Legendary Liza Minnelli's still got it

Oct 6, 2009 5:01 PM
The Full Monti by Monti Rock III |

My long-time friend Liza Minnelli is appearing at the MGM Hollywood Theater this week in "Liza With a ‘Z.’" I was determined to catch her show, but I was initially unsuccessful in my attempts to get tickets from my regular sources. It was Richard Sturm, president of entertainment at MGM properties, who came through in a second. Two tickets for yours truly, great seats, wonderful conversations and an absolutely fabulous show. It was being taped for a PBS TV special.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen Liza perform from Puerto Rico to New York City to Los Angeles and even in Vegas at the Luxor. But this show was different. Liza is thinner and more energetic than ever. Her special material was right on target. Along with the Williams Brothers, she did a tribute to Kay Thompson that goes back to the big screen days of the glorious Technicolor MGM movies. Liza comes alive on stage – she’s perfect and comfortable in her own skin. It’s not just about the voice, it’s the performance, a true entertainer’s entertainer.

I first met Kay Thompson when she, Peter Lawford and yours truly were on the "Tonight Show" back in the ‘70s. Kay took a liking to me, and we stayed in touch while she was living in the Plaza Hotel in New York City and I had my own brownstone. Kay was Liza’s godmother, but then she was like a godmother to all of us. She was well known as a vocal coach and arranger but gained star status with her Broadway and nightclub appearances, and in such films as "Funny Face," the story of Richard Avedon. These were some of the people that I knew intimately back in the day, so seeing Liza was definitely deja vu time.

Spotted in the audience were Michelle Lee, Kenny Ortega and the star of television’s "Drop Dead Diva," Brooke Elliott. It was amazing to see the gracious fans with flowers and leis, teddy bears and gifts of all kinds -- Judy Garland fans turned Liza fans. Be sure to catch the show on television’s PBS to see this iconic diva who would make her superstar mom proud. The legacy lives on.

I had never heard of impressionist Ken Block before I caught his act at the Las Vegas Hilton. It turned out to be a big showcase for a big room. The guy has everything going for him. He did comedy and he sang.

Jack Wishna and his wife were in attendance. Jack is known as Mr. Dealmaker, and I was pleased when he thanked me for praising Wayne Newton in my last column. Jack was responsible for the Michael Jackson tour deal before The Gloved One suddenly died.

The documentary about Michael Jackson is out this week and his brothers are making a fortune from their sibling’s untimely demise. And what about that rabbi’s new book with all the tape recordings? How sad. Isn’t that betraying someone’s confidence? The tapes were done years ago. No doubt there will be more books, more CD’s, more documentaries - and LaToya, LaToya, LaToya! Graverobbers!

Carmen Elektra is headed back to "Crazy Horse" at the MGM for another guest appearance. The original Crazy Horse was a favorite hang out of mine when I lived in Paris. I understand the MGM’s "Crazy Horse" will be adding more guest stars in addition to Carmen’s appearances.

On the subject of T&A, Anita Mann’s "Fantasy" at the Luxor will continue to make some changes. While visiting with Felix Rappaport, president of the Luxor and Excalibur, I learned there’s a new set being put in place and there will be some new guest stars arriving this week. The show’s original lead, Stephanie Jordan – now known as Stephanie Dianna – is focusing on a new CD, a new band and spending quality time with her family. "Fantasy" producer Anita said Stephanie may become company manager.

Planet Hollywood’s "Peepshow," another T&A, is getting a revamp. I understand the current star, Holly Madison, is supposed to be the new ambassador for Las Vegas. Really? I’ve said all along that "Peepshow" needed to add some comedy, and when "Fantasy" and "Peepshow" are compared, it just re-affirms my opinion. Sean E. Cooper in "Fantasy" does a great Michael Jackson and a great Tina Turner and is one of the funniest acts in show business. By the way, cameras are now forbidden at "Peepshow." It seems that Holly and Aubrey will each be filming reality shows and want no pictures that could be part of the TV programs.

Frank Marino’s new show is scheduled to open this month at the Imperial Palace. His reps say it’s a done deal, but I haven’t heard a firm date yet. In the meantime, "Human Nature" continues to do good business at the Imperial Palace and their surprise hit of the season is Matt Goss.

It was sad to hear that CineVegas has been cancelled for next year. Danny and Robin Greenspun have put in a lot of effort for the event to go by the wayside. I feel they need a new committee to oversee the films chosen for the festival. Maybe they should hand out prizes for the local filmmakers. As a matter of fact, two years ago they even had my movie, "The Business of Being Monti Rock 3." Maybe the festival should become more of a grassroots effort. Again, this is not Hollywood. This is Las Vegas.

Caesars has cancelled their annual comedy festival for next year, thanks to our current economy. They do hope to be back on track in 2011.

Another casualty of the changes at the Tropicana, Bobby Slayton, is going back on the road as well as taping a Showtime TV special. He hopes to be back in Vegas early next year. We hope so, too.

It can’t all be due to the economy. The "Andre Agassi Grand Slam" always seems to reach their goal. Those millions of dollars have to come from someone. My hat’s off to both Andre and Steffi Graff for all they’ve done for tennis, but more importantly, all they’ve done for education in Las Vegas. It was a grand announcement when Andre’s Prep School proclaimed the successful graduation of everyone in their first senior class. Each and every student is headed for college. That’s an amazing feat!

Oct. 7 is the opening of "America’s Got Talent Live" at Planet Hollywood. The 10-week show will feature million-dollar winner Kevin Skinner, and popular runner-up, opera singer Barbara Padill. The show will be hosted by Jerry Springer.

A new addition to the Las Vegas Strip has just been announced in the arrival of comedian Jeff Dunham. Jeff will be appearing at Caesars’ Colosseum on Dec.11 and 12 and signed for additional appearances through 2010. He’s made quite the name for himself on all the late-night talk shows.

"Justin Timberlake and Friends, a Special Evening Benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children," on Oct. 17 at Mandalay Bay features top musical performers Alicia Keyes and Taylor Swift, among others. Justin, keep up the good work! People like you make these events successful.

Lily Tomlin, one of our most brilliant comediennes, will make a rare Las Vegas appearance in November at the MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theater. Lily’s show business resume is astounding – six Emmys, two Tonys, a Grammy, two Peabodys and a Mark Twain Prize. This lady is definitely a must-see!

As always, the Rev. Monti hopes you all have a fabulous week.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Monti Rock III