On the face of it, brittle Liza Minnelli and flako Goldie Hawn seem like a bizarre showbiz combo. “We’re both like cartoon characters,” admits Liza of their teaming up this week for Goldie and Liza Together, CBS’ most stellar special of the season. “Goldie is the blonde, the airhead—but she’s about as much of an airhead as Einstein. My reputation is that I’m in the jet set, running around, and I’m not like that either.” Ultimately, of course, no apologies were necessary. The show worked, and Liza unexpectedly found in Goldie a friendship (and model for motherhood) that didn’t rub off with the greasepaint.
“I’ve worked with other women and it was tough,” says Liza, whose own mother, Judy Garland, once almost shoved her off the stage after a joint performance. “But if there was something wrong with my dress, Goldie would fix it for me. I know people who would let you go on with lint.” A talent less secure than Hawn also might have been daunted by Liza’s Oscar, Emmy, three Tonys and incandescent fame. But Goldie had her own Academy Award and one of the most successful crossovers ever from TV to film. “Liza’s so sweet and so basic I very much wanted to do this with her,” says Goldie. “And it was fun.”
Their mutual admiration society convened at a propitious time. Liza, 34 next month, was contemplating her third marriage—and a baby. “I haven’t had a girlfriend in so long, Goldie was the first one I told I was pregnant, and she cried like a silly person,” says Liza. “Goldie inspired me to have children. She talked about how much fun it was to be pregnant. I guess that everybody I had met before thought it was hip to complain.” Goldie, 34, gives the credit to Oliver, 3 (born a few months after her second marriage, to singer-comedian Bill Hudson), and Kate, 10 months. “I don’t think it’s as much what Liza and I said as what we shared with my children. She and my kids became buddies,” says Goldie. “I told her having children was beautiful, the most important thing you do in your life.”
That Liza miscarried in her third month—just a week after marrying sculptor-stage manager Mark Gero, 28—is “just a postponement,” Liza insists. “I’ll try again as soon as I can.” Confides designer Halston, her longtime intimate: “She never thought she could have a child. She had been told by some doctors that she couldn’t. It’s the one thing that Liza wants and needs more than anything, a really strong home and family.” She has set aside her first long stretch of free time in more than a decade for just that purpose. “I know I’m going to get pregnant again soon,” she says. “When you meet the right guy, you want to have his kid.”
She has, of course, done some comparison shopping. Her first husband, when she was 21, was singer-composer Peter Allen and her second was producer Jack Haley Jr., 46. There were also, along the way, celebrated affairs with Desi Arnaz Jr., Peter Sellers and a 1977 fling with her New York, New York director, Martin Scorsese, that helped break up both their marriages.
“I’ve been married before but I’ve never been married before,” she says now. “This one comes the closest to all the stuff about romance that you read about. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been in love before. I think the happiest moment in my life was probably when I got married to Mark.” The faithful gathered in New York’s St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Liz Taylor (who, Liza says, is “great, funny, childlike and yet very womanly”) was surrogate mother for the occasion. Her director father, Vincente Minnelli, gave away the bride. “It was all candlelit,” recalls Liza. “Everybody else is supposed to cry, but I cried through my whole wedding. It was so embarrassing. I went to say my vows and I sounded like Miss Piggy.”
The couple met, suitably, on Broadway when Gero worked as stage manager for her 1977 show The Act, which pioneered the $25 ticket price. Gero’s stage call, Liza says, summed up their relationship: “Hello, good evening. Five minutes.” The next year they shared a limo to Studio 54’s party after Liza narrated Martha Graham’s ballet The Owl and the Pussycat at the Met. “We talked to each other for the first time,” says Liza. When the show closed, “We kept finding excuses to have lunch together.” Then her mentor, composer and longtime friend Fred Ebb innocently hired Gero as stage manager for Liza’s 1978-79 concert tour. “We lived and worked together constantly for about six months,” Liza recalls.
