I am just old enough to have seen Liberace during my lifetime. When I was young, Liberace was at the tail-end of his career. He was really more famous during my parents' generation (the 1950's). Later on, during the 1960's-70s, Liberace was considered almost as a joke. But his career had social significance.
Liberace was, of course, gay but he never admitted it. He believed being open about that would end his career, even while he was giving every message short of a billboard in Times Square saying "I'm Gay!!"
I remember being around 8 years old when my mother, who was watching Liberace perform on TV, said with utter sincerity, "It's such a shame he hasn't found a nice woman and settled down." I shook my head in disbelief. "Mom...", I wanted to yell, "just look at him!" But I didn't want to upset her so I remained quiet.
The truth is that Liberace was gay. When he was in his 50s, he had an affair for several years with a teenage boy whom he hired as his chauffeur (Scott Thorson). This period in Liberace's life has just been made into a movie which will be shown on HBO this Sunday. The most startling thing is the casting -- Liberace will be played by Michael Douglas and Thorson will be played by Matt Damon. The film is made by noted director Steven Soderbergh.
Liberace also had his own TV show in the 1950s which was a big success. It made him and the network unprecedented money and catapaulted Liberace to a level of celebrity he coasted on the rest of his life. Interestingly, Liberace's fans were mostly all women. At the height of his celebrity, he got 10,000 fan letters a week, almost exclusively from female fans.
Liberace died in the 1980s from AIDS.
Have you heard of Liberace? What do you know about him? Did you know he was gay?