Saturday, June 20, 2009

Liberace (1919-1987) - Too Much Of A Good Thing ... Is Wonderful!!!

For reasons not completely apparent at the time, I watched some old footage of Liberace this morning.

As you probably know, he was a child prodigy who, as a young man, toured the Mid-West of the States as a classical pianist.

He began working in Las Vagas in 1944, playing the Persian Room from 1945 on. And then expanded into television in the 1950s, with his repertoire of classical music ...

... mixed with modern styles - Latin, boogie woogie and whatever ...

Noel Coward said of criticisms of Marlene Dietrich's more hard-edged and brassy performances of the 1960s that the singer had simply and astutely read the shift in the times and changed her performances accordingly. And so avoided becoming a creaky museum piece.

And I think Liberace had a somewhat similar insight - realizing that he couldn't just do the tux and candelabra thing, straight, as he moved into the 1960's and beyond. That he had to take the show somewhere new. And so he took the direct route to the highest 'camp' - a Carmen Miranda of the piano! Coming out in every sense but name. For anyone with eyes and a brain of course. I don't think he was in any way doing this for gay liberation but I admire him being his gay self (and a bit more!) in the most public way - rather than shrinking into the darkest corners of the closet as so many well-known performers did at the time. Liberace seemed to say 'I'm like this and here with you'.

Watching snippets of TV shows posted on YouTube, I was amazed how extraordinarily funny Liberace could be. His self-deprecation and subtle innuendo (with the imperceptibly raised eyebrow) - all with F A B timing - are perfectly illustrated in this clip ...

... which had me rolling with laughter - WITH rather than AT him.


  1. we absolutely must realize that he lived in the era where most all gay people were deep in the closet with few exceptions. you had to be. it was very different then. gays were not really tolerated back then if you were out. also gay material was almost never in any magazines or newspapers and if it was, it was dreadful stories.

    the LIFE cover article on gay leather bars in San Francisco in 1963 was a national sensation at that time. a first. naturally I loved it. now it's all ho hum

    Doug.........los angeles

  2. hey doug

    i totally agree with you bout the difficulties of being gay way back then - and the more i appreciate the Liberace's way of being out - being overtly gay rather saying he was gay overtly

    and he was (to my surprise) pretty damn funny about it - even for today

    thanks for the comment


  3. He did a unique kind of drag.

  4. hey jeffrey

    that's a good way to put it!

    take care