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Liberace Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (46) | Personal Quotes (15)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 16 May 1919West Allis, Wisconsin, USA
Date of Death 4 February 1987Palm Springs, California, USA  (AIDS)
Birth NameWladziu Valentino Liberace
Nicknames Mr. Showmanship
Lee
The Glitter Man
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Most remembered for his extravagant costumes and trademark candelabra placed on the lids of his flashy pianos, Liberace was loved by his audiences for his music talent and unique showmanship. He was born as Wladziu Valentino Liberace on May 16, 1919, into a musical family, in Wisconsin. His mother, Frances Liberace (née Zuchowski), whose parents were Polish, played the piano. His father, Salvatore Liberace, an immigrant from Formia, Italy, played the French horn. His siblings, George Liberace, Angie Liberace and Rudy Liberace, also had musical ability. Liberace's own extraordinary natural talent became evident when he learned to play the piano, by ear, at the age of four. Although Salvatore tried to discourage his son's interest in the piano, praises from Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a famous Polish pianist, helped the young musician follow his musical career.

As a teenager, Liberace earned wages playing popular tunes at movie theaters and speakeasies. Despite being proud of his son's accomplishments, Salvatore strictly opposed Liberace's preference for popular music over the classics. Pianist Florence Bettray Kelly took control of Liberace's classical training when he was 14.

He debuted as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony, under the direction of Dr. Frederick Stock. At age 17, Liberace joined the Works Progress Administration Symphony Orchestra. He received a scholarship to attend the Wisconsin College of Music. In 1939, after a classical recital, Liberace's audience requested the popular tune, "Three Little Fishes". Liberace seized the opportunity and performed the tune with a semi-classical style which the audience loved. Soon, this unique style of playing the piano got Liberace bookings in large nightclubs.

By 1940, Liberace was traveling with his custom-made piano, on top of which he would place his candelabrum. He then took Paderewski's advice and dropped Wladziu and Valentino to become simply Liberace. South Sea Sinner (1950), a movie with Shelley Winters, was Liberace's film debut. He played a honky tonk pianist in the movie, which opened in 1950.

In 1952, The Liberace Show (1952), a syndicated television program, turned Liberace into a musical symbol. It began as a summertime replacement for The Dinah Shore Show (1951), but after two years, the show was one of the most popular on TV. It was carried by 217 American stations and could be seen in 20 foreign countries. Sold-out live appearances at Madison Square Garden enhanced the pianist's popularity even more. Soon, Liberace added flamboyant costumes and expensive ornaments to his already unique performances. His second movie, Sincerely Yours (1955), opened in 1955, and Liberace wrote his best-selling autobiography, "Liberace", in 1972. His first book, "Liberace Cooks", went into seven printings.

In 1977, Liberace founded the non-profit "Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts". The year 1978 brought the opening of "The Liberace Museum" in Las Vegas, Nevada, which serves as key funding for the Liberace Foundation. The profits from the museum provide scholarship money for financially needy college musicians. He continued performing until the fall of 1986, despite suffering from heart disease and emphysema during most of the 1980s. A closeted homosexual his entire life, Liberace was secretly diagnosed with AIDS sometime in 1986, which he also kept a secret from the public until the day he died. His last concert performance was at Radio City Music Hall on November 2, 1986. He passed away in his Palm Springs home on February 4, 1987 at age 67.

Liberace was bestowed with many awards during his lifetime including: Instrumentalist of the Year, Best Dressed Entertainer, Entertainer of the Year, two Emmy Awards, six gold albums, and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In The Guinness Book of World Records, he has been listed as the world's highest paid musician and pianist. Liberace was an extremely talented and versatile man. He not only played the piano, but sang, danced and joked during his performances. In fact, one of Liberace's biggest accomplishments was his ability to turn a recital into a show full of music, glitter and personality.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gilbert Lee

Trade Mark (2)

Extravagant clothes
Candlelabra that he placed on his piano

Trivia (46)

