Liberace at the Las Vegas Hilton
A new exhibit at Resorts World has a long history
In 1970 Barron Hilton directed Hilton Hotel Corporation to purchase the International Hotel in Las Vegas, from its developer Kirk Kerkorian. It would soon become the Las Vegas Hilton.
The International had already signed Elvis Presley as its resident artist, replicating a successful model started by an old friend of Elvis's, Liberace. Barron Hilton was a major contributor to Las Vegas becoming the "Entertainment Capital of the World," as his headliners would create a major draw to what was then the biggest hotel in the world.
Located off the Las Vegas Strip, Kerkorian had made a big gamble in constructing the property. Hilton then doubled down, signing Liberace as a second entertainment residency in 1972, for an unprecedented $300,000 per week.
Liberace's production reflected the investment. His Dancing Waters show was the precursor to the Fountains at Bellagio. The mechanism first appeared behind Liberace on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton. He routinely flew on stage, with the help of stage engineering pioneer Peter Foy. Continuing a long tradition of introducing new or unusual artists, Liberace brought the Toronto's Famous People Players, Guadalajara's Ballet Folklorico, and many other acts to his show. By 1978 he filmed a major television special combining many of these acts on the Hilton stage, Leapin' Lizards, it's Liberace.
Liberace's stage show, based at the Las Vegas Hilton and touring the world, brought about the greatest costumes in show business history. His sartorial showmanship extended to the cars in which he would arrive on stage, and his jewels, furs and pianos, which brought about entire genre. These have been preserved the the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, which has exhibited them in recent years at Monte Carlo Fashion Week, The Paris Museum of Modern Art, The New York MET and the MET Gala, and more.
At Resorts World, the Liberace Foundation is proud to exhibit a famous Liberace piano, the 1913 Nickelodeon he created for, and played in part of his shows at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1974. This stunning artifact is accompanied by Liberace art entitled "Dichoterace" in the lobby of the Conrad, part of the new Las Vegas Hilton, at Resorts World Las Vegas. The Liberace Foundation congratulates Resorts World on successfully reestablishing the Las Vegas Hilton, on the Strip.
Dichoterace shows the famous black and white photo instead crossing between the world of color and the colorless, evoking the dichotomy of Liberace's often conservative audience, and his flamboyant artistic tastes. It reminds us of this era of his performance, in the years crossing the color lines of the advent of color television, the civil rights era, the Stonewall Uprising. It is a metaphor for his uncanny ability to navigate between different worlds which saw him in different ways, and in different light.
The original Liberace Museum was created by Liberace himself in Las Vegas in 1979, owned by the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts. For over three decades it was one of the most visited attractions in Las Vegas. A fresh approach was taken in 2014, moving the collection into more contextualized exhibits, and lending parts of the collection to other museums around the world.
The Liberace Museum Collection has since continued to grow through donations of additional artifacts not originally held by the Liberace Museum. It is now larger than it has ever been. Though it is substantial enough to exhibit the story of Liberace's cultural influence at several locations at one time, its epicenter is always its home of Las Vegas. Two location have housed the Liberace Museum Collection long term. Thriller Villa, the former residence of Michael Jackson houses the more delicate items, while Liberace Garage houses the autos as well as larger stage artifacts. Both can be visited.
The Liberace Foundation invites visitors and guests of Resorts World to experience the rest of the Liberace Museum Collection in Las Vegas.
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.