Catching Up With: Lorna Luft
By Max Berlinger
You were a surprise guest during Rufus Wainwright’s homage to your mother in 2006.
I wanted to take part in the Rufus tribute because I thought there would be a new generation that would be introduced to my mother’s work as a concert artist. That’s exactly what happened. Her Carnegie Hall album spiked through the roof. This upcoming night with the New York Pops—such a prestigious and brilliant orchestra—it will also be one of those nights that you say to yourself “Wow!” My mom would’ve loved this –- because of the orchestra, because of the venue, because of the message of this show. Basically we’re saying “Thank you.”
Your sister Liza has said, “Lorna and mama were the most alike.” How so?
The number one thing is my sense of humor. I don’t take anything too seriously. My mother never, ever looked at the glass half empty. It was always half full. She was insanely positive.
You’ve written that after your parents’ divorce, you stayed with your mother and became her caretaker, but eventually moved in with your father and then felt enormous guilt upon Judy’s death. How did you overcome the remorse?
It was incredibly rough when my mom passed away. I was 16. All of the emotions and feelings that I went through were really, really normal for a child of an addict. You feel guilt, you feel shame, and you live in the land of “What if?” Once I went into Al-Anon, and AA and got clean and sober—now almost 28 years—all the questions were answered. This massive weight fell off my shoulders.
I’d love to say that I was the last child who had an addicted parent they had to take care of, but it’s happening now as we speak. Kids are still taking care of their addicted parents. It’s a disease that’s rampant and it’s not going away, but the good news is that we’ve come so far in the education, the facilities, and the knowledge of what addiction is. My mom didn’t have that.
Your mother is a very public example of a star with substance abuse issues.
Addiction is the most equal opportunity employer. If you’ve got the disease, guess what? Help is available when you’re ready for it. Every single addict -- and I talk as an addict -- the shit that comes out of your mouth, really isn’t original.
Are you talking about Charlie Sheen’s recent rants?
These people have the availability to go on television or a radio show and say these insane things. I just start to laugh because I think, “God, you are really un-original.” Everything you are saying, someone else has said.
As the child of a celebrity addict and someone in recovery yourself, do you have any advice for Sheen?
Get off television and get off radio. That would be my advice. You blame the media when they are hanging outside someone’s house when they’re trying to deal with this on their own, but if you’re breaking up hotel rooms, and you go on television with the porn stars, and you get arrested, and you’re falling out of cars, I’m not going to feel sorry for the addict. I’m going to say, “Pull yourself together. Get some help, and get your act together.” The thing I think is insane about all this is that he’s got five kids! You can’t blame the media.
I read online you used to have a crush on Barry Manilow.
I have a crush on Barry Manilow every day because he’s my best friend. I see him three days a week. We’re neighbors and talk every day. I have a crush on him now and forever. He’s my brother. Barry and I met in 1971 or ’72. Everyone was talking about going down to the Village see this young girl singer. It was Bette [Midler]. I went and was just watching this insane musician and arranger. I watched him more than I watched her. Barry and I met that night and we’ve stayed best friends since. He’s another person who really is in tune with my mother’s artistry.
How do you want your mother to be remembered?
My mother was not tragic. She had tragedies in her life, but she was not tragic. She really enjoyed life to the fullest and she loved what she did. I’m not going to say she didn’t have problems, but that wasn’t the whole story. I want people to remember her artistry. Listen to the records and watch the movies and the TV show. That’s what people should remember.
I’ve read that when asked about how she felt about being a gay icon, your mom replied, "I couldn't care less. I sing to people." Was she really that cavalier about our adoration?
You have to understand, my mother saw… people. I was raised in a household that never saw color. I was brought up to believe we’re all human. That means we should all treat each other the same way. We all have a heart. We all bleed. I’ve got very big ties to HRC [Human Rights Campaign], which is an incredible organization that I work very hard for. The sad part is that my mom didn’t live to see the advances we’ve made in human rights, but I know if she were alive, she’d be championing HRC too.
The Greatest Night in Show Business History: The 50th Anniversary
Celebrating Judy at Carnegie Hall
Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:00PM, Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
Steven Reineke, Music Director and Conductor
Lorna Luft, Ashley Brown, Heather Headley, Karen Olivo, Guest Artists
TICKETS Single tickets are priced from $33 to $106. Subscriptions to the 2010-2011 Carnegie Hall series are also available, at $145, $165, $210, $350, $460 and $510. Purchases can be made at the Carnegie Hall Box Office (57th Street and 7th Avenue) or by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. Visit www.carnegiehall.org for more information.
-- COURT STROUD