- Liberace was a child prodigy and is said to have been able to play any tune by ear by age four.
- Liberace became the best-paid entertainer on the planet during his heyday from the 1950s to the 1970s.
- Liberace last performed on the Las Vegas Strip in 1986, at Caesars Palace
- Liberace died in 1987
- Liberace will be forever linked to Las Vegas because of a string of residencies at hotels like the Flamingo, Caesars and the Las Vegas Hilton
- His real name was Wladziu Valentino Liberace, but friends called him Lee.
Who Was Liberace?
Liberace appeared as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 16. He later began giving concerts in flamboyant costumes with ornate pianos and candelabra, playing primarily popular music. Very successful, he hosted his own TV variety series, The Liberace Show (1952–55, 1969), and appeared in films such as Sincerely Yours (1955). With his unique blend of classical training and over-the-top showmanship, Liberace was one of the most famous performers of the 20th century. In later years he performed frequently in Las Vegas.
Liberace was born Wladziu Valentino Liberace on May 16, 1919, in West Allis, Wisconsin, his middle name was taken from one of his mother's favorite film stars - Rudolph Valentino. Little did she know that her son would develop a devoted following of his own one day. Both of Liberace's parents were interested in music, and he began piano lessons very early on in his life. A child prodigy, he began his studies at the Wisconsin College of Music when he was only seven years old. Liberace started performing with orchestras in his early teens.
To make a living, Liberace played in movie theaters and night clubs. He even adopted the stage name "Walter Busterkeys" for a time. Before long Liberace found some success in mixing his love of classical music with more contemporary tunes. His real career breakthrough, however, came in 1951 with the premiere of The Liberace Show. The musical program first aired locally in Los Angeles before going national a few years later.
35 million Viewers:
At the program's height—couldn't get enough of Liberace's piano prowess and his cherubic charms. With his trademark candelabra resting atop his piano, Liberace played with great ease and glee. His largely female audience also admired Liberace's great devotion to his mother Frances. His brother George played the violin on the program and acted as his orchestral arranger.
In 1956, Liberace was joined on stage by Elvis Presley
Sold Millions of Records:
In addition to his television show, Liberace sold out many of his live concerts and sold millions of records. He even starred in the 1955 film Sincerely Yours, which served as a showcase for his talents. In Las Vegas, Liberace became one of the city's most popular performers and one of its top-paid stars. He became equally famous for the glitz and glamour of his shows and costumes as he was for his music.
Rhinestone Covered Piano:
Liberace popularized the phrase "laugh all the way to the bank."
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's house really did have a piano-shaped pool:
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.
He invented a disappearing toilet:
Liberace designed a retracting toilet that folded into the wall of a bathroom. "There's just no reason why you should walk into a bathroom and see a toilet," he told Rolling Stone in 1981. "It's unglamorous." Although he had a patent on the rotating toilet, it didn't take off.
For decades, Liberace denied being gay:
Although Liberace was gay and promiscuous in his private life, he publicly denied being a friend of Dorothy. When a newspaper and tabloid published articles implying he was gay in the late 1950s, he sued them for libel and won. Even after his former lover Scott Thorson sued him for palimony, Liberace denied that he was gay. When he died in February 1987 at age 67, his spokesman announced that Liberace died due to congestive heart failure, but the county coroner's autopsy proved that he died of AIDS-related pneumonia.
Cosmopolitan Hotel Exhibit
Current Exhibits: https://liberace.org