, but, rather, these quick, loud cackles seemed to be Liza's version of what happens when you and I, perhaps, clear our throat or even sniffle. Like she does with everything else, Liza's tics come on a much larger scale. So entertaining.
Even with Liza costumes transported directly from the set of The Dinah Shore Show, we were pleasantly surprised to be surrounded not so much by aging queens, but instead by thousands of the 65 and over set, all of whom obviously didn't travel very far. These septuegenarians were feisty, too, as we witnessed several verbal blowouts when one old lady would try to lay out her beach chair in front of another's. Despite being seated outside, smoking was prohibitied, and when one woman caught another lady disobeying the rules, she threatened to call over a cop "if [she] saw one."
It should be pointed out that the boroughs of Staten Island, Queens, and specifically Brooklyn do not contain senior citizens who resign themselves to remaining docile, staring at walls, and smelling like Cheerios. These men and women, who stayed out respectively late and came in droves for the show (which could be attributed to being both free and starring Liza Minnelli), should be studied closely by gerentologists. Maybe it's a matter of being first or second-generation immigrants in which bullshit rarely played a part of their lives. Maybe it's the New York mentality or strong work ethic. Or perhaps there's just something in the fanny packs. Whatever it is, the audience was brimming with sparkled baseball caps, laser pens on keychains (used to flag down one's spouse), and unashamedly loud commentary.
Little did we know when she sat behind us screaming, "Burn, HSBC Bank, BURN!" and "Con Edison left Queens in the dark!" (as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz listed off the show's sponsors for what felt like an hour) that this woman was only 53!
This gal has seen everyone including, you heard right, Frank Sinatra Junior! Who knew?*
By evening's end, our blankets and bags had somehow seemed to sweat, and it was enjoyable to watch the evening come to a close. After singing a song I'd never heard before called "Ring Them Bells," (in which Liza engaged in a surreal conversation with a fictional character on the beach that was so admirably insane, it made my pants tight), Liza belted out "The Man I Love".
For those of you who genuinely enjoy Liza Minnelli's voice, I warn you to skip the video. However, if, like me, you think of her as a beautiful monster who manages to send shivers down your spine with confused euphoria, listen for the "big finish":
We were all a little scared. And mystified.
*As per its listing on YouTube, Camille Carbone is not the subject's real name, although it just seemed to fit.