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“What’s better than roses on your piano?

Tulips on your organ”

~Liberace….

Liberace, the American pianist and singer born Wladzio Valentino Liberace, was known for his flamboyant, uncomfortable fashion and conspicuous opulence. Everything about Liberace screamed a man who’d been given too much, and, boy, was he delighted by all of it. Who doesn’t look at the title to this tome and thrill at what gaudy decor features in each of those glitzy seven dining rooms in which Liberace entertained and cooked for such luminaries as Michael Jackson, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, his beloved mother and a legion of female groupies?

In her 1964 essay Notes on Camp, Susan Sontag says “the hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance”. Liberace bucked that rule – or so he’d surely say if the old stager were alive to sue anyone who commented on his sexuality being anything other than the rampant, heavily embroidered hetero strain.

Throughout Liberace’s long and lucrative career – his income averaged $5 million a year for more than 25 years – it was hard to make fun of him because he seemed to have so much fun making fun of himself. With his megawatt smile, his furry, feathery costumes, rhinestones as big as the Ritz, piano-shaped rings and a unique blend of Beethoven and the ”Beer Barrel Polka,” Liberace charmed millions with a flashiness that was almost too much to be believed.

“It’s the sauces that divide the men from the boys, and separate the gourmets from the guzzlers”

– Liberace

The late, flamboyant pianist owned 11 homes, including residences in Malibu, Sherman Oaks, the Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills, Lake Arrowhead, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Trump Towers in New York. But Palm Springs was integral to his personal and professional life.

Most people under 40 would have little more than a hazy idea of who he was, or the extent of his fame. From the vantage point of today, it’s hard to explain the sheer magnitude of his celebrity or to account for his astonishing success.

If YouTube existed in the 1920s, videos of a young Liberace expertly playing the piano would definitely have gone viral. Liberace started playing the piano when he was just 3 years old, and began proper lessons soon after. He quickly learned to play by ear, replicating the songs his older siblings were playing. It became obvious that he was a prodigy, and by the time he was 7, his father—who himself was a professional musician who once toured with John Philip Sousa’s concert band playing the French horn—enrolled him at the Wisconsin College of Music.

As a teenager, Liberace played piano in clubs, movie theatres, symphonies, and classical music competitions around Wisconsin and the Midwest. Because his full name—Wladziu Valentino Liberace—wasn’t the most stage-friendly name, he performed using the name Walter Busterkeys. But around 1940, he decided to go mononymous—he told people that it was because his idol, the Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski, only went by his last name.

28 Jan 1978, Los Angeles, California, USA — Liberace spoofs a day in his own life during a television special, including a scene where he baths in his $55,000 marble bathtub. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Born in Wisconsin in 1919, Wladziu Valentino Liberace began his career as a performer at roadhouses, bars, stag parties, afternoon teas, and dances in the Milwaukee area. Television brought him to stardom in 1952, when The Liberace Show was watched by more than 35 million people each week. His television exposure led to one of the most lucrative concert, nightclub, and recording careers in history. His death from AIDS in 1987 continued the perpetual speculation about his personal life.

Born of Italian and Polish ancestry, Wladziu Valentino Liberace (called also Lee, or Walter Valentino) became one of the most popular and controversial entertainers of the 1950s and 1960s. With the advent of television, his career skyrocketed; and during the early 1950s, The Liberace Show was watched by more than 35 million people each week. His television exposure led to one of the most lucrative concert, nightclub, and recording careers in history.

In his four-decade heyday he was a household name (pronounced, as everyone knew back then, ‘Libber-AH-chef’) – and from the 1950s to the 1970s he was the world’s highest paid entertainer, outstripping Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, all of whom now live on in much more vividly in our collective memory.

This is hardly surprising. His fame – outside America, at least – was almost totally dependent on his live shows. He recorded albums of piano music, but they are rarely heard today on radio. He never had a Top 20 single in Britain. In the 1950s he tried film acting, but thought better of it after starring in the flop Sincerely Yours, playing a pianist stricken by deafness. These days there is not much to remember Liberace by.

Liberace described his songs as classical music without all the boring parts. Because he incorporated aspects of pop music into his classical piano playing, classical music purists didn’t like him. And because his shows relied heavily on showmanship and spectacle—gimmicks, costumes, and jokes—critics disparaged his talent as a pianist, arguing that he opted for easy piano trills and showy techniques rather than artistry.

