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Liberace - entertainer
The ultimate flamboyant entertainer
Liberace was, at one time, the highest-paid entertainer in the world.
He was also certainly one of the most flamboyant. Ostensibly a pianist, he denied that he was performing concerts; he always referred to his performances as 'putting on a show'. And that's exactly what he did.
With his incredibly glitzy outfits, his outrageous stage sets and his ostentatious jewelry, he endeared himself to audiences all over the world. I remember him from when I was a child so decided to look further into his life.His father was an Italian, hence the last name (pronounced Lib-er-archie) and was himself a musician who instilled a full love of music into his children.
Lee, as he was known to his friends, started to have piano lessons when he was four years old.Despite his camp and outrageous act, he successfully sued newspapers and magazines that even hinted at homosexuality. His adoring audience was primarily female and they loved his unique mix of flamboyancy and down-to-earth humor.
Flamboyant style!Click thumbnail to view full-size
- He would often use his popularity to help musicians who were just starting out. He started the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts for that very reason.
- In addition to his own TV shows, he appeared in Here's Lucy, The Monkees, Batman and the Muppet Show.
- Lee was known for the flamboyance of his home, which he designed himself. The swimming pool was created - you might not be surprised to know -in the shape of a grand piano.
- Rather unsurprisingly, Eton John was a huge fan when he was a boy.
- Lee referred to his playing as "classical music with the boring parts left out."
- Just like Elvis Presley, he had a twin brother who died at birth.
- Critics, comedians and journalists were often, shall we say, unkind about him. He simply saw this as extra publicity however and when asked about these barbs, would say 'I laughed all the way to the bank''
- He had a car collection that included limousines, a London taxi, a Mercedes stretch limo, a model T Ford and a Chrysler station wagon painted to look like a piano.
Lee the cook
His spaghetti with tomato sauce
- Brown 2 tablespoons chopped onion and three finely chopped garlic cloves in olive oil.
- Add a large can of tomatoes, two tablespoons chopped parley and half a teaspoon dried basil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Add a little water if required.
- Boil one pound of spaghetti and drain when cooked.
- Serve the sauce over the spaghetti and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
This is hugely rated and shows the man himself performing in his TV programs. There are a couple of really interesting bonuses too. His brother George, who frequently appeared on the TV shows (he was a violinist) was a huge devotee of filming home movies. Some of these are included. In addition, there is a section showing his weird, wacky and wonderful stage costumes. It comes at a bargain price too and is highly recommended.
Lee the interior decorator
Lee and the three old ladies...
... locked in the lavatory
In his autobiography Petrol in My Blood, rally driver Eric Jackson describes how he met Lee in 1957 on a sea voyage from New York to England.
He recalls that he taught the entertainer the song Three Old Ladies Locked in a Lavatory. Eric recalls that when he suggested the song:"He looked a bit taken aback and said 'in a lavatory?' he asked. I sang the words and he fell about laughing."
Eric goes on to relate how many years later, he went to a concert by the flamboyant entertainer in Florida. He describes how when Lee came to the stage he walked down to greet the people in the front row of the audience. He says:"As he passed me, he gave a small double take but gave me no recognition. He returned to his piano but before he continued playing, he played the first eight notes of Three Old Ladies Locked in the Lavatory with one finger. He remembered alright"
It's almost as if it was another world. I can't imagine what would happen if there was a modern day Lee. Or was Elton John a modern version in his day? He was certainly flamboyant to say the least. The whole Las Vegas entertainment world seems to be a thing of the past too - or is it?
Watch and listen
As you would expect from an entertainer who was such a huge star, his music is still available today.
More American entertainers from the twentieth century
- The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters were incredibly popular during the Second World War. In this article you can learn about their tempestuous lives and see original videos of them performing.
- The Day the Music Died
Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper weren't supposed to be on a plane that night. When the plane crashed, killing all its occupants, February 3, 1959, was known as the day the music died.
- The Glenn Miller Story: Classic film
The Glenn Miller Story - a wonderful classic film - is available on DVD and an essential part of a good movie collection.
All photographs by Allen Warren via Wikipedia Commons.