Liza with a 'Z' Turns 70: Celebrating the Star's Life in the Spotlight

Growing up with a famous parent isn't always easy. Just ask Liza Minnelli! The daughter of Judy Garland, Minnelli set her sights on Hollywood and succeeded in stepping out of the shadow of her mother's spotlight to reach celebrity status in her own right. As the singer/actress turns 70 on March 12, let's look back on some of the Hollywood starlet's most famous ups and downs.

Growing Up in the Limelight

Liza Minnelli was born on March 12, 1946, to actress Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli. Growing up in Hollywood, Liza longed to follow in the footsteps of her famous mother. By her adolescence, she was already appearing alongside Garland in several of her television specials and concert productions. Most notably, Minnelli and Garland performed together live at the London Palladium when Minnelli was just 18 years old. The performance was well-received and resulted in an album released in 1965 that reached number 41 on the Billboard charts.

Life With Judy

The intimate mother/daughter relationship that Minnelli and Garland presented on stage was a far cry from the one they maintained behind the scenes. As Minnelli grew older, their relationship transformed into a competitive one, made worse by Garland's incessant drug and alcohol abuse. Being her mother's keeper took an emotional toll on Minnelli, which split her focus and jeopardized her budding career. Garland, however, was her own worst enemy. Prolonged and habitual barbiturate use lead to her untimely death in 1969 at the age of 47.

Tony Loves Liza

In the early 1960s, Minnelli began performing in nightclubs and off-Broadway musicals to try and make a name for herself. Her solo career took off when she made her Broadway debut in 1965, landing the title role in Flora the Red Menace. That year, at just 19 years old, Minnelli won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She remains the youngest actress to ever win the prestigious honor.

Life Is a Cabaret

By 1972, Minnelli had established herself as one of Hollywood's up-and-coming stars. That year, she received top billing in the movie version of Cabaret, playing Sally Bowles in the lead role. Her performance was critically acclaimed and earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Marriage to Peter Allen

Minnelli's first marriage was to Australian born musician Peter Allen. The two met during the mid-1960s when Allen began touring and performing with Minnelli's mother. Although Minnelli was content at the start of her relationship, she quickly learned that Allen was, in fact, gay. Years later, Minnelli revealed in an interview that she'd come home one day unannounced only to catch her then-husband in a sexually compromising position. They divorced in 1974.

Liza with a Z

Following the overwhelmingly positive reviews of Minnelli's performance in Cabaret, legendary choreographer Bob Fosse and renowned lyricist Fred Ebb teamed up with Minnelli to produce a televised concert film titled Liza with a "Z": A Concert for Television. The TV special was filmed on May 31, 1972, at the Lyceum Theatre in New York. NBC broadcast the film later that year and it went on to win several awards, including four Emmys, a Peabody, and a Directors Guild of America Award.


After a series of flops throughout the 1970s, Minnelli came out on top once again with her performance in the 1981 film Arthur alongside Dudley Moore. Though Minnelli's previous films had failed commercially, Arthur performed exceedingly well at the box office, earning nearly $96 million in the U.S. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, and came in at number 53 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years…100 Laughs list of films.

Next Stop: Rehab

By 1984, Minnelli had found tremendous success on the stage, in television, and on the silver screen, but her personal life was anything but perfect. Her party-hard lifestyle had finally caught up with her. Despite bearing witness to her own mother's battle with substance abuse, Minnelli struggled with alcoholism and was addicted to prescription drugs. She checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic in July of that year. Minnelli would return to rehab several more times in the ensuing years, most recently in 2015.

Frank, Liza & Sammy: The Ultimate Event

Minnelli returned to the stage in 1989, performing alongside Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. in a star-studded event appropriately titled Frank, Liza & Sammy: The Ultimate Event. From April 18-22, the trio performed to sold-out shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London, belting out their greatest hits and showcasing their powerful pipes.

The '90s

Throughout the 1990s, Minnelli took on a number of new projects. A sultrier side of her voice was uncovered in 1995 when she recorded several songs that showcased her iconic range, although the songs weren't released until 2010 on the album titled Confessions. In 1996, she released a studio album titled Gently and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. By 1997, she returned to Broadway and received rave reviews for her performance in the title role of the musical Victor/Victoria.

David Gest Controversy

Minnelli made tabloid headlines in 2003 when her fourth marriage to concert promoter and producer David Gest came under heavy scrutiny. The two were married in 2002 and had separated less than a year and a half later. Gest alleged that Minnelli had violent tendencies and had physically abused him during their marriage due to her persistent alcohol abuse. Minnelli adamantly denied the allegations. He sued her for $10 million, but the suit was dismissed in 2006.

Gay Icon

Minnelli, like her mother before her, is considered to be one of the most prominent icons of the gay community. Her deep-seated roots in musical theater, powerful voice, and diva-like personality are all factors that attribute to her icon status. Minnelli is also a lifelong supporter of the gay community and has always advocated for gay rights, most recently joining the NOH8 photo campaign that raises awareness of the same-sex marriage ban in the U.S.

American Theater Hall of Fame

A four-time Tony Award recipient, Minnelli was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2000 for her contributions to the theater. In 1965 she was awarded Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Flora the Red Menace and then again in 1972 for The Act. She received a Special Tony Award in 1974 for Liza at the Winter Garden and rounded out her list of wins in 2009 with a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event for Liza's at The Palace...!

Liza Gives Back

Minnelli has dedicated much of her life to serving and supporting several charities and causes, notably The Foundation for AIDS Research, which was co-founded by her friend Elizabeth Taylor. She also served on the board of directors for more than two decades for IAHP, The Institutes for The Achievement of Human Potential, which is a nonprofit organization that educates parents about the brain development of children.

Arrested Development and Recent Work

Since the early 2000s, Minnelli has made guest appearances in several television shows and movies including Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Hot in Cleveland, Drop Dead Diva, Smash, and Sex and the City 2. She even landed a recurring role in the Fox-to-Netflix comedy, Arrested Development. She continues to perform live and remains focused on her health and various philanthropies.

What's your favorite Liza Minnelli role? Share in the comments!