He often insisted: “I don’t give concerts. I put on a show.” That he certainly did. His appearances were monuments to gaudy excess, though he light-heartedly joked and winked about his sequin-drenched outfits, his furs and jewellery. In one routine, he arrived on stage in a mirrored Rolls-Royce, driven by a handsome young man in a white chauffeur’s outfit, complete with peaked cap. Liberace might typically be draped in a $300,000 virgin fox-fur cape with a 16-foot train. When he decided to discard the cape, a miniature Rolls appeared on stage to transport it off. He did all he could to justify his self-imposed nickname “Mr. Showmanship.”

Flamboyant American pianist Liberace displays his wealth of jewellry as he sweeps into a London Airport. Circa 1980. David Ashdown/Keystone/Getty Images)

But the music wasn’t the half of it. Between playing, he chatted at length to his audience; middle-aged matrons were his most fervent constituency, and he wooed them assiduously, telling them how great they looked and how much he loved them. A round-faced man with wavy hair and a cheesy smile, he said all this in tones of eager sincerity. He also invariably mentioned how much he loved his mother; and if she was there at a concert, he always blew her a kiss.

This confirmed him to the matrons as an ideal son: they loved him right back and would not hear a word against him. Despite the camp sensibility of the show, Liberace’s sexuality never crossed their minds – a sign that awareness of gay culture in the mid 20th century was far lower than it is today.

Seldom has a star risen so quickly and shone so long. Liberace’s first burned in 1951 with the introduction of his television show. It created a mad scramble for advertising time among banks, eyebrow-pencil manufacturers, biscuit makers and undertakers. His more than 180 sponsors credited him with bringing them $50 million-plus worth of new business in one year.

Of course, the adulation of millions was mixed with the sniping of a few. Newspaper columns were filled less with critical assessments of his florid, bowdlerized renditions of the classics than with innuendo surrounding his dandyish costumes, his milk-of-magnesia charm, his love of mom –– and that hair: a veritable Alpine range of peaks and valleys, perfectly coifed and molded to his handsome Florentine features. Were the undulating waves marcelled? Were the temples sprayed gray to achieve an air of distinction? Was the hair even his? Liberace played the “controversy” for all it was worth, inviting women onstage to run their fingers through his curls. In 1954, the issue was resolved at a Detroit concert when an “impartial hair specialist” examined the pianist’s mane to see if it had been waved by a curling iron. To a relieved audience, the specialist announced it had not.

In 1970 prolific cookery writer and culture buff Carol Truax compiled the wonderful book Liberace Cooks!: Hundreds of Delicious Recipes For You from His Seven Dining Rooms.

To the women who swooned over the spangled virtuoso, it may be disappointing to learn that the object of Liberace’s career-long crusade has been the liberation of male vanity. “I think men instinctively want to outshine women,” he said. “It takes someone like an entertainer to put himself on a pedestal where men can say, ‘See how gorgeous he looks.’ Inwardly, their feathers want to come out.”

From the get-go, female fans were passionate about the pianist and even a publicized libel suit against a British journalist who had implied in an article that the entertainer was homosexual didn’t diminish his allure in the eyes of female fans.

“Liberace, a piano player in Hollywood, has been described as the ‘Casanova of the keyboards’ and, according to assorted reports, makes some feminine hearts go flutter flutter.”New York Times, August 14, 1953

“As Liberace emerged from London’s Palladium after his triumphant first show, a 17-year-old girl distinguished herself by fainting; when she came to, he was solicitously kneeling over her. She promptly fainted again.”Time Magazine, October 15, 1956

“‘Women especially loved him because he was the right combination of glamour and sensitivity,’ said singer Julie Budd, a friend since 1975, when she toured with him as a 17-year-old prodigy.”

Of course it’s not so crazy to think that fifty years ago, many were willing to play into the myth that Liberace was straight. Obviously it was taboo and potentially career/life-ruining to be openly gay during Liberace’s era, but it was also a period where both fans and media had more respect for the privacy of celebrities than we do today. Whether that respect had to do with a comparatively tamer, pre-Internet, pre-media culture or because celebrities still maintained a deity-like status left over from Hollywood’s Golden Age, it was easier for stars to keep their private lives private and to have more control over the information about them that was released to the public. It’s not difficult then to imagine many fans thinking, “if Liberace says he’s straight and even won a libel lawsuit that suggested otherwise, why should we think any differently?”

Similarly, Liberace asserting his “straight-ness” in interviews or with beards gave women permission to continue idolizing him without having to support someone whose life was at odds with the normative values of the time, which, in turn, might have “reflected poorly” on the fans themselves and their values.

