Donald Trump and Liberace
Not so unlikely as you might think
Donald Trump met Liberace when the Entertainer was in Manhattan for his 1985 Radio City Music Hall residency. The show sold out seventeen weeks of bookings, all in advance in the spring of that year.
Liberace felt invigorated by Manhattan, and considered frequenting the city more often. When he let it be known that he was considering buying a condo in Trump Tower, which is often called the Liberace of high-rises, Donald Trump took it upon himself to show the property to Liberace himself.
Trump offered to let Liberace use a model condo during his Radio City residency, and provided a furnished two bedroom suite. Liberace, in return, participated in photo ops with furriers and car dealer tenants of Trump tower. He also mentioned Trump Tower each night during his show. Trump's mother was a tremendous Liberace fan, and was present on opening night.
Performing at Radio City Music Hall was a life-long dream for Liberace. He had first seen the room in 1944, the very day he arrived in New York for the first time. He had bumped into his brother George on the street by complete happenstance, and the older brother, a Navy band leader and violinist, offered to take young Lee to see the amazing theater. Liberace said he decided then and there that he would play Radio City Music Hall, but he never managed to get booked there until the mid 80's. In 1985, with seventeen weeks booked, he planned, and delivered, the show of his life. With lines stretched for blocks and pre-sales breaking all previous records, the public realized Liberace still had it.
The following year, Mr. Showmanship played his final shows at Radio City Music Hall on his last residency, in the Fall of 1986. That final year he had the kickoff party in the lobby of Trump Tower, which was also the location of the high-end car dealership from which he borrowed a classic Liz Taylor Rolls Royce for the stage, making sure the cameras again caught the fact that he was frequenting Trump Tower.
During Liberace's stay in New York, he learned that a mutual friend of both he and Trump, Michael Jackson, was recording in Manhattan. The two had been friends since Michael was fourteen and the Jackson 5 were featured with Liberace and others, in the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium. The press caught them together again in 1981 when Jackson joined Liberace and Scott Thorson to tour Beaulieu, the estate - complete with Rolls Royce collection - of Lord Montegu, on England's south coast. Lord Montegu himself hosted the entertainers, as onlookers photographed. Liberace and Michael Jackson were photographed in conversation again in 1983 at the Hollywood opening of Dream Girls.
In 1985 at Trump Tower, Jackson took the second bedroom in Liberace's suite for a few weeks. The fact that Liberace and Michael Jackson were actually roommates, albeit for a short time, in Trump Tower is certainly stranger than even fiction would have it.
Many have published speculation on the influence of Liberace on both Michael Jackson and Donald Trump, in design, publicity, and in showmanship.
Not long before he was elected President, Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live. That night he portrayed a plumber who was a look-alike for the "real" Donald Trump played by a cast member. Trump eviscerates his own taste in skit which hilariously invoked Liberace Museum, in making fun of his own décor at Trump Tower. It's brilliant writing, and a rare glimpse of a Donald Trump who had decent comedic timing, and was able to be self-deprecating.
In his book, The Art of the Comeback, Trump says, "Liberace was a great performer and a great man. We all miss him dearly."
About the author
PLEDGES & TIPS SUPPORT THE LIBERACE FOUNDATION FOR THE PERFORMING AND CREATIVE ARTS.
Honorary Consul of Monaco, Chairman of the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, 50 years in Vegas, Citizen of the world.