MR. SHOWMANSHIP, LIBERACE, DIED 30 YEARS AGO
Palm Springs, California (JFK+50) Pianist extraordinaire, "Mr. Showmanship," Liberace* died at his home here in Palm Springs thirty years ago today, February 4, 1987. The entertainer had been diagnosed HIV positive in 1985 and AIDS was the cause of death.
Liberace, whose father was an Italian immigrant, began playing the piano at the age of 4. He played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when he was 20.
Liberace increasingly added glitter to his performances making the candelabrum** his trademark and wearing white tie and tails. A show in Las Vegas made him a wealthy celebrity. In the 1950s & 60s he was the highest paid entertainer in the world.
The Liberace (television) Show premiered in 1952 and he sold over 400,000 record albums within two years. At the time of his death, Liberace was worth $110 million.
In his last concerts, Mr. Showmanship wore a Norewegian blue shadow fox cape with a 16 foot long train. Mike Walsh says that his piano-playing was like his costumes..."showy, sentimental and absurdly fancy."
In explaining Liberace's success, Walsh adds...
"There's not much Americans love more than money and the freedom it brings to overindulge. Liberace wallowed in his riches and the audiences loved him for it."
*Wladziu (Walter) Valentino Liberace (1919-1987) was born in West Allis, Wisconsin. The pianist/entertainer won 2 Emmy Awards, 6 gold record albums & 2 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
**candelabrum, a large branched candlestick or holder for several candles or lamps.
"The Weird, Wild, Wonderful Liberace," by Mike Walsh, www.missioncreep.com/