“You are the man all mothers would like their sons to be,” one woman wrote. “Loving and artistic, you take care of your mother. You are nice, warm, gentle, polite, considerate and still have a sense of humor.”…Liberace’s Good Son persona overlapped with that of Model Man, but this icon, in turn, conjured images, willy-nilly, of Ideal Lover. Thus, a vaguely incestuous devotion simmered behind the affection of the mother and grandmother fans.
— From Liberace: An American Boy by Darden Asbury Pyron

Some of the vicious criticism directed at Liberace in the early days –– that he was a court jester who had stumbled into the queen’s wardrobe, and the nonsensical claim that he made love to his brother on the piano lid –– begged for a denial from Liberace. But he was loathe to discuss his romantic life. “I don’t think entertainers should publicly air their sexual or political tastes,” said Liberace, who once romanced Sonja Henie, the Norwegian skating star who appeared in airy Hollywood musicals. “What they do in the privacy of their home or bed is nobody’s business.”

In 1954, Liberace wrote a letter to a critic who had written a scathing review of his show. He (sarcastically) thanked the reviewer and said that he and his brother “laughed all the way to the bank” after reading it.

Liberace dismissed most of the sexual innuendo he encountered in the Fifties with the quip, “I’m crying all the way to the bank.” But there was another sort of criticism that touched him more than any fag-baiting. He admitted, his dismissal as a schlock artist and murderer of the classics hurt him deeply, because it recalls the icy disapproval he received early in his career. For most of his 93 years, Liberace’s father refused to forgive his son for butchering, reviling and shaming the classics.

His father Salvatore Liberace, an Italian immigrant born outside of Naples, was a self-taught French horn and trumpet player who performed with John Philip Sousa’s marching band and the Milwaukee Philharmonic Orchestra. He and his wife, Frances Zuchowski, the daughter of Polish immigrant farmers, raised four children in a small clapboard house on the west side of Milwaukee. At the age of four, each child was taught the fundamentals of harmony and music by their father, who detested “the wild music, the jazz” that was popular during his children’s adolescence. But third-born Walter, as Liberace was christened, needed no encouragement. Before he’d turned five, he sat down at the family piano and, in the words of a Liberace concept program, “proceeded to unveil the soul of a super sensitive child as he played simple melodies seemingly with some strange and invisible guidance.”

Invisible guidance or not, young Walter was made to practice, particularly after a visit to the Liberace household by Ignace Jan Paderewski, the Polish statesman and concert pianist, who praised young Walter’s playing and later encouraged him to adopt the single name Liberace. “He was a real taskmaster, my father,” Liberace says in his slightly adenoidal Midwestern drawl. “Practice came before everything else –– school, friends, dinner. But it never really bothered me, because I loved to play.”

Most of us call it lunch. Liberace calls it breakfast.

His working hours are late, from 8 P.M. to midnight, and usually even later because his audiences have a way of refusing to go home. Following a night like that, of course he sleeps until after noon. Then he gets up, ready for a good breakfast, and sits down to it at lunch time. There is no law about where he eats it, but on certain days, “when the help is off,” he may take over the kitchen. Anybody would be proud to take over that kitchen. There is no more beautiful room in the house. Spacious, many-windowed, it is tiled in gleaming blue and papered in white with figures of the same Delft blue. One of the wide counters reaches into the butler’s pantry. An oval table centers the room, and a white side table is ready to offer hot coffee and eatables.

The Blue room: “Everything that is not blue is glass” – Truax. His cookbook did not come in a sequin-encrusted cover lined in gold lamé, with rhinestones in Liberace’s eyes to make them twinkle all the more – and that’s a pity. He loved food, and was happy to let it do the talking.

During the Depression, which left concert musicians like Salvatore out of work, Walter worked as a delivery boy at his mother’s vegetable market and played for dance classes and style shows. The young prodigy won a scholarship to the Wisconsin College of Music at age 15. Often, he’d play stuffy recitals by day and ice-cream parlors at night with a dance band. When he was asked at 16 to appear as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he received his first taste of the enmity that classical musicians harbored towards pop music.

“I was told that if I insisted on using the name Liberace with my dance band, I would have to forfeit the opportunity to play with the Chicago symphony,” he recalls. “So I told the bandleader to call me anything but Liberace, and he came up with Walter Busterkeys.” In 1939, Liberace the concert pianist worked a bit of Busterkeys into his classical repertoire. At a recital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, he played “Three Little Fishes” as an encore –– winking, smiling, emoting throughout. The ensuing applause gave him an idea of how he could make piano playing pay.

