(Rachel Syme’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 5/1 Photo: Illustration by Ohni Lisle; Source photograph by Ken McKay / Shutterstock.)
The superfan behind @LiZaOutlives says, “I will always consider it my duty to look out for her.”
In the past year alone, Liza Minnelli has outlived the Copacabana, Christopher Plummer, and Robert F. Kennedy’s Instagram account. She has outlived Larry King, Mary-Kate Olsen’s marriage, and the blockage of the Suez Canal. She has outlived Queen Elizabeth II’s dachshund-corgi mix, Vulcan, and the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. She has outlived the Pacific Theatres and ArcLight Cinemas, Century 21, the search for Lady Gaga’s kidnapped French bulldogs, and the Manhattan restaurateur Sirio Maccioni, at whose now-defunct French eatery Le Cirque she once performed an impromptu version of “New York, New York,” during the birthday party of the gossip columnist Liz Smith. (Smith died in 2017, so Minnelli has outlived her, too.)
All of these testaments to Minnelli’s longevity come courtesy of a Twitter account called @LiZaOutlives, which sprang into existence, in February of 2020, with the declaration that “Liza Minnelli outlived the marriage of Jon Peters and Pamela Anderson.” I first became aware of the account a few months later, when someone I follow retweeted the update “Liza Minnelli has outlived Disney’s ‘Frozen,’ which will not reopen on Broadway.” With that news item and many others, whoever was running the account revealed themselves to be remarkably quick on the draw. They posted news of celebrity passings faster than some obituary sections and always seemed to have the scoop on divorces and bankruptcies. The updates, which came once or sometimes twice a day, sounded overly triumphant at a time when the coronavirus was claiming thousands of American lives every day. Wasn’t it glib, or even ghoulish, to celebrate the survival of one woman in the face of so many casualties? At the same time, @LiZaOutlives had a sly way of commenting on the times. It noted when Minnelli outlived the television program “Cops,” Mitch McConnell’s control of the Senate, the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, and Scott Atlas’s employment as Trump’s special adviser on covid-19. The message was clear: old structures are crumbling, yet Liza persists, a bedazzled Energizer Bunny running on gusto and guile. The account was like a Twitter version of the famous “Follies” lyrics: “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all / And, my dear, I’m still here.”
I figured that the person behind @LiZaOutlives would be some Very Online millennial feeding social media’s appetite for the matriarch as meme—a form of homage that is dynamite for clicks but doesn’t always do its subjects justice. (See, for instance, the quippy Lucille Bluth clips that lit up the Internet after Liza outlived her “Arrested Development” co-star Jessica Walter, in March.) But when I got in touch I found someone different: Scott Gorenstein, a soft-spoken, middle-aged man who is not only a dyed-in-the-wool, lifelong Minnelli superfan but also her former employee. For more than a decade, Gorenstein worked as Minnelli’s press representative, and he told me that he still can’t resist doing unofficial publicity for her. “I will always consider it my duty to look out for her,” he said.
Gorenstein shares Minnelli’s compact stature and wears a studious-looking pair of round spectacles. The walls of his Jersey City apartment are covered in Liza Playbills, signed posters, and a framed copy of her 1987 Revlon campaign. He recalled, by phone, that he has worshipped both Minnelli and her mother, Judy Garland, since his childhood in Philadelphia—“ ‘Judy at Carnegie,’ to me, is the Bible,” he said. In junior high, he begged his parents to take him to the Shubert Theatre to see Minnelli’s 1979 concert tour. Gorenstein knew by then that he was gay, and he did not intend to come out to his family. He bonded with a childhood friend named Scott Schechter over their shared love of all things Liza, and the pair would spend hours listening to records and watching Liza and Judy on TV.