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Liberace: Secretly a top
Let there be no doubt: this man could play the piano. Born Wladziu "Walter" Valentino Liberace in 1917, he held the world's record for highest paid musician until his death in 1987 from AIDS. This death, shrouded in secrecy and picked apart by a greedy press, capped a career that was gaudy, brilliant, filled with the heart of Las Vegas... and one where the sexuality of a great musician was the centerpiece of controversy for decades.
In 1957, Hollywood Confidential, an extremely popular (10 million+ circulation) tabloid published a cover story on Liberace: "Why his song should be 'Mad about the Boy'", wherein it said that Liberace had made advances on a press agent (male) in LA and Dallas. Liberace sued, and won when it was shown he wasn't in Dallas at the time of the alleged advances. The chutzpah of this seems astonishing in retrospect, but Liberace had a reputation to defend, and that he did.
|16 May 1919
||Wladziu Valentino Liberace, West Allis, WI.
||Soloist, Chicago Symphony.
||Changes name to Liberace.
||Moves to Los Angeles, CA.
||The Liberace Show begins broadcasting. Popular until 1956.
|25 Sep 1953
||Debut at Carnagie Hall.
||Plays Madison Square Garden, for which he receives $138,000. Review: "No male attraction has devastated the opposing sex in these terms since Rudolf Valentino." You can say that again.
|27 Sep 1956
||London Newspaper Daily Mirror calls Liberace a "deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love... Without doubt, he is the biggest sentimental vomit of all time. Slobbering over his mother, winking at his brother, and counting the cash at every second... a sugary mountain of jingling claptrap wrapped in such a preposterous clown."
||Hollywood Confidential article, "Mad About the Boy." Liberace sues, wins $40,000.
|8 Jun 1959
||Libel trial for Daily Mirror article begins. Trial lasts six days, Liberace awarded $22,400.
|22 Nov 1963
||Collapses backstage after inhaling carbon tetrachloride, a cleaning compound.
||Liberace Cooks! Recipes from His Seven Dining Rooms published.
||Meets cute dog groomer Scott Thorson, age 17ish.
|15 Apr 1979
||Liberace Museum opens, Las Vegas NV.
||Scott Thorson undergoes plastic surgery to look more like Liberace.
||Scott Thorson goes to 8763 Wonderland in Laurel Canyon (site of Charles Manson murders) to buy cocaine, where he witnesses Eddie Nash beat up pornstar John Holmes. On July 1, the house is the site of a quadruple murder, with both Holmes and Nash suspects.
|14 Oct 1982
||Chauffer Scott Thorson files a $113 million palimony suit against Liberace. Settled out of court for $95,000.
||Liberace replaces boy Scott Thorson with boy Cary James.
|4 Feb 1987
||Liberace dies of AIDS, Palm Springs CA.
||Daily Mirror asks for its $22,400 back.
||Over 20,000 belongings auctioned off, Los Angeles Convention Center.
||Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace, by Scott Thorson, in which he claims Liberace was a top.
||Replacement boy Cary James dies of AIDS.
The Hollywood Confidential Article (1957)