He took his wink and smile to New York the next year and was booked as an intermission pianist at the Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel. By 1947, when he returned to the Persian Room, he had his own oversize Bluthner grand piano, insured for $150,000 and crowned with an ornate Louis XIV candelabra – a motif he borrowed from A Song to Remember, a film about the life of Frederic Chopin. After the war, when George Liberace became his brother’s business manager, bandleader and violinist, the pair played nightclubs across the country. Never was there a sign of approval or a word of good luck from Salvatore.

“The kind of musical artistry he appreciated was so pure nobody bought it,” Liberace says gloomily. “I gave concerts and recitals, but it was only for glory. To earn a living, I had to prostitute my art. In classical music, there’s lots of dull stuff before you get to the good parts. My ability is more in adaptation – taking the dull stuff out of the classics and making them palatable to the layman. I’d rather appeal to the masses than to the phonies who go to concerts because it’s the cultural thing to do.”

Liberace sought approval elsewhere. His late mother, who approved of all music except rock & roll (which she called “dirty wiggling”), gave her full endorsement and shared in her son’s early success, accompanying him to television shows or concerts dressed in matching furs and jewels. And he found further approval from his sister, Angie, and George. (The youngest Liberace sibling, Rudy, died in his thirties.) Only late in life did taskmaster Salvatore acknowledge his son’s success.

“I guess that was my rebellion –– playing the kind of music he couldn’t stand,” Liberace says. “All those years he withheld his approval… he could just never forgive me.”

Liberace also sought approval from the masses –– and found it. By 1954, the first four of the 200-odd albums he would record had sold more than 100,000 copies each, outdoing Eddie Fisher, the pop idol of the day. His concerts drew capacity crowds to Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl; he packed in 120,000 at a single show at Chicago’s Soldiers Field. Hollywood capitalized on his syrupy charm and enormous popularity.

Liberace Cooks!: Hundreds of Delicious Recipes For You from His Seven Dining Rooms.

Back cover of cook book. Here is my new favourite book.

Because he was raking in the dough, Liberace’s homes featured elaborate designs and ostentatious furniture. His Sherman Oaks, California home, which he lived in with his mother in the 1950s, was no exception. The whole house had a music theme—musical notes on the iron fence, musical staffs above the front door, and his famed piano-shaped swimming pool. The pool had black and white piano keys painted on the concrete, making it look like a giant grand piano.

Liberace’s other love was restoring houses and filling them up. His mansions bulged with Baccarat crystal, gilt furniture, onyx tables dripping in gold leaf, baroque pianos, antique dinner services, miniature pianos and candelabras. Each room was designed and decorated by Liberace, who liked to sprinkle around what he called “happy happies” –– outrageous statuary and hapless knickknacks that he salvaged from the back rooms of antique shops. His taste could be described as purist: It runs from the purely authentic to the purely inauthentic. In the Hollywood mansion he sold, for instance, everything that looks like gold is real gold, while everything in his garden that looks like grass is green outdoor carpeting. “I love the fake,” he says.

The most hostile public criticism of Liberace came in 1956 when he and his entourage arrived in Britain; he would perform at the Royal Festival Hall, the London Palladium and in Manchester as the first part of a European tour.After his first British show, the press reviews were less than complimentary, but William Connor, who under the pen-name Cassandra wrote a hard-hitting column for the Daily Mirror, went a few stages further. He wrote of Liberace as “this deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.” This outburst, especially his use of the terms “fruit-flavoured” and “mincing,” was clearly homophobic. But it was also the equivalent of throwing down a gauntlet. Over the years, Liberace had consistently denied being gay, and Connor was effectively challenging him.

A month later, Liberace sued the Mirror and Connor for libel; when the case finally came to court, in 1959, it made headlines every day. Liberace returned to Britain, spent two whole days being cross-examined, and firmly repeated his denials. The jury found in his favour, and he was awarded £8,000 in damages — a considerable sum in those days.

Liberace won the case, but his popularity in the United States plummeted. He sought to remedy the matter by appearing in more conservative dress and offering more conservative concerts, but by the early 1960s he realized that he could draw more customers by capitalizing on his kitsch. He amassed a wardrobe worth millions, including lavish fur coats that could weigh as much as 150 pounds, and he joked, sang, and even danced during his concerts.

Liberace did indeed exert an influence on modern popular music, his apparent homosexuality—not acknowledged but not exactly hidden—must have given hope to millions of closeted gays in… less open years.

