We Love Liberace Now Even More Than 30 Years Ago
BY Matthew Breen
May 23 2013 4:00 AM ET
It's Nice to Be Noticed
For all that we know him to be now, Liberace was an incredible cipher at the apex of his fame. His worldwide (mostly female) audiences clung to the notion that was a lovelorn bachelor, variously linked to Mae West or ice skater Sonja Henie. But the costumes! The things he said — from the stage! (“Of course, I couldn’t go out in the street in clothes like this, I’d get picked up. Come to think of it, it might be fun”; “Why don’t I just step out and slip into something more spectacular?”) Fans today would be less inclined to a suspension of disbelief about his personal life.
But it was the clothes that made the man, something Liberace acknowledged, being quoted as saying, “The clothes attract attention. They get me newspaper headlines and interviews. They get me audiences.” Many of the minked, brocaded, feathered, and electric light-up numbers Liberace wore in performances in his four-decade career are the obvious antecedents to those worn by Elton John and Lady Gaga. And many are photographed for the first time (pictured at left and right) in the coffee-table volume Liberace Extravaganza! by Connie Furr Soloman and Jan Jewett, which also features 20 original sketches and interviews with his most celebrated designers, Jim Lapidus and Anna Nateece, who must have had some powerful arms to lift all those Swarovski crystals. (Harper Design, $29.99)