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Anna Nateece and the Influence of the Liberace Furs

by Jonathan Warren 2 years ago in designers · updated about a month ago
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One fur designer created a genre that has outlasted fur itself

Anna Nateece changed fur fashion in America

At the height of her career as a fashion and fur designer, a former Royal Couturier of Queen Frederika of Greece and many other notables, Anna Nateece married renowned furrier Ray Le Noble, and arrived in Las Vegas in the early 1970's. Her husband had recognized Anna's incredible talent and style in fashion and fur design, and immediately created the Anna Nateece brand.

The Anna Nateece fur studios opened on the Las Vegas Strip at the Dunes, Riviera, and Caesars Palace hotels, beginning in 1974. Liberace discovered Anna's work, and began buying furs from her. Then in 1975, Liberace ordered a fur cape for the stage. Constructed of black diamond mink, it's entire interior was lined with thousands of large round cut, individually mounted, Austrian crystals. This look was later copied by Liberace's glazer John Hancock, for a car and two pianos in Liberace's 1985 Radio City Music Hall performances. Anna Nateece had virtually created what we now know as "bling."

The Black Diamond Mink by Anna Nateece, 1975

At $150,000, the Black Diamond Mink was the most expensive cape yet. But she would eclipse that cost with several others designed for Liberace over the years, the crescendo being the white shadow fox coat, 14 feet long. The most expensive fur in history, it rang in at nearly $350,000.

In the process, Anna Nateece created the furs for numerous casino executives and their wives, mistresses of mob bosses, celebrities, and for boxing promotor Don King and his fighters. Copying the Liberace look, these celebrity athletes ordered floor-length men's furs of great extravagance, often with matching hats. This was the beginning of a genre which carries on today, in both real and faux fur, in particular in hip hop culture.

After the passing of Liberace in 1987, fur soon fell out of favor, as the public became all too aware of farming practices of the animals whose pelts were feeding the industry. Anna too was dismayed at the realization that cruelty was a component of the process. With convincing by former Tropicana hotel owner Cindy Doumani, Anna ceased the practice of creating new furs, and worked only to preserve those already in existence. Prior to retiring, she made inroads to begin having her brand take a design lead in high fashion faux fur.

In 1995, Anna Nateece was contracted to produce the furs for the Martin Scorsese film, Casino. Sharon Stone played the leading female in the Las Vegas historical drama, in which the names were changed in an otherwise true story. Stone was already a client of Nateece. She played the part of Ginger McKenna, who was meant to represent the historical figure of Geri Rosenthal, wife of high profile Las Vegas character Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, whose mirrored character was Ace Rothstein, played by Robert Deniro. Many local stars were seen on the Frank Rosenthal Show, which broadcast from the Stardust Hotel most nights.

Those who have seen the film Casino may remember a scene, in which Ginger has left her husband and fled Las Vegas, and asks a friend to go to retrieve her furs from her home. The friend agrees to do so, but the two never see each other, as Ginger soon meets her demise. This happened in real life. Geri Rosenthal really made that call, one of the last of her life. The person she called, was Anna Nateece. Anna made the coats for Geri Rosenthal, 20 years before she made the coats for Sharon Stone when she played her part. The movie production never knew.

In fact, Anna wasn't the only connection to Frank and Geri Rosenthal. Liberace was a friend of Frank Rosenthal, and was a guest on the Frank Rosenthal Show. Disco choreography pioneer Jeff Kutash was also featured on the Frank Rosenthal show Jeff joined the Board of Directors of the Liberace Foundation in 2019.

Frank Rosenthal gets a look at the Liberace Jewels on the Frank Rosenthal Show, Stardust Hotel, Las Vegas, circa 1981

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About the author

Jonathan Warren

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.

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