Sunday, December 14, 2008

Still kicking

Liza Minelli's show at the Palace Theatre in Manhattan is drawing good reviews, and whether her kind of musical performance is your favorite, and it's certainly not mine, one has to admire her spirit; as The Week notes: the nearly 10 years since her last revue, the 62-year-old Minnelli has had two hip replacements, knee surgery, encephalitis, more than a few addictions, and one very strange and public divorce. Put that all out of your mind. From her first moment onstage, spiky-haired, Halston-clad, and striking her signature one-arm-aiming-skyward pose, “Liza with a Z” proves she can still hold an audience “in the palm of her hand.”

It's also a fitting tribute on Minelli's part to revive the "Palace Medley," which her mother performed there in 1951. Liza's first husband, Jack Haley, had been Judy Garland's protégé, and her fourth, David Gest, seems to have adopted as his operating principle, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here! the title of the British TV reality show on which he formerly appeared. For a brief moment, Gest bestowed his presence on Memphis, Tennessee, announcing his planned residence in the nation's 18th-largest city with the comment, "I always wanted to live in a small town."

In fact, he was the neighbor, two doors down, of my mother and stepfather, and he happened to be outside one day, 4 years ago, when they and I rode past him. Since we're all so neighborly down here, I waved to him, and he favored me with a look something like the one that Mr. Darcy must have bestowed on the hopeful citizens of Meryton. Still, he did pay for many billboard notices in November, 2004, inviting the less fortunate of Memphis to "Be David's Gest" on Thanksgiving Day by showing up at a variety of local restaurants for free meals.

In any case, Gest is seldom seen here any more, and if he's looking for a setting worthy of him and has sufficient fortune left over from his Thanksgiving largesse, he might consider moving to the Channel Islands of Sark. In that unhappy quarter, which held its first democratic elections last week after voting earlier this year to dissolve Europe's last feudal polity, 140 jobs will be lost after the cancellation of a £5 million per year investment program by the Barclay brothers, millionaire British investors, who were dissatisfied with certain provisions of the outcome. If Gest's bank balance comes up a little short for replacing their bounty, he can at least join the Sercquiais in the islands' distinctive Clameur de Haro, a Norman-era plea for justice in which the supplicant recites the Lord's Prayer in French in front of witnesses and then cries aloud:

Haro, Haro, Haro! À mon aide mon Prince, on me fait tort! ("Haro, Haro, Haro! To my aid, my Prince! I am being wronged!")

As long as Gest doesn't forget and cry out "Je suis remarquable! À la sortie!" all should go well.

© Michael Huggins, 2008. All rights reserved.

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