Liberace On Batman

 After his variety television show (called The Liberace Show) aired, he appeared in two episodes of Batman in 1966. Liberace portrayed a concert pianist and his evil twin, making for some delightfully campy viewing.

His home, in Las Vegas, began as an unpretentious bungalow and grew – at an estimated cost of $4 million – into a block-long palace..

As the pianist lay on his huge white bed, he could stare at a $50,000 imitation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In the centre, surrounded by cherubs, is Liberace’s smiling face. Liberace says it was painted by a reincarnated Michelangelo. In the adjacent marble courtyard is an even more curious mural. Floating on the ceiling –—directly above two gold swans languishing in a sunken marble bath –– is an abundance of putti, seraphs and other heavenly hosts dancing on piano keys under the beneficent gaze of Liberace, whose disembodied head floats serenely and Oz-like amid the cherubs.

To unburden himself of some of his less-favourite furniture, Liberace opened an “antique salon” in Hollywood called Liberace Interiors and Objets Art. But the enterprise failed because Liberace usually refused to sell the collectables. After five years of operating at a loss –– the maximum allowable by the IRS –– the salon closed. But not before Liberace had designed and patented the disappearing toilet, an innovation that rotates on an axis and folds neatly into a wall. “There’s just no reason why you should walk into a bathroom and see a toilet,” he says. “It’s unglamorous.”

In 1963, Liberace invited a 21-year-old Barbra Streisand to be his opening act for a month of shows in Las Vegas. He was a big fan of hers, but when his audience didn’t respond to her after her first two nights, Liberace took matters into his own hands. In a move that was mostly unheard of for marquee acts, he went on stage each night before her set to introduce her. He warmed the audience to her, and when they realized the young songstress had been personally chosen by Liberace, they paid more attention. Soon, Streisand was winning rave reviews.

Liberace Cooking on Letterman

 Liberace owned Tivoli Gardens, a restaurant in Las Vegas, and he turned his love of food into a successful cookbook. 1970’s Liberace Cooks! featured recipes for pierogi, squid casserole, braised oxtails, and even calves’ brains in black butter.

Liberace realized early that clothes make the man. When he played the Hollywood Bowl in 1952, he put on a set of white tails ”so they could see me in the back row.” He added a gold lame jacket in Las Vegas. ”Wow!” he said later. ”They crawled out of the woodwork when they saw it. What started as a gag became a trademark.”

Soon Elvis Presley was wearing a suit of gold lame. Soon Elvis impersonators were wearing suits of gold lame.

Then Liberace dared to be really different. He got himself a conservative haircut, mothballed his costumes and switched to traditional two- and three-piece suits. His concert bookings and his income dropped off dramatically, but rebounded when he reinstated the sequins and the candelabra.

Liberace’s wardrobe eventually filled rack after rack in his mansions and included a silvery plum lame cape with an eight-foot train of pink feathers, a $300,000 Norwegian blue-fox cape with a 16-foot train, and a sequined drum-major’s uniform, complete with hot pants. Exaggeration as a Method

”Through exaggeration, I could get my point across much more easily,” he wrote in an autobiographical picture book, ”The Wonderful Private World of Liberace,” published last year. ”Don’t wear one ring, wear five or six. People ask how I can play with all those rings, and I reply, ‘Very well, thank you.’ ”

Advances in technology enhanced his flamboyance. After American astronauts walked on the moon in 1969, Liberace said he wanted to appear in ”the suit of tomorrow” – a ”see-through, plastic outfit” – and play a legless see-through piano ”suspended in air.”

Liberace and Phyllis Diller – Phyliss Arrives – The Liberace Show

 Phyllis Diller arrives on the set of the Liberace Show with her entire wardrobe.

A Liberace performance was not all baubles, bangles and bright beads. Unbowed by years of critical scorn and 175-pound fur capes, he worked hard. During a typical show he was on the stage for more than two hours with only short breaks for costume changes.

His audiences loved what he called ”Reader’s Digest versions” of familiar melodies. Liberace whipped through Chopin’s ”Minute Waltz” in 37 seconds and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which usually fills both sides of a long-playing record, in four minutes. His secret, he said, was ”cutting out the dull parts.”

In 2011, Betty White revealed to CNN that when they were starting their careers, sometimes the television producer whom they were both working with would have Liberace escort her to events (which many have interpreted as White acting as a beard for the closeted Liberace). White recalled an incident when he accompanied her to a movie premiere one windy night, and instead of reaching his hand out to help her get out of the car, Liberace was focused on keeping his hair in place. She called him a sweetheart and a “great and dear personal friend.”

