Back in the days when I presented my show The Late Late Breakfast Show on Radio Onda Cero, one of Spain’s largest independent radio stations, I traveled annual to broadcast my radio show from some exotic spots around the world including Barbados, St Lucia, Canada, London, Dublin and Las Vegas. It was on one of my many trips to Vegas as a guest of Caesars Palace to broadcast my show that I met and spent time with Lorna Luft. We spent time together firstly the interview, then lunch. Lorna has a bigger than life personality, a great performer, a huge talent (I was her guest at New York New York when she had her opening night of her new show Songs My Mother Taught Me).
As you might imagin Lorna Luft has seen it all. The daughter of Hollywood legend Judy Garland and film producer Sidney Luft, she lost her mother to an accidental overdose, watched her half-sister Liza Minnelli’s rapid rise to stardom and suffered the psychological impact of battling breast cancer. Now in remission, and an ambassador for cancer research, Luft will be performing a selection of seasonal music and “songs my mother taught me” in London next month.
Luft says she was always destined for a career in showbiz. The Hollywood life was the norm for her, having grown up in a home where stellar musicians, dancers and directors would visit regularly to shoot the breeeze with her Episcopalian mother and Jewish father. “To me, they were just people, they were just my mum’s friends. Other people might not think that’s normal, but that’s my normal. There are lots of children who have celebrities as parents but only a few of us have legends as parents. We’re ‘the children of’ and part of an unspoken club.”
No shrinking violet by anyone’s standards, Luft says there is no competitiveness with her equally brash elder sister. In fact, the duo have performed together on a number of occasions and speak at least twice a week.
“I’m so proud of Liza, she’s amazing,” Luft enthuses. “I was so happy with her rise to stardom and to watch her become a force of nature on stage. There’s no rivalry because of the seven-year age gap. When we were children
I was probably a real pain in the ass. I would always follow her around, as a sister does.”
And her musical standards are high. She admits that she is not a “big fan of the copycats. I only listen to the originals. The originals who really started a sound and made a change. I mean, what would Frank Sinatra have done without Bing Crosby?”
She is on top of current trends, admiring Lady Gaga and Madonna and “was a big fan of Amy Winehouse. In February 2012 Luft was diagnosed with breast cancer, recalling the diagnosis as “like being hit in the face by Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. I was terrified, scared, in denial. I literally didn’t know what to do.” After intially postponing treatment, she was pushed to get “educated and was victorious. My doctor told me to put on my paint and go to war. So that’s what I did.”
Her hair has started to grow back and the impact on her performance has been positive. “When I was diagnosed, I asked my doctor: ‘Will it affect my voice’? He said: ‘Yes, from this day on every song will have a new meaning.’ And it really does.”
Since our first meeting I’ve had Lorna on my radio show on a number of occasions. I wish my friend good health and continued success for 2014.
One of my great memories of my shows in Las Vegas's Caesar's Palace Hotel was walking out of the hotel and looking up at their famous sign and seeing this....