(L-R) Michael York, Liza Minelli, Joel Grey, Robert Osborne and Marisa Berenson attend the
“Cabaret” 40th Anniversary New York Screening at Ziegfeld Theatre on January 31, 2013.
(Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images)
Last Thursday I was planning on spending a quiet evening at home curled up with some reading or knitting, or possibly sweeping my kitchen. After all, the arctic temperatures and gale force winds in NYC were not exactly enticement to leave one’s home or pajamas. But when I got the invite to attend the 40th(-ish) anniversary screening of Cabaret at the historic Ziegfield Theater and to chat with some of its legendary cast on the red carpet, I put down the knitting, the book AND the broom – for life is, after all these years, still a cabaret.
If anything was reason enough for me to freeze my tail feathers off on a Thursday night, it was the chance to meet Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York in the cold flesh. (Speaking of tail feathers, I’m fairly sure the poor little woman next to me on the carpet kept trying to climb up on top of my feet, March of the Penguins style, to protect herself from the cold. Or maybe she was just drunk.) Our time with the celebs was understandably cut short by the fact that they were rapidly merging into a fabulous, EGOT-winning iceberg before our very eyes – but I did manage to get a few words from between their sets of brilliant white, chattering teeth.
Cabaret is really a vanguard in the send that it was one of tne of the first blockbuster films to have a lead character who wasn’t entirely straight. Did you have any concerns about taking the role?
Michael York: No, I didn’t – it was only afterward that people said, “Did you have concerns?” This is humanity, you know – he was bisexual, but now of course it’s quite tame. No, not at all. And I think the love story was genuine, but it just doesn’t work out for them.
Have things changed much in Hollywood? Do you think people would have the same reaction today to an actor taking a role like this?
MY: I don’t think so, no. Because we have a whole gay world on TV now – but this pushed the envelope forty years ago, which is a good thing.
Looking back, your character and performance were an inspiration to many young gay men. How does it feel to have potentially have been a role model for viewers who weren’t used to seeing themselves up on screen?
MY: Well, how very nice of you to say so. Well, that feels good. Life is a cabaret, but it’s such a mixture of all types that should be represented. I was lucky to be able to do this.
What are you most looking forward to tonight?
MY: Just being a part of the crowd – seeing how they react.
From this to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dancer in the Dark to Anything Goes on Broadway – what’s the secret to your career trajectory? How do you pick your roles?
Joel Grey: That’s a good question, because I’ve never really thought about it – I always just go with my gut. And for the most part I end up doing something that I’m proud of and I like.
This film is really a part of a sexual revolution. How does it feel to be a part of something that inspired a generation to think differently?
JG: It makes me happy that I’m a part of something that matters to people on a number of levels. It’s a responsibility and a joy.
Have you had people tell you that it inspired or influenced them?
JG: I do, actually. A lot of people tell me that when they saw it it changed their lives. Not me, but the film.
Every gay man I know either wants to be you or Sally Bowles – sometimes it’s hard to tell which.
Liza Minnelli: Ha!
What is it about Sally that makes people love the character so ferociously?
Well, I don’t know – that’s up for you to decide!
Looking back, what was the hardest part about playing the character?
It was smooth sailing all along?
I knew her, I was directed brilliantly. I loved doing it. And it was so different and dark and mysterious – you gotta see it!
Oh, believe me, I’ve seen it!