From Liza to Lainie, Some Delicious Name Dropping With Center’s Cultural Arts Director Jon Imparato

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For nearly 24 years, Jon Imparato has brought an array of famous faces to the stages of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg and Davidson/Valentini theirs in his role as Cultural Arts Director. With his June 2022 retirement approaching, Imparato decide to share some memories of some of the famous headliners over the years.

Tony winner Carol Channing: “I gave her a note on how to sing the title song to Hello, Dolly! I said, ‘Carol, when you sing “Wow, wow, wow fellas, look at the old gal now fellas,” that’s a big, big moment. You are the old gal now.’ I suggested she show her gam after the line and pause without saying a word, take six beats and let them feel that moment. They rose to their feet and screamed. She got a standing ovation and it stopped the show. The audience went nuts. I just wanted that moment to live and breathe. She got in the wings and said, ‘What else am I missing?’ I said, ‘You’re missing a beat in Before the Parade Passes By.’”

Emmy/Tony/Grammy winner Billy Porter: “He was the second show we did in the theatre in 1998. He came with a full six-piece band and killed it and I was like, ‘You’ve got to become a star, you’re unbelievable.’ The voice was volcanic.”

Emmy winner Jane Lynch: “Before anybody knew who she was, pre-Best In Show, we did a play with her called The Break-Up Notebook. When she got to be somewhat famous but before Glee, we did My Sister, My Sister.”

Oscar/Tony/Emmy/Grammy winner Liza Minnelli: “She was wonderful, a joy to work with. We had been trying to get her for years. She’s very good friends with Coco Peru so that’s the connection. Her manager called me and said, ‘She’s playing Disney Hall on Saturday so could you do this on a Thursday?’ I’m like game on. She sang for us, she was a joy to work with.”

Emmy winner Megan Mullally: “It was the very beginning of Will & Grace. She’s this rock and roll chick who came in with a Judas Priest T-shirt, clogs, bright tights with a rip in them, and this skirt. She said, ‘Jon, I do hair and make-up every day for Will & Grace, can I go out like this?’ I said it’s your show do whatever you want! She was a dream, dream, dream to work with. Couldn’t have been nicer.”

Emmy/Tony nominee Lainie Kazan: “She had these musicians who were 110 years old. She’d say, ‘He worked with Judy (Garland), he worked with Sammy (Davis Jr.), he worked with Louis (Armstrong), he worked with Frank (Sinatra).’ So I spent the whole weekend talking to these old guys. Lainie had stories for days. The first time we had dinner together, the waiter came up and said, ‘The busboy wants to go home’ and Lainie said, ‘Does he need a ride?’ We looked and all the chairs were on the tables. We hadn’t even noticed because we had so many stories to share.”

Related Story: Cultural Arts Director Jon Imparato Has brought Array of Big Stars and Award-Winning Plays to Center’s Stages

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