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How Liza Minnelli Was "Sabotaged" at the Oscars, Friend Claims

"She said, 'I want to look good. I don’t want people to worry about me.'"

It was a memorable moment at this year's Oscars (though perhaps not the most memorable) when Liza Minnelli presented the award for Best Picture with Lady Gaga. Fans watching were touched by how the pop star helped the Cabaret legend, who was using a wheelchair and stumbled over some of her lines, through the presentation. But according to one of Minnelli's friends, her Oscars appearance wasn't meant to happen this way. In fact, he claims that the actor and singer was "sabotaged." Read on to find out why.

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Minnelli and Lady Gaga presented the last award of the evening.

Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli on stage at the 2022 Oscars
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

When the pair first hit the stage on March 27, Minnelli said, "It's so exciting," after receiving a hearty round of applause. Gaga added, "You see that? The public, they love you." Then, Minnelli held up the papers she was given to present the award and said, "I don't understand." She also stumbled over one of her lines. Gaga supported her as they announced the category together. The moment made headlines, particularly for the way the younger singer helped the 76-year-old icon along.

Minnelli's friend claims that her appearance was supposed to go differently.

Michael Feinstein
SiriusXM / YouTube

Appearing on The Jess Cagle Show on April 19, Minnelli's friend and collaborator Michael Feinstein said that her Oscars appearance wasn't supposed to happen this way.

"She was sabotaged," Feinstein said. "That's a terrible word to use, but she only agreed to appear on the Oscars if she would be in a director's chair, 'cause she's been having back trouble. And she said, 'I don't want people to see me limping out there.' She said, 'I want to look good. I don't want people to worry about me.'"

But, according to Feinstein, "Literally, literally five minutes before she went on, when she sat in the director's chair back there, and because I guess they were all shaken up because of everything that had happened earlier, the stage manager said, 'Well, she has to been in a wheelchair.'" (What "happened earlier" was the shocking incident in which Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock.)

Feinstein says Minnelli initially refused to use a wheelchair.

Liza Minnelli on stage at the 2022 Oscars
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Feinstein said on the show that Minnelli "pleaded" and said, "No, I will not be seen in a wheelchair in front of everybody. I will not do this. I refuse to do this." He claimed, "[Producers] said, 'Well, it's either that or nothing.'" Feinstein, who was backstage with Minnelli, said he asked her what she wanted to do, and she sighed and said, "I'll do it."

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The last-minute change shook the star up, he claims.

Michael Feinstein and Liza Minnelli at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Feinstein continued on, "She was so shaken that she was discombobulated. She was nervous. And it made her look like she was out of it. She was just so shaken up. Can you imagine being suddenly forced to be seen by millions of people the way you don't wanna be seen? That's what happened to her. She was very disappointed that that happened, and it was not what was agreed to."

Feinstein added that the performer "is really doing well, and it's a shame that it turned out that way."

Best Life has reached out to the Oscars and a rep for Minnelli for comment but has not yet received any response.

Minnelli has faced various health issues.

Liza Minnelli at the Los Angeles Italia Closing Night Ceremony in 2015
Venturelli/Getty Images

Minnelli has opened up about her health problems in the past. The various struggles she's faced have included hip surgery, vocal surgery, multiple visits to rehab for substance abuse, and a case of the brain infection viral encephalitis, according to Express. It was thought that the encephalitis would leave her in a wheelchair.

"I had to learn to walk again, had to learn to talk again," Minnelli told The Guardian in 2008. "People don't usually recover like I recovered but I would not give up. I just couldn't—I don't know how you'd do anything else."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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