In Tenterfield Saddler—his autobiographical tribute to his Australian grandfather—Peter Allen sang: "The grandson of George has traveled all around the world and lives no special place / he changed his last name and he married a girl with an interesting face…."
That girl with an interesting face was none other than Liza Minnelli, who was introduced to Peter through her mother, Judy Garland, when Peter was Garland's opening act. Liza and Peter eventually parted ways, of course, when Liza found Peter in bed with another man.
Allegedly, the only existing print of Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon—which had originally been scheduled with The Sterile Cuckoo as part of the Castro's mini-Minnelli retrospective—was discovered to be unscreenable and was replaced at the last minute by a repeat screening of Cabaret. I don't know which is more sad: that Liza's early films are already falling into disrepair or her recent "outbursts" on Larry King.
I've never seen Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, but was long intrigued by a comment Liza made about having to do the role after seeing Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. Now lord knows when I'll ever get to see it. It's not on dvd.
At least I finally got a chance to see The Sterile Cuckoo. I was in my mid-teens when this movie came out and—I'll admit it—heavily into Rod McKuen at the time. Even then I knew I wanted to live in San Francisco, just so I could experience Stanyan Street and other sorrows. So what I remember very clearly about The Sterile Cuckoo was not only the Sandpipers singing "Come Saturday Morning" but the trailer to the film. If I remember correctly it went something like this: "First love is beautiful. First love is hurt. First love is beautiful hurt." Steeped a little too long in McKuen, I just couldn't help being impressed with that, even if I wasn't impressed enough to see the movie when it was first released. I sure did want to go away with my Saturday friend, though, and Saturday spend til the end of the day.
So here it is nearly 40 years later and I finally got around to seeing The Sterile Cuckoo, with maybe about five other people in the audience. And you know what? I actually enjoyed it. Partly because of that interesting face, which like Streisand's nose and Ali McGraw's crooked tooth, signified the idiosyncracies of individuality that were all the rage in the late 60s and early 70s, reconfiguring our cultural notions of beauty into heightened appreciations of visible nonconformity. But mainly I liked The Sterile Cuckoo out of a nostalgic appreciation of a time period when this young actress was first testing her chops and I was first thinking about going out into the world.
Liza had a powerful vulnerability that looped back to but through her mother's career. Her "absolutely wacky" portrayal of Pookie Adams (a role first offered to but refused by Patty Duke) established a template for Liza of characters whose bravado barely guised their insecurity and their deeprooted fears of inferiority. Cabaret's Sally Bowles was actually not that different than Pookie, likewise estranged from her father, and likewise overcompensating, with divinely decadent green fingernails no less. Both waved goodbye as a gesture over the shoulder. Both operated off of ancient instincts lacking worldly wisdom.
I had just graduated from high school a year before when Cabaret came out. I was living in Twin Falls, Idaho, all my former high school friends were taking off to college, and I had no money to go to college, and didn't know what I wanted to do even if I could go. I remember watching Cabaret seven times in a row at the Idaho Theater on Main Street. I couldn't get enough of it. Because it told me that even if I didn't know what to do, even if I didn't know who I was, or what I specifically wanted out of life, I did want life, I wanted experience, I wanted lovers and cities and Cabaret confirmed for me that a little theatrical energy—especially in Twin Falls, Idaho—could go a long ways. Afterall, what good was sitting alone in your room?
And though it took a little while, another year or two, I finally did make it here to where the music plays. I have found myself and lost myself all in the searching and the longing and am curiously back to where I started, unsure, not knowing quite what I want to do with my life, but knowing that I want life, and I never tire of experience, even if experiences have tired me out. I'm not so keen on lovers anymore and am even a little weary of cities but, what can I tell you? A little theatrical energy still goes a long ways.