Liberace's father, Salvatore Liberace, was a French horn player for the Milwaukee Symphony.
His mother, Frances Liberace, played piano as did his sister, Angie Liberace.
His older brother, George Liberace played the violin.
At age four, Liberace could play almost any tune by ear.
Classical debut was at age 14 as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony.
In high school, Liberace had a musical combo called "The Mixers".
As a young man, he worked the night club circuit as a pianist under the name: "Walter Busterkeys".
In 1969, Liberace was named one of the five highest paid entertainers in show business.
In the 1970s, Liberace spent at least $100,000 a year on his sparkling, brocaded, diamond and jeweled costumes.
Liberace's favourite song was "The Impossible Dream", because he truly mastered the art of believing. He made a dream come true. During his career, Liberace earned two Emmy Awards and five gold million best-selling albums.
Successfully sued the London "Daily Mirror" in 1959 after it published an article by columnist "Cassandra" which said that Liberace was "fruit-flavoured" (gay), which he strongly denied in court and insisted that homosexuality was an "abomination".
Liberace was the subject of a 50 minute BBC documentary called "Too Much of Everything is Wonderful" shown on British television on May 23, 2000.
Was parodied in Al Capp's comic strip, "L'il Abner", as "Loverboynik".
Many of his pianos, cars, jewelry and costumes are on display in the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, a short drive from the Las Vegas Strip. Funds from the admissions to the non-profit museum go to The Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, which awards music scholarships.
Owned pianos previously owned by Frédéric Chopin and George Gershwin, as well as an inlaid and ormolued Louis XV desk that may have been owned by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
His final performance was on November 2, 1986 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Closed his concerts with the song "I'll Be Seeing You".
While born "Wladziu Valentino Liberace", he later changed his first name to "Walter", but his friends and relatives knew him as "Lee".
At the insistence of Polish piano virtuoso, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, he dropped his first names and performed under his last name, only.
As reported in the June 2001 issue "A&E Biography" Magazine, Liberace was so vain about his baldness that he would even go to bed wearing one of his hairpieces, even on hot nights. According to the same article, he once almost refused to have a facelift when the doctor asked him to take his toupee off.
In 1976, during the height of the American Bicentennial, he once performed wearing red, white and blue hot pants. It made headlines around the world.
License plate on one of his Rolls-Royces: "88 KEYS"
When he opened Las Vegas' Riviera Casino-Hotel in 1954, he was the city's highest paid entertainer. That concert was the first one where he wore extravagant costumes (He wore a gold llame jacket).
According to his cook, his last meal was Cream of Wheat hot cereal, made with half and half, and seasoned with brown sugar.
The episodes of the television series Batman (1966) on which Liberace guest starred as Chandel/Harry, Batman: The Devil's Fingers (1966) and Batman: The Dead Ringers (1966), were the highest-rated in the series' history. By all accounts, he got along well with the cast and crew and would play impromptu recitals at the end of each day's filming.
Liberace owned a 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V. This car resides in the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, and of only seven built by coachbuilder James Young that year, it is the only one with left-hand drive (the steering wheel on the American side), making it even more rare. The entire car is covered with small mirrored tiles, and with classic horses etched into them along the running boards. When he first got the got, it had a black and gray paint job. He also had a 1950s Rolls-Royce convertible painted with an American flag design.
Would often remark that he would like the viewer/audience member to "Meet my brother George".
Was parodied in several Bugs Bunny cartoons.
The phrase "I cried all the way to the bank!" was said to be first coined by him after he sued and won a $22,000 settlement from the London Daily Mirror in 1959.
When filming a television special in England, he made a point of learning the name of all the production crew. Years later when he returned to make another show, he was still able to greet every crew member by name.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 533-535. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
While wildly successful and good natured outwardly, Liberace was a complicated man whose political, social and religious conservatism existed side-by-side with a lifetime of secretive homosexuality.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6527 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6739 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Mentioned in the song "Mr. Sandman" written by Pat Ballard: "And [give him] lots of wavy hair like Liberace.".
In 1982, 24-year-old Scott Thorson, Liberace's former bodyguard, limo driver, and alleged live-in lover of five years, sued the pianist for $110 million in palimony after an acrimonious split-up. Liberace continued to publicly deny that he was homosexual and insisted that Thorson was never his lover. In 1984, most of Thorson's claim was dismissed, although he received a $95,000 settlement.
Shortly after Liberace's death the London Daily Mirror asked for a refund of the $24,000 libel settlement it had paid him in 1959.
Made his very last public appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show: Episode dated 25 December 1986 (1986) almost six weeks before his death.
Brother-in-law of Isabel Liberace.
He was a Republican.
In his biography and in the HBO program Behind the Candelabra (2013), Liberace insisted that his first lover, to whom he lost his virginity, was a professional American football player, a member of the Green Bay Packers team, "the most intimidating man I'd ever seen". According to Liberace's ex-lover Scott Thorson, the pianist had revealed to him that the affair had taken place when Liberace was playing a club called the Wunderbar in Wausau, Wisconsin in 1939, and that the player became Liberace's "first confidant".
Is mentioned by name in the song "My Baby Just Cares for Me" by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson.
He was posthumously awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on January 7, 1994.
He was posthumously awarded a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 1, 2005.
Is mentioned by name in Nina Simone's rendition of "My Baby Just Cares for Me".

Personal Quotes (15)

(Responding to a negative review of one of his performances): Your review hurt me! I cried all the way to the bank!
Too many young performers have forgotten that the most important part of show business is not the second word, it's the first. Without the show there's no business.
(Commenting on a famous quote of his): You know that bank I cried all the way to? I bought it!
[From his 1973 autobiography]: Youthfulness, I guess, will always remain the thing that fans want to see in their favorite performers. They don't like to see them grow old. Possibly because it reminds them that the same thing is happening to them.
(Spoken on stage): I didn't get dressed like this to go unnoticed.
[on playing Radio City Music Hall in the Easter show]: You can have either the Resurrection or you can have Liberace. But you can't have both.
[When asked how he could play the piano while wearing so many rings]: Very well, thank you.
What's better than roses on your piano? Tulips on your organ.
At the 1982 Academy Awards: I made my greatest contribution to motion pictures years ago. I stopped making them.
[in 1959, he won a libel case against the London "Daily Mirror" tabloid. What did he do with his damages?] I cried all the way to the bank!
Gee, you've been such a wonderful audience that I don't like to take your money. But I will!
Of course, I couldn't go out in the street in clothes like this, I'd get picked up. Come to think of it, it might be fun.
The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.
[to his manager in late 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.
I've done my part for motion pictures. I've stopped making them.

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