BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Three years ago, Marvin Hamlisch told me that at age 16 in 1960 he became friendly with a high-school girl who wanted to give her mom an unusual Christmas present -- a demo record to prove she could sing. The two teens went into a studio and recorded four songs.
''I almost died right there,'' Hamlisch recalls, when young Liza Minnelli brought him home to play the demo for Judy Garland.
Four years later, Minnelli performed Hamlisch's musical arrangements during her famous London Palladium concerts with Garland.
Hamlisch died Monday at age 68 and Minnelli now mourns her longtime friend.
"Marvin Hamlisch and I have been best friends since I was 13 years old. He arranged my first album, my second album, the songs for Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli at the London Palladium and just about everything else," Minnelli said in an email to The Miami Herald.
"He was one of the funniest people I knew. I will miss his talent, our laughter & friendship, but mostly I will miss Marvin. My heart is with his wife Terre always.
"I have lost my first lifelong best friend, and sadly we have lost a splendid, splendid talent."