Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Hello there readers! Hope your day was lovely, hope you're following us on twitter now, and hope you're ready for a SPLASH of Liza May!!! Because that's what you're getting....dammit.

I had several requests on twitter for a review of my experience seeing Liza at the Hollywood Bowl. As it is clearly long overdue, my dishes are washed, and I'm procrastinating on homework, I'll get crackin' right away, starting tout au debut (I just got out of French class).

I first saw Liza when she came to San Francisco for a concert in 1996. I was 10 years old, and completely and utterly taken with "Judy's daughter." At that point that's who she was to me--I think I was too young to really understand the breadth of her fame, though I had seen "New York, New York" and other select age-appropriate Liza materials. But I was in love with Judy, so I was completely elated and hypnotized by this presence onstage. Plus, it was a school night. Can't get much better than Liza on a school night!

As I matured, I began to develop a real respect for Liza as a performer in her own right, not just as Judy's daughter. The first time I saw Cabaret I was about 12, and I think that's what really sealed the deal for me. I saw Liza With A Z for the first time shortly thereafter, and in the meantime kept waiting for Liza to come back to San Francisco for a concert. I thought "She has to come back here sometime, the fan community is so strong here." But no go. Liza didn't come.

I began to miss her. When the internet came into widespread use (!!!), I started checking up on her upcoming concert dates, and saw nothing even close to where I am. I started to wonder why Liza was seemingly deliberately avoiding San Francisco. Emily and I joked that she was afraid of being trampled by mobs of gays. But...she lives in New York!! It's not much better over there in terms of homosexual trampling danger.

In June, I checked Liza's tour calendar online and saw, as expected, that she was not due to come here. I did see, however, that she would be doing a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I skipped over it for a minute, still looking for San Francisco....and then came back to it. the Hollywood Bowl?? ....this is BIG. I thought about it for a minute, calculated an approximate figure in terms of how much it would cost (something I suck at big time)...and then decided to go for it.

Los Angeles is about a 6 hour drive from where I live, if you take the highway that's ugly and gross. My family goes down there from time to time to visit relatives, so I know L.A. a little bit, and am familiar with the locations of most of the landmarks. The Hollywood Bowl is located on an incline just above Hollywood Boulevard, so I thought it would be perfect for me to stay in a hotel that is an even distance between Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood Bowl, so that I could have an opportunity to satisfy my movie lovers' cravings and be an annoying tourist before the show. I began to book these things...then money started to run out. Have I mentioned I'm bad at calculating figures?

I talked to my mom, who owed me a birthday present. She told me that she would contribute $100 toward my trip, as a birthday present, and she also told me that she wanted to come!! This came as a surprise because my mom is not really....into this stuff. At all. But hey, if she wanted to come, fantastic! I would have been going alone, and it's always nice to be with other people.

Fast forward to August. My plane ticket was booked (I opted to fly instead of take ground transportation--logistics are easier), my ticket was printed, and I was on my way to see Liza May!! My mother was meeting me at the hotel later in the day, she had to work that morning. I get to the airport, and break out in a cold sweat. I had forgotten my passport. Should I try to go home and get it, and make a mad dash for this flight? Should I tell the airline to book me on another one? Should I just try to proceed with my regular school ID? I was kicking myself for being so stupid. I decided to just proceed with my school ID, and see what happens. I print my boarding pass, no problem. Then I get to the security checkpoint, where a woman was checking everyone's ID. I gave her my school ID, she looked at it for a minute....then let me through. PHEW.

I got on the plane and found my seat, scrunched in between two older men, one of whom had a cowboy hat on and was speaking in very broken English. The other one was attempting to do Sudoku--but gave up almost instantly. I settled down for the flight, reading an article about Sesame Street in one of those crappy airplane magazines. I work with kids--I feel an obligation to read about current children's programming.

We landed in L.A. about an hour later, and I took a Super Shuttle to the hotel. I think this is a well-known fact, but I can't be too sure--Los Angeles is an INCREDIBLY smoggy city. There is a perpetual layer of smog perched on the horizon, and that coupled with 100+ degree heat and fires in the hills, made for a very odd day to be outside. Nonetheless, your trusty writer put down her things, and went immediately to Hollywood Boulevard to be a tourist.
First stop: the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I took lots and lots and LOTS of pictures, as you can see.

Second stop: Grauman's Chinese Theater. My hands have fit Judy's since I was 12, and I was curious to see if they still did (I kind of knew they would, because they fit last time I was in L.A. which was 2 years ago. I doubt I've grown much since then). They fit. I tried to take a picture, but Judy writes so damn lightly that I had to wait until 3:00 when the shadow was such that I could see the writing. I also accidentally scared some people away from Judy's prints by quoting her shoe size. Yeah I'm a with it.

My mom arrived at the hotel around 4, so I went back to meet her there. She came with me to Hollywood Boulevard and we did a little bit of extra sightseeing before we had to go back and get ready for Liza.