The only snag? At the time of her divorce from Haley, Liza had announced, “I never in my life again want to put someone in the position of being called Mr. Minnelli—except my father.” Gero disagreed. “Mark told me it was a stupid quote. He said, ‘It sounds good, but I want to marry you, so shut up.’ ” His proposal came several months before they finally formalized it. “He said, ‘If we don’t get married by the end of the year, that’s it,’ ” reports Liza. “I said, ‘We’re living in modern days, people don’t necessarily have to get married.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but I want a family, and you want a family, and I’m not that modern.’ So I said okay.”
Liza’s trepidation may have been partly reaction to the example of her five-times-married mother. Her life has seemed both flight from and fulfillment of the Garland legacy. Her mother was often broke, while Liza, who was earning $1 million a year in her 20s, has invested cannily in real estate and blue-chip stocks. Similarly, her mother’s many suicide attempts (her 1969 death was ruled an accidental overdose) have made Liza whiskey-and pill-shy, except for cordials of Sambuca. “I’ve smoked grass four times in my life and I saw things I’d pay not to see,” she says. “I like my life. It feels good to be on the move and be surefooted. Drugs are a banana peel—why fall down when you don’t have to?”
But the advantages of being Liza Minnelli have not escaped her. “My parents both trusted me enormously, and that’s the best thing you can do with a kid,” she says loyally. She also learned young to cope with the limelight. (One of her earliest memories is of playing in a sandbox with Mia Farrow and Candice Bergen.) “I grew up around it,” she says. “It’s not like Bar-bra Streisand, you know. Celebrity freaks her out. You don’t grab Streisand or Frank Sinatra, but I’m the kind of person people do come up and touch. They treat me more like I’m their kid for some reason.” She also inherited a strong sense of family. Right now she’s excitedly touting half sister (and best friend) Lorna Luft’s upcoming new rock album. “When your mother was the greatest, I mean, it was a little heavy,” Liza commiserates. “Lorna has to deal with that and with me.”
Liza was the youngest Tony winner ever (at 19) for her Broadway debut in 1965 in Flora, the Red Menace. She was nominated for a 1969 Oscar for The Sterile Cuckoo. Her loss was just a delay until 1972 and her fourth film. “The ‘big patunga,’ of course, was Cabaret,” she laughs. Her films since, the bomb Lucky Lady and the uneven New York, New York, didn’t measure up. But her live act has become one of the world’s best.
Now Minnelli has become the only guest her buddy Misha will have in his first commercial TV special, Baryshnikov on Broadway. She is also considering a dance work with Martha Graham. She wants to cut more records, but not disco (“It’s real boring”). At year’s end Liza plans to reunite with Goldie for the screen adaptation of Bob Fosse’s 1920s-style musical, Chicago. “I couldn’t do it all if I didn’t love it,” she says. “Work is being around people who are smarter than you are and learning. The brain is an erogenous zone as far as I’m concerned. I love the creative process.”
Meanwhile she ponders her family and future in her cozy Central Park South penthouse. On the walls are photos of Garland, Sammy Davis Jr. and author-godmother Kay (Eloise) Thompson, along with a framed fan letter from Jack Nicholson. In the bedroom is a Betamax on which Liza tapes her beloved Rockford Files. In the kitchen is a salami slicer that occasional cook Liza uses when Gero stages his poker nights. One small room is entirely filled with Halston gowns. “It’s an ugly duckling to a swan sort of transformation,” says Liza, once savaged by critic John Simon for her lack of physical beauty. “Halston is my friend and he dressed me, and I became one of the best-dressed women in the world. He believed in bosoms when bosoms weren’t in.”
Wardrobe aside, Liza protests she does not spend her life in Studio 54 though she dueted with Diana Ross from the balcony at prison-bound buddy Steve Rubell’s farewell fete. “It bothers me when people think I’m being frivolous and reckless, which I’m not.” She says she relishes having the time to do “regular normal things like going to the Whitney Museum—I’ve been out kicking my legs too long.” And Liza insists, despite appearances, that she looks to her new marriage and future motherhood for what the show life can’t give. “My business is fantasy,” she says. “You’re a fool to take it for anything else.”