By TERRY SPENCER
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Liza Minnelli has viral encephalitis, a potentially deadly inflammation of the brain, and was in “very serious condition” but was doing better today, a hospital statement said.
Responding to published reports, Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Fort Lauderdale said in the statement that Minnelli “is now recovering well and we expect to release her in a few days.”
Fire-Rescue Division-Chief Stephen McInerny told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale that paramedics arrived at Minnelli’s home Oct. 8 to find the 54-year-old actress suffering symptoms that included paralysis on one side of her body, slurred speech and drooping facial muscles.
“We found her semiconscious on the floor, disoriented and suffering from what we believe was a possible stroke,” he said.
Encephalitis is usually contracted by an insect bite. The New York Post had reported the diagnosis in today’s editions.
The hospital said Minnelli fell ill two weeks ago and “was quite sick and was in a very serious condition.” She was released after an unspecified number of days but then became dehydrated at home and returned to the hospital, the statement said.
It added that she expressed thanks to the public “for your care and concern.”
In New York, publicist Michael Hartman said today he spoke with Minnelli and “she is very happy. The doctors have reported that she’s making tremendous progress.”
“Encephalitis is a serious condition but she is by no means on her death bed. She is in great spirits,” Hartman said.
Minnelli was born into show business. Her mother was Hollywood legend Judy Garland and her father was Academy Award-winning film director Vincente Minnelli.
At 19, Minnelli won a Tony Award for her first Broadway production: “Flora, The Red Menace,” and went on to win two more. At 26, she won the best actress Oscar for her dynamic, groundbreaking performance as Sally Bowles in 1972’s “Cabaret.”
“Arthur” (1981), with Dudley Moore, and Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York,” (1977) co-starring Robert DeNiro, are among her other successful films.
But she has battled health problems on and off for years.
In May, Minnelli was forced to cancel tour dates for “Minnelli on Minnelli,” a one-woman show saluting her father, for a condition on her left hip. She has had two surgeries on her right hip. In 1984, she spent seven weeks in the Betty Ford Center to overcome alcohol and tranquilizer dependence.
She scoffed at those who would feel sorry for her.
“My life hasn’t been half as troubled as they say,” Minnelli said in a New York magazine interview published in 1997. “I have had a really terrific time – I have. I have known so many swell people, in and out of show business, and my parents were famous, so they got to know swell people and then I got to know them.”
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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