Oscar's Divine Decadence: Cabaret at Forty

Innovative in its time, Cabaret, the quintessential movie musical, marked its anniversary with a special screening last week at The Ziegfeld Theater where it premiered 40 years ago. The stars, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Michael York, and Marisa Berenson joined Robert Osborne onstage, answering some questions about the making of this landmark song and dance Fosse film, the 1973 Academy Award winner for Best Picture. Minnelli and Grey earned actor Oscars as well, the film eight in all. Liza Minnelli attended the Oscar ceremony with her father Vincent Minnelli, who helped her create her character's Sally Bowles' look, showing her pictures of Theda Bara and Louise Brooks. When she asked him what he thought, he said, "Strange and wonderful." Funny to see her, in close up, the line crossed in heavy, eye-popping mascara and green nails. How did Bob Fosse create the 1931 Weimar Germany's Kit Kat Club's "divine decadence?"

Against the menace of encroaching Nazi power, everyone in the film is a Holly Golightly of self-invention. Minnelli said she designed her own makeup, and wore brightly colored scarves and dresses to rehearsal to get Sally Bowles. Marisa Berenson was in Rome with Visconti when she was called to audition for the part of Natalia Landauer, the young wealthy Jewish English student: "Fosse would whisper 'sex' in my ear to make me feel, you know, funny." Michael York, filming in Puerto Rico, heard they were auditioning in London, looking for a Michael York type. Well, how about Michael York?

Composers Kander and Ebb wrote a new number for the movie, a duet for Minnelli and Grey, "Money Money Money." To get the right moves, Fosse told Grey, "Imagine you have a huge penis." Winning an Oscar was a big surprise for Grey who thought Al Pacino would get it for The Godfather. His neighbor Larry Hagman bought Grey a consolation gift with a card that read, for the best neighbor in the world, just in case.

Following the Ziegfeld screening, I ventured downtown to the Hammerstein Ballroom for the annual We Are Family Foundation fundraiser to help teens learn respect for diversity, among many other important global initiatives. Adam Lambert, Nile Rodgers & Chic were bringing down the house while the waiters were clearing tables. The music kept coming and happy diners refused to leave, dancing in the aisles. What a party!

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.