This past month, Liza Minnelli has outlived the marriage of Bill and Melinda Gates, Zac Efron’s original face, Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter hiatus, Bernie Madoff, Prince Philip, Regé-Jean Page’s time on “Bridgerton,” and so much more. How do we know this? It’s all thanks to the Twitter account @LiZaOutlives, “LizaMinnelliOutlives,” a delightful mix of political commentary, pop culture news, and actual news of celebrity deaths — with over 25,000 followers and growing.
While Liza may not understand the account, the man behind @LiZaOutlives insists it’s a loving tribute and celebration of the actress.
So, of course, we had to chat with him. Scott Gorenstein, a gay Jewish man, worked as Minnelli’s publicist for a period, and has idolized the actress his entire life.
Gorenstein’s personal Twitter bio identifies him as “probably the only person who idolizes both Howard Stern and Liza Minnelli,” and that very well may be true. Over email, I chatted with him to talk about why he started the account, and why it feels so Jewish to joke about death.
What inspired you to start “LizaMinnelliOutlives“?
I had seen a similar account years ago and thought the idea was ridiculously clever. I thought I could tweak the concept a bit to be humorous:
Liza Minnelli has outlived the search for Lady Gaga's French bulldogs. They have both been safely recovered.
— LizaMinnelliOutlives (@LiZaOutlives) February 27, 2021
While also slipping in some silly political commentary once in a while:
Liza Minnelli has outlived Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's congressional committee roles.
Taylor, a racist, was removed because of her QAnon affiliation and previous false statements saying school shootings and 9/11 were fake.
— LizaMinnelliOutlives (@LiZaOutlives) February 5, 2021
And at the same time, I could elevate Liza Minnelli, which is my raison d’être.
When did you see it pick up?
In late December of 2020 I wrote what I thought was an ordinary post about the death of notorious NYC club fixture and convicted murderer Michael Alig.
Liza Minnelli has outlived Michael Alig who was the ringleader of a group known as the “Club Kids,” who epitomized New York City club culture at the time. He later served time in prison for murder.
— LizaMinnelliOutlives (@LiZaOutlives) December 25, 2020
I have no idea why, but it took off and the numbers went through the roof. I had started the account months earlier but it had not attracted much attention before this. Afterwards, some other tweets started to go viral and the account itself became an object of chatter online. I sat back watching it all happen with glee.
How do you decide who to tweet about?
It’s best if the subject is mainstream so that it captures interest from a wide audience. A lot of this is instinctual so sometimes I just know, ya know? Also, I have group of friends whom have gotten caught up in the excitement so they are often sending me suggestions, which are most welcome.
Has there been any tweet you’ve had to do that felt particularly painful?
I tweeted that Liza’s “Arrested Development” co-star Jessica Walter had passed away, which I was a bit hesitant to do because her death came out of nowhere and I knew there would be a strong emotional reaction.
Liza Minnelli has outlived her "Arrested Development" co-star, the wonderful Jessica Walter. pic.twitter.com/FDN8MRcboQ
— LizaMinnelliOutlives (@LiZaOutlives) March 25, 2021
The timing of my tweet, very soon after her death had been formally announced, caused some people to take it the wrong way as some of the tweets can be humorous. This one certainly was not but not everyone is sharp enough to catch nuance. But I am not concerned with other people’s perception or lack thereof.
Did you expect this account to blow up the way it did?
Absolutely not! I thought it would be considered successful if it gained around 4,000 followers. But when it flew past that number I set my eyes on a much bigger prize – 10K! Well, the account passed that number some time ago. Now when people ask me what I am shooting for, I just say, “More! And a lot of it.”
When did you first fall in love with Liza?
I was intuitively drawn to her a child without even knowing much about her work. It was her look, her perfect-for-a-marquee name, her voice and her unmatched showbiz pedigree which all played a part in my focus. I loved Liza from the moment I put all of those things together. And then as I got older I would fall in love with more and more elements, like her music.
What does Liza Minnelli mean to you now?
Everything. Liza has been the touchstone of my life. When I set my sights on her I knew I was going all-in for a lifetime. When I was a kid it’d be best to sum it up as if being a devoted fan was my hobby … reading about her, watching her films, going to concerts. And I had a very close friend who felt the same, so we’d talk on the phone all the time i.e. “Did you see her on ‘The Tonight Show’ last night? What did you think of that song?” Over and over for years. It was fun … a hobby like I said. And then decades later I became her publicist and it took on a whole new level. She’s my faith.
Joking about death feels very Jewish. How does your Jewish identity impact your work?
My Jewish black humor is so genetically hardwired that I am unaware of it. It’s a shtetl mentality; you’re always expecting the Cossacks to come after you. But I think my breezy outlook towards mortality really springs from coming of age in the AIDS epidemic and being a member of ACT UP. That changes a person permanently and forces you to laugh in the face of tragedy. If you don’t laugh, the far right-wing Reaganites win.
Why does Liza Minnelli feel Jewish, despite the fact that she is not Jewish?
I don’t think of Liza as Jewish in any way so I had to discuss this one with my friend Ben Rimalower, a fellow Jew who also worships Liza which only partly explains our friendship. Ben pointed out that so much of what many of us associate with modern American Jewishness is about American Jewish culture, more to do with Carl Reiner than Rabbi Hillel. He said that since old school show business was very steeped in the Borscht Belt, Liza — who is nothing if not old school show biz — can give off a Jewish vibe. Also, Liza is so intrinsically New York and that’s another cultural sensibility that overlaps with Jewishness.
What role of Liza’s do you particularly treasure?
“The Sterile Cuckoo” is an overlooked gem of a performance. Liza plays Pookie Adams in a story about a misfit college student having her first real romance. The film is a straight drama and Liza’s performance is so extraordinary that she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress although she didn’t win that year. Whenever I watch it, I seethe with anger that Hollywood didn’t write more vehicles like it for her.
But a few years later she became a superstar with her life-defining performance in “Cabaret,” giving us one of the greatest performances of all time, so some of Liza’s earlier work like “The Sterile Cuckoo” is overshadowed. A few years back, when I was still Liza’s publicist, the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time so I delighted in being able to promote the film and bring it some attention.