Neither age nor scandal hurt his popularity. In 1982, Scott Thorson, who had been his chauffeur, bodyguard, and companion for five years, filed a $113 million lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, asserting that the pianist had broken financial promises to him. The suit was settled for US $95,000.

In Liberace’s final days, he was again a subject of controversy. The publisher of The Las Vegas Sun, Hank Greenspun, wrote a front-page column in which he asserted that a well-known entertainer was dying of AIDS. The column said The Sun would identify the entertainer if he did not enter a hospital for treatment.

Several days later, the newspaper ran a front-page story that said Liberace had AIDS. After the story appeared, Liberace was taken to Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Entertainer Liberace is seated at his piano in his Beverly Hills home in California on June 17, 1961. Liberace’s home is reported to have 28 rooms.(AP Photo)

Liberace died of HIV/AIDS-related ailments in February 1987, three weeks after being treated at Eisenhower Medical Center for what his staff called “the effects of a watermelon diet.” Hundreds of friends and tourists kept vigil outside of his Palm Springs home as rumours of his real illness became rampant.

When death seemed imminent, his attorney, Joel Strote, said Liberace chose his Palm Springs home to die because “I think he wanted to rest in the place he loves. He’s always thinking about his fans. He wants to be remembered as he was — an entertainer.

Throughout his life, Liberace was coy about his personal relationships. Biographers who sought to discuss his homosexuality were summarily dismissed, and only an official coroner’s report revealed that he died of complications of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. In a People magazine obituary, Michelle Green noted that at his death “the world lost an exotic original—a sweet-natured self-promoter who, for all of his extrovert showiness onstage, had been something of a lost soul.” The reporter continued: “Liberace’s was a life of exquisite paradox; for flamboyance and repression, kitsch and concealment.”

Liberace had many talents that the public never knew about. He liked to cook and grow orchids. He once worked up such enthusiasm for the Minneapolis Lakers basketball team that he hand-painted ties for the players. He was also an inventor, with a patent on a disappearing toilet.

To this day Liberace’s astounding success seems puzzling. Why would middle-aged, midwestern family gals, generally an extremely sensible group, swoon like schoolgirls at the sight of an outrageous piano-playing borderline drag queen? The mystery deepens when you consider that he maintained superstar status for almost four decades. Maybe he brought out the maternal instincts of these women with his sweetness, gentle humour, and sentimental nature.

Liberace’s appeal couldn’t have been related to his talent. He wasn’t admired for his singing, songwriting, or acting; his piano playing was ridiculous; and he didn’t sell nearly as many albums as other famous musicians. “I’m no good,” he once admitted. “I’ve just got guts.”

Maybe the secret of his success had something to do with the fantasy world he created on stage. In that world everything was romantic and fun and silly, no expense was spared for the finest things, and, most importantly, the dirty, ugly aspects of everyday life did not intrude. Only the style, the frilly expensive clothing, the piano fills, the candelabra, and the corny sentiment had any meaning. His female fans, perhaps longing for an escape from the everyday humdrum, bought into this dreamland wholeheartedly.

There’s also not much that Americans love more than money and the freedom it brings to overindulge. That was Liberace’s cup of tea. He wallowed in his riches, and the audiences loved him for it. Maybe he represented the ultimate possibilities of the American dream to his fans.

Or maybe it’s just that every segment of society needs its drag queens, and Liberace was middle America’s.

Liberace – Pianist – Biography.com

13 Fabulous Facts about Liberace | Mental Floss

Queers in History: Wladziu Valentino Liberace U.S.A., Pianist, showman

Liberace – Wikipedia

LIBERACE, FLAMBOYANT PIANIST, IS DEAD – NYTimes.com

Liberace | American pianist | Britannica.com

‘Behind the Candelabra’: Fun facts about the legendary Liberace …

Behind the Candelabra: the true story of Liberace – Telegraph

Liberace: the 10 things you need to know | Music | The Guardian

The Weird, Wild, Wonderful Liberace by Mike Walsh – missionCREEP

A Brief History of Ladies Loving Liberace – PAPERMAG

The Real Story of Liberace’s Plastic Surgery | Allure

A Millennial’s Guide to Liberace – The Daily Beast

Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra: True story? Fact and fiction in …

The lonely Liberace I knew – Telegraph

Liberace’s life ‘Behind the Candelabra’ in Palm Springs – USA Today

Liberace facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about …

 


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