The concert started at 8:30. As we were staying at a hotel that was literally a 5-minute walk from the Hollywood Bowl, we got ourselves dressed and coiffed around 8:15 and began to make our way up the hill. While walking up the hill, it really hit me. I'm going to see Liza!!! I started to get really excited. My mom took a picture of me walking up the hill. When we reached the Bowl, I of course took a picture of the sign, and attracted significant attention. A reporter came up to us and asked if we would like to be in the Orange County Register. We said....of course!! So the man took our picture, and told us to look on the website the next day for it. HELL YEAH.

Inside the Bowl it's like a mini city. The venue is SO HUGE that it's very easy to get lost. My mother and I designated a meeting place, took some pictures in front of a Liza sign, and said goodbye to each other so that we could go to our respective seats (she was at the top, I was near the front).

The concert started right on time, 8:30 on the dot. Liza came out in a lovely white suit, to a cheering and hollering audience. My mom said afterward that the audience felt like a community. It truly does, and I can only IMAGINE what Judy's concerts felt like in terms of that. She was in great voice, but even at the tough moments, Liza got tremendous reception and approval. This is nothing new to me, in practice, but being a part of something like that LIVE, is stunning.

There were these 3 drunk girls who were being especially noisy in front of me. They were obviously Liza fans, but WTF. They were annoying as hell. Whenever Liza did something...ANYTHING...they would shout and wave their liquor around, blocking everyone's view. The people sitting next to me were really straightlaced, and I could just see their straightlaced little faces turning redder and redder each time these girls did something.

Her first act was essentially the first half of Liza's At The Palace, with the same songs in more or less the same order. I was singing along, softly so I could hear Liza, and just marveling at her presence. For those of you who haven't seen Liza live, she really has an amazing stage persona--very dynamic and flamboyant, but at the same time vulnerable and shy. Very reminiscent of her personality I think. When she was a kid, Liza was quite shy, but she's always had this fiery side to her that came out when she performed.

She ended her first act with "Cabaret," which got her curtain calls, and which made the drunk girls spill their wine. Much of the audience thought the show was over, because of the nature of the ending of the first act, so a good number of people in front of me ended up leaving. At least...I THINK that's why they left. It could have easily been because I had overheard them talking about how Liza sang "The Man That Got Away" in Cabaret. I couldn't help interjecting and being like "Judy sang The Man That Got Away in A Star Is Born. Maybe you're thinking of "Maybe This Time."" I then got into a rather one-sided discussion about how "Maybe This Time" was not written for the Cabaret, it was originally written for "The Golden Gate," which never came to fruition, so Kander and Ebb just took it and plopped it in the movie "Cabaret," and that's how Liza sings it on the full recording of Judy and Liza at the Palladium.

They left shortly after that.

The second act was not at all like the second act of Liza's At the Palace, instead of the Kay Thompson dedication, Liza instead sang things like "Liza With A Z," and many of her older numbers. It was also decidedly quieter during the second act, as the straightlaced people had yelled at the drunk girls during intermission, and they toned it down a little. Liza had come out at the beginning wearing her usual black getup, and sang "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" to Billy Stritch, who then sang it to her, and they started basically making out onstage. Fabulous.

At the end of the concert, Liza went offstage and didn't come back for like, a number of minutes, despite the crowd's cheering. When she DID come back, she was wearing a ridiculous nightshirt with a decal that I STILL don't recognize. Ed Hardy perhaps? But since when does Ed Hardy make nightshirts?? She ended the concert to a lot of that typical Liza crowd energy, my hands hurt from all that clapping, and my throat hurt from yelling so much.

Oh, and I think I spotted Joe Luft. Liza told the crowd he was there, so afterward I went Joe-searching in the sea of craziness (there were 9,000 people there) and I think I saw him! Oh, spawn-spotting.

In all, it was spectacular evening that I will never forget.

Ok this post is HELLLLLA LONG, so I'm just going to post pictures from the day after.

This is THE DRESS that Judy wore as a toddler. It's in the Hollywood History Museum.

Judy and Max Factor. Hollywood History Museum



  1. But... those aren't the real ruby slippers though, are they? I thought the real ones were lost.

    The only time I've been to the Hollywood Bowl was to see Hanson when I was 11. Your experience sounds significantly cooler.

  2. i am jealous of you for the following reasons:
    1. you got to see her do liza with a z
    3. proper picture of judy's block at graumann's as opposed to mine which all look like crap

    that said, i'm really glad you finally wrote that, because i'd been wanting to hear about it in-depth. YAY!

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  4. They are one pair of the real ruby slippers. There are 5 pairs of ruby slippers that are known to still exist, and one pair was stolen from the JG Museum a few years ago. These are legit--they're owned by David Elkouby and displayed at the Hollywood History Museum. These are the ones that are seen when Dorothy clicks her heels to go home, and also in the witch's castle. :)

    The Hollywood Bowl is awesome. I'm completely in love with the fact that I got to see Liza in an Ed Hardy shirt, and sing Liza With A Z. It was damn spectacular.