"Your review hurt me! I cried all the way to the bank!"
DID YOU KNOW: When Liberace appeared as a villain on the Batman TV series they were the highest rated nights for that show.
"Ripley's Believe It Or Not" named Liberace "The Fastest Piano Player In The World" - he could play an astonishing 6,000 notes in 2 minutes.
"I didn't get dressed like this to go unnoticed."
Who can explain the phenomenon that was Liberace? He sold millions of albums, was loved here and abroad... and he became a glittering Las Vegas icon. He had a way with the piano that few before or since have mastered, whether it was playing the classics or contemporary works. The music he created was stunningly gorgeous. Liberace was a frequent guest on TV variety shows and had his own TV series and yearly specials.
Liberace set a salary record by earning $50,000 a week to open the Riviera in 1955. By the early 1970s he was bringing down $300,000 a week, that's $1,500,000 in today's money. He was, during that period, the highest paid performer in the world. The appeal stemmed from his beautiful lush orchestrations and the outlandish outfits he always wore - fur coats and bejeweled outfits were the norm, even on a night out on the town.
Liberace was very popular with Mr. & Mrs. Middle America who happily flocked to Sin City to see this larger than life entertainer. They crowded the hotels and dropped a lot of money in the casinos.
He was so big the Liberace museum was a top Vegas attraction... in fact, it was the only museum in the city for decades. Here's a tour of Liberace's home, when the performer was alive and in 2013:
Well into the 1980s Liberace was seen live at the Las Vegas Hilton and in Lake Tahoe where he also had a home. Two CBS TV specials in 1978 and 1979 were filmed at the Vegas Hilton, 'Leapin' Lizards it's Liberace' and 'Liberace: A Valentine Special'.
He was undoubtedly the most flamboyant queen on the planet but maintained until the end that he wasn't gay (though he was). He even sued a journalist in England for implying he was queer - and won!
Unlike Elvis, Sinatra and Dean, Liberace's legacy has not endured. His fabled museum is no more, it had been the third most popular attraction in the state of Nevada. And his opulent home in Las Vegas fell into disrepair and went into foreclosure.
Liberace told his manager in 1986, "If my fans or the public ever found out that I'm gay or that I have AIDS... that's all they'll ever remember about me." And he was right, he's likely to be redefined for the modern age by the 2013 HBO movie starring Michael Douglas as the famed pianist. The film is based on Liberace's lover Scott Thorson's tell-all book 'Behind the Candelabra'. Thorson sued the entertainer for $113 million shortly before his death in 1987 but settled for $95,000.
"The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys."
YOUR GO-GO HOST: Billy Ingram
So how DID a piano player like Liberace become an international superstar and a legend of the Las Vegas Strip?