Minnelli's late show for Holocaust Centre

By Jennifer Lipman, September 27, 2011
Liza Minelli performs at the dinner

Liza Minelli performs at the dinner

A late-running programme at Sunday's fundraiser for the Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire meant that star attraction Liza Minnelli did not take the stage until 11.45pm.

But the 400 audience members at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel in central London were rewarded with a bravura show at what organisers said was the smallest venue the 65-year-old star had played.

As well as performing Cabaret and other well-known songs, Ms Minnelli regaled the crowd with anecdotes from a life in showbusiness.

Her appearance was the icing on the cake for organisers of the first White Rose Ball, inspired by an idea from a volunteer at the centre, which raises awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides. The fundraiser was developed by a committee including Groucho Club host Bernie Katz and its title reflects the centre's garden of white roses, the emblem of the anti-Hitler resistance movement in Germany.

Ms Minnelli, who toured the premises last week, dedicated her performance to the centre, praising the way it showed school groups that prejudice was unacceptable.

Liza Minelli with Arek Hersh

Liza Minelli with Arek Hersh

The meal featured dishes created by celebrity chefs Fergus Henderson and Tom Parker Bowles and the entertainment also included performances by the cast of Jersey Boys and the former Jonathan Ross chat show band, Four Poofs and a Piano. Among the celebrity diners were actress Emilia Fox and singer Will Young, who said the evening was both enjoyable and supporting a vital institution. "It's not necessarily about looking back - it's about looking forwards. It's so important to break down notions of bigotry and racism."

Auction lots ranged from a Fabergé egg to a Cindy Lass painting embedded with Swarovski crystals. A print from a limited run by graffiti artist Bansky fetched £4,000. Around £175,000 was raised on the night.

The first half was hosted by TV and radio presenter Richard Bacon, who joked that the organisers could not have chosen someone with a less kosher name. Taking over, Maureen Lipman - who donated one of her own paintings to the auction - stressed the importance of the centre's work.

"I think it's an incredible project. There's a big problem that, once the survivors have gone, it [the Shoah] will be open to revisionism, to people who say the Holocaust didn't really happen, or was not on that scale.

"That's why we need to educate the young," she said, adding that she was impressed that the centre also covered issues such as racism and bullying.

"A bequest to the Holocaust Centre is more important than your daughter's wedding, because it will ensure that your daughters and granddaughters are able to have a wedding."

Former Board of Deputies president Henry Grunwald introduced three short clips featuring testimony from survivors and an explanation about the White Rose movement. The centre had become "a second home for these survivors and crucially a place where they can tell their stories", he said.

Last updated: 4:22pm, September 27 2011