As a child he was a precocious showman, narcissistic in the extreme, yet he was loved by his fans. He was loved also by his live in-boy friend, Scott Thorsen, who helped him don and doff his outrageous glittery and feathered costumes when on stage and supported his needs in other ways at home ( see his book here)
In 1977, the 18-year-old Thorson became "lover, friend and confidant" of the 57-year-old Liberace, a relationship that would continue until 1982. Here, with Thorleifson (coauthor of John Wayne) he relates the sorry, seamy tale of his "callous" eviction from the performer's Las Vegas penthouse in favor of a teenager and the public brouhaha that followed when he filed a palimony suit. The book is uncomfortably candid with revelations about "Lee"who was driven to experience sexual variety with younger males, even as he continued to publicly deny his homosexuality.Liberace died of AIDS but tried very hard to conceal the fact he was homosexual - while flaunting it in every way on stage.
In a wonderfully sympathetic article about Liberace Mike walsh writes:
I was lucky enough to see Liberace before he died. The concert was a weird, wild, wonderful spectacle, and it left me awestruck. I couldn't believe that a entire performance (not to mention a several decades long career) could be construed from such unrestrained, indulgent superficiality.
The majority of the show consisted of Liberace parading around the stage in outrageous outfits to the "oohs" and "ahhs" of the audience, which was dominated by women over the age of forty. At one point he appeared in what he claimed was the world's most expensive fur--a Norwegian blue shadow fox cape with a train 12-feet wide and 16-feet long. "There's only two of these in the world," he giggled with child-like glee, "and I've got both."
But what about the inner man? The obsession with mirrors? With things feminine? Why spend your life making far too much money by strutting about dressed as a non-man? Not a woman exactly but like an absurd, rather manly, giggling sister - a chimera of man and woman.At another point he pranced around in a pink, glass suit embroidered with silver beads, which lit up during the encore. He was all gooey smiles in dimples, wavy hair, and outlandish rings."Well, look me over," he said with a devilish grin. "I don't wear these to go unnoticed." The audience roared with delight. It was a real lovefest. I was stunned by the gleeful absurdity of it all.His trademark candelabrum with electric lights sat atop a glass-topped piano. A handsome, strapping, young man assisted Mr. Showmanship in changing various coats, robes, and crowns. Liberace made bedroom eyes at him, as did the ladies in the audience.At least a half dozen times, he left the stage "to go slip into something a little more spectacular." Each time Liberace made another grand entrance in a new outfit, he'd invite a few women on stage to admire the fur and diamonds."I'm glad you like it," he cracked, "you paid for it."
Liberace found his twin substitute - who, rumour has it, tried plastic surgery to look more like him. Yet what was that about when he dressed up as a woman? Who was that drag queen? It is possible that not only was Liberace an identical twin but maybe he also had a twin sister, who died in the womb leaving him with that litle extra dash of oestrogen. That would explain this man perfectly. He even found immortality by making a museum of himself.
In 1978, Liberace built a museum to himself and to his opulent tastes in Las Vegas. The museum contains Liberace's collection of smaltzy cars, a gold casting of Liberace's hands, dozens of candelabra, a painting of his mother, a rotating rhinestone-covered piano, the multi-million dollar stage wardrobe, his collection of rare and antique pianos, the glittering stage jewelry, not to mention the world's largest rhinestone.With all his wealth, his humour and his engaging smile and manner, was he happy? Was he always trying to do the work of two people, driven to success and excess, just like Elvis compensating for his lost twin?
We have a lot to learn about homosexuality, drag queens and show biz folk in general - but have we found an explanation for Liberace's behaviour? Does it fit? There are many questions to answer here and I dont think I will be the one to answer them all - but perhaps some day, someone else will.