Elvis Stunned Liza Minnelli When He Burst Into the Room to Show Her Karate

As someone who grew up in and around show business, Liza Minnelli met a number of legendary performers, including Elvis Presley. She explained that she first met Elvis at one of her own shows in Las Vegas. Afterward, Elvis invited Minnelli and some of her friends to his place. The group, which included several other celebrities, was surprised when Elvis treated them to an impromptu display of his Karate moves.

Elvis wears a purple shirt and poses in front of a red background. Liza Minnelli wears a white fur jacket and white hat and poses in front of a red background.
Elvis and Liza Minnelli | Archive Photos/Getty Images; Bettmann/Getty Images

Elvis practiced Karate for years

In 1958, the United States Army drafted Elvis. He was stationed in Germany when he first began learning about Karate. Per Graceland, he began to train with a man named Juergen Seydel at his off-base housing. When Elvis left the military and returned to Memphis, he continued training in Karate. He earned his first-degree black belt while training with Hank Slemansky.

Elvis earned his eighth-degree black belt in 1974. He also opened the Tennessee Karate Institute in Memphis that same year.

Elvis surprised Liza Minnelli and others when they first met

Minnelli explained that the first time she met Elvis, he came to watch her show in Las Vegas. 

“I had two dancers in my show, two beautiful lady dancers,” she said on The Graham Norton Show in 2011. “It was us three women. I think he kind of liked one of those ladies. So, he came backstage and said, ‘Can I watch the show from back here?’ I said, ‘Sure.’”

Afterward, Elvis invited Minnelli and her backup dancers to his place.

“His suite, it was just incredible,” she said. “Incredible.”

She explained that a number of other famous faces were present, including Alice Cooper, Chubby Checker, and Linda Lovelace. According to Minnelli, Elvis stepped away from the group.

“We’re all just kind of sitting there, and [Elvis has] disappeared, so we’re kind of trying to chat,” she said. “Suddenly, the door flies open and I hear ‘Hi-yah!’ and he’s in the room in full dress.”

The group was surprised, but they were even more stunned when another man — Minnelli assumed it was Elvis’ teacher — burst in from the other side of the room. 

“We’re all going, ‘Gee, that’s … great. Do you do this every night?’” she said. “What do you say? I couldn’t believe it.”

Liza Minnelli’s close family friend Frank Sinatra couldn’t stand Elvis

Minnelli was a bit bemused by her encounter with Elvis, but she wasn’t left with the same distaste for him that her family friend Frank Sinatra had. He described rock ‘n’ roll as “the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear.”

Elvis felt inclined to respond to Sinatra’s comments, noting that he admired the other man, but he didn’t think his stance was justified. Later, Sinatra began to recognize that rock music was there to stay. It was better to embrace the trend than lose fans by battling it. 

He performed with Elvis on The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis. Each man sang portions of one another’s songs, and Sinatra seemed to genuinely enjoy performing with Elvis.

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