On The Avenue

Avenue Moment: Peggy Siegal on getting Liza into Studio 54

Friday, December 3, 2010

Peggy Siegal, publicist:

“It was early November 1977. Liza Minnelli was the toast of the town, starring on Broadway in The Act. Her 11 o’clock song was ‘New York, New York,’ which was written specifically for her by John Kander and Fred Ebb. (Frank Sinatra eventually stole Liza’s show stopper; it became his signature song and pissed her off for years.)

Liza and Billie Jean King were my first clients at the hot public relations company PMK, which also represented Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Richard Gere, Robert Altman and Steven Spielberg’s films. I was the new eager beaver-star struck assistant to the legendary and beloved publicist, Lois Smith. Billie Jean adored me, and Liza instantly hated me (God knows why). Liza and I were backstage in her tiny dressing room after a show when she said, ‘Can you get me into this new place, Studio 54?’ I said, ‘Liza, you are Liza. We will go over and figure it out.’

We arrived in a huge black stretch limo, and it was bedlam on the street. It was freezing. Kids in disco get-ups were screaming, ‘Steve, Steve, over here!’ I said to Liza, ‘Sit here. I will do reconnaissance.’ I broke into breast stroke arm movements, cutting through the mob, yelling, ‘Excuse me! Excuse me! Let me through! Liza’s in the car, Liza’s in the car!’ As I approached the velvet rope, a very short guy with very short hair in a very puffy silver down jacket yelled, ‘Peggy! How are you? Come in.’ It was my dear friend from Syracuse University, Steve Rubell.

I said, “Steve, what are you doing here?””


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