Liza Minnelli’s friend says she was ‘sabotaged’ into using a wheelchair at the Oscars

Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli during the show at the 94th Academy Awards
Lady Gaga, left, and Liza Minnelli present the award for best picture at the Oscars on March 27 at the Dolby Theatre.
(Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times)

A collaborator and friend of Hollywood legend Liza Minnelli believes that she was “sabotaged” into taking the Oscars stage in a wheelchair last month when she presented the Academy Award for best picture alongside Lady Gaga.

Five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein, who said he was backstage with Minnelli at the 94th Academy Awards, alleged Tuesday that the Oscar-winning “Cabaret” star was “forced” to close the chaotic show in the wheelchair after the telecast went off the rails when “King Richard” star Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock.


“She was sabotaged. That’s a terrible word to use, but she only agreed to appear on the Oscars if she would be in the director’s chair because she’s been having back trouble,” Feinstein said in an appearance on SiriusXM’s “The Jess Cagle Show.” “She said, ‘I don’t want people to see me limping out there.’ She said, ‘You know, I want to look good. I don’t want people to worry about me.’”

Minnelli, the daughter of icon Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, thought she was still set to appear in the director’s chair. Feinstein said that five minutes before she went onstage, she sat in it backstage, but because “they were all shaken up because of everything that had happened earlier, the stage manager said, ‘Well, she has to be in a wheelchair.’”

Everything we know about the infamous moment at the 2022 Oscars, from the history leading up to the onstage shocker to today’s latest developments.

April 8, 2022

The Pasadena Pops principal conductor said that Minnelli, 76, pleaded with them not to send her out that way and refused to do it. But she relented after she was told “it was either that or nothing.”

Headlines about her appearance characterized the star as “frail,” and her banter with Lady Gaga was a bit rocky. Feinstein claimed to know why.

“She was so shaken that she was discombobulated,” added Feinstein, who has performed alongside Minnelli several times and recorded the jazz standard “Embraceable You” with her for his “Gershwin Country” album earlier this year.

Liza Minnelli seemed grateful for Lady Gaga’s help as the latter smoothed out some rough spots in announcing the best-picture Oscar winner.

March 27, 2022

“She was nervous, and it made her look like she was out of it,” he said. “Can you imagine being suddenly forced to be seen by millions of people the way you don’t want to be seen? That’s what happened to her.”


A representative for the Academy Awards did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.

Nevertheless, the “Arthur” star was greeted with a huge round of applause and standing ovation on Oscar night inside the Dolby Theatre, prompting Gaga to tell her: “You see that? The public, they love you.”