Imagine this: a show’s just finished and Lorna Luft is walking out of the theater at the 92nd Street Y, with actor, Tony Yazbeck. In one hand Lorna’s got her gown, and in the other, her purse and a doggie bag. She turns to Tony and says, “we may not have a job right now, but at least we’ve got a turkey sandwich.”
Cue the laughter, and there you’ve got famed singer and actress, Lorna Luft – truly positive, to the end.
To her, the limos and red carpets aren’t what define the reality of working in show business, “no, it’s the turkey sandwich in the middle of Madison Avenue after the job is done, that’s show business” and by the way, “it was delicious.”
Quite the positive attitude from a woman who has generally had a rough year and a half. In January 2013, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but instead of letting it get her down, she just kept going. “I never had a pity party, because I was too scared,” she told Center On The Aisle in a recent phone interview. “I thought if I did that, it would get me. I thought if I laid down, it would get me… so, I just kept going. I got up every single morning and I put on make-up. Even if I just went to the grocery store, or got new scarves or hats for my little bald head, I kept going.”
Thankfully, with rounds of treatment, and her can-do attitude, she beat the disease, or as she says, “I made it through the rain” (quoting a song title by her close friend, Barry Manilow).
But, Luft didn’t stop at just battling her own diagnosis. No, she continued to channel that positive energy, with the result being a record-breaking fundraiser at New York’s Birdland Jazz Club — “Lorna’s Pink Party” — featuring a star-studded cast, including Lorna’s sister, Liza Minnelli.
So much positivity, but she clarifies, “I’m not Pollyanna. You know, with people who are positive all the time and you want to slap them and say, ‘okay stop it!’ You have to be realistic in a sense, but I think there’s a way to be realistic and not negative.”
She adds, “I don’t know if Karma’s real, but I don’t want to test it.”
Now, Luft’s pouring that energy into her next show at Birdland coming up this Monday (6/9), titled “Accentuate the Positive,” featuring a tribute to the incredible Johnny Mercer, who penned the song of this same name. The show will once again give New York a taste of Luft’s talent, with songs by Mercer including, “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Jamboree Jones” (which her mother, Judy Garland, taught her as a young girl in the car on the way to school) and “My Shining Hour.”
About her inspiration for the show, she reflected back on her experience with cancer and added, “We’re all are going to have life-altering experiences. You may not be able to find the positive in the moment, and all you are going to find is the black hole, but you can’t stay there. You’ve got to somehow claw your way out and look into the sunshine. That’s just as hard, and that’s so much a part of your recovery. It’s how you put your feet on the ground and say, okay I’m going to fight.”
Once again, she’s searches deep into the negative to find the positive, both in helping inspire others and herself, to create this show for Birdland next week. “As I say when I get on stage, ‘I’m really happy to be here’. You hear that from artists all the time but I say no, ‘I’m REALLY happy to be here.’”
For more information and to purchase tickets to Luft’s show, “Accentuate the Positive” at Birdland (Monday, 6/9), visit www.birdlandjazz.com.