His Name Was Liberace
Wladziu (or Vładziu) Valentino Liberace – (May 16, 1919 – February 4, 1987) I remember thinking the first time I saw the Austin Powers movie, that the funniest line was when Mike Myers character wakes up after 40 years, and while reading a history book to catch up he says; “Wow, Liberace gay? I never saw that coming.” Nor did my mom or all the other women (and men) who loved ‘Lee’ Liberace in the 50s, 60’s and into the 80’s.
Liberace was not just the flashy boob he would become in later life, he was a classically trained and well respected classical pianist, forging a pretty good career for a number of years. It’s told that at one point in his young career he wore a white tuxedo on stage, something classical pianists would never do – ever. Along with changing his concerts to a touch of classical music w/ lighter fare, Chopin right next to Home on the Range, his career sky rocketed and he never stopped mixing things up. This guy was huge, HUGE. One of the first performers to actually turn a concert into a SHOW. (* Elton John was not the first gay piano player to dress up). As is often the case, he went to far and became a parody of himself. He would eventually be sued for palimony by his gay chauffeur, Scott Thorsen, and eventually died of AIDS in 1987. As an aside Steven Soderburg just released his Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas as Lee and Matt Damon as Scott Thorsen called Behind the Candelabra.