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Who the hell is Liberace?

You may know him better than you thought

By Jonathan WarrenPublished 3 years ago Updated 2 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - January 2021

Liberace created the brand of showmanship on which the Las Vegas Strip was built.

The Las Vegas Weekly December of 2012 called him the greatest Vegas headliner of all time, noting he had so many 'firsts,' that "every facet of stardom and entertainment mastery can be traced to, or through, Liberace."

🎟️🎟️Visit the Liberace Museum attractions in Las Vegas🎟️🎟️

Liberace created bling, and elevated it to glitz. He invented the artist in residency model, in Las Vegas show business, and developed modern costuming and showmanship. He is the reason why Las Vegas looks like Las Vegas, the harbinger of the Vegas tradition of flash for the fun of it, luxury for its own sake. The epitome of flamboyance, before LGBTQ acceptance, he was the the very impetus of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," while always regarded as the ultimate gentleman.

Liberace was the first showman on Highway 91, before it was called the Las Vegas Strip. An early resident of the city, he pioneered Vegas show business, beginning in 1944, and continuing throughout his touring career, until 1986. He was first to bring cars on stage (1958), first to bring showgirls on stage in Las Vegas (1945), first to call the town "Fabulous Las Vegas." In 1970 his cookbook made him the first "foodie" and celebrity chef in town. He designed and owned the first gourmet international cuisine restaurant in Las Vegas, and became the first celebrity chef in the city that attracts more of them now than any other.

Liberace came to define the over-the-top luxury lifestyle of the Strip. His costumes remain the most exotic and referenced in show business history. His furs and fashion set standards for generations. His cars remain the most elaborate stage vehicles ever made. He set records for attendance, ticket sales and earnings, at showrooms in Las Vegas, theaters in New York and stadiums around the world. He was the highest paid entertainer in the world for decades, beginning in 1955 when the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas paid him $50,000 per week.

Liberace gave away millions and his estate continues to do so today. He established a model for other celebrities to do the same, even long after he passed away in 1987. His impact was so known that his museum was one of the greatest attractions in Las Vegas for thirty years, including during his career. His brand estate was more extensive, better organized and protected, while being more licensable than any before him, or since.

In Liberace's lifetime he appeared on the Jack Benny Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, the Merv Griffin Show, the Mike Douglas Show, the Tonight Show, David Letterman, and many more. His own television show was the most syndicated in the US, and won him two EMMY Awards. He was featured on iconic television including Laugh In, the Flintstones, even Bugs Bunny and Batman. He hosted the Muppets, co-hosted many talk shows, was featured on What's My Line, This is Your Life, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and many more. He starred in two films, made cameos in several more, and guest starred all over television.

In recent years Liberace appearances have been licensed so that vintage video of him, or actors performing as him could appear in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the Jim Gaffigan Show, Mozart in the Jungle, Bladerunner 2049, Rocket Man and many stage shows. Michael Douglas starred as Liberace with Matt Damon in the 2013 HBO hit Behind The Candelabra.

His pianos have been borrowed for the 2019 GRAMMY Awards and the 2020 Oscars. His jewels have been exhibited at the Paris Museum of Modern Art and Monte Carlo Fashion Week. His costuming has been exhibited at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and inspired numerous stars' attire at the 2019 MET Gala. Cited as the inspiration of many performers, Liberace is mentioned in the lyrics of over 200 songs, in all genres, from country to hip hop, from Tupac Shakur to Boy George, from Nina Simone to Lady Gaga, from the McGuire Sisters to Rick Ross.

Liberace is the subject of at least four films and multiple documentaries. He has two stars on the Hollywood walk of Fame. He musical arrangements are the subject of academic papers, as having been far ahead of their time. His largest music license was by Adidas in 2020, for a piece Liberace arranged in 1967. His name has been licensed in recent years for everything from steak houses to shoes. His performances have over 20 million views on YouTube. His costume design sketches are held by the Smithsonian Institute. His influence on Las Vegas is recorded in Library of Congress. In 2022, a major thoroughfare in Las Vegas was re-named Liberace Avenue. His arrangements are praised in the Journal of American Music. known to everyone's grandmother, young fans today collect his memorabilia and artifacts, all over the world and reference his name as a touchstone cultural icon in the press virtually every day.

Liberace is the godfather of modern showmanship, stagecraft, costuming, showbusiness and luxury lifestyle. He is the personification of Las Vegas culture.

🎟️🎟️Visit the Liberace Museum attractions in Las Vegas🎟️🎟️

More on the Liberace Foundation

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If you've enjoyed this content, please know that all "tip" donations below support the operation of the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts. Thank you!


About the Creator

Jonathan Warren

Honorary Consul of Monaco, Chairman of the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, 50 years in Vegas, Citizen of the world.

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