While you are YouTube-ing you may as well gobble up a few clips of Lib’s live performances. Here is one in which we see Scott Thorson in his bedazzled chauffeur livery.
I feel fortunate to have caught this sassy Liberace extravaganza and many others like it, in person. OK, so he wasn’t exactly Jimi Hendrix, but there was something mesmerizing and hilarious about his bravura, his enjoy-these-diamonds-and-minks-and-sables-because-you-paid-for-them shtick. The highlight for me was always the famous “dancing waters.” These colorfully illuminated squirts of H2O would pulse and throb in time to Lib’s ear-splitting renditions of Strauss waltzes. Gorgeous—but even better when they stopped. (Liberace never claimed to be a refined musician, and always referred to himself as a “saloon pianist.”)
Lib’s audience was just as entertaining as the show itself, in a Diane Arbus way. Most attendees were blue-haired church ladies accompanied by their shiny-faced flat-topped husbands. Occasionally you would spot a creepy Kathy Bates type, sitting alone, nursing a Shirley Temple. (Remember Ms. Bates’ character’s commitment to Liberace in Misery?)
As much as I enjoyed watching Liberace tickle the ivories, I always preferred spending time at his namesake museum. Located in a mall, a bus ride from the Las Vegas Strip, this now-shuttered tourist destination contained a delirious selection of costumes and memorabilia, including “The World’s Largest Rhinestone.” (Jeff Koons, eat your heart out.) After touring the palpitation-inducing exhibition, we fans would pop next door to the Tivoli Gardens, Liberace’s very own low-rent restaurant, to enjoy some white bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off. And then there was the gift shop.
Back in the day I visited this retail establishment and happened upon a cache of Liberace charm bracelets, each festooned with candelabras, teensy pianos, and other Lib iconography. It was a eureka moment. I bought four bracelets and joined them together to make a Liberace memorial necklace, a stunning piece of man-jewelry, though I say it myself. If a Liberace charm bracelet appeals to you—it’s a fitting way of keeping the memory of Liberace alive without burdening your dog with a puzzling name—then you are in luck. Every time a Liberace fan dies, one of these very same trinkets pops up on eBay. Snag one today and you might just receive it in time for Sunday’s extravaganza. We must all do our bit!