Today I visited the Liberace Museum and really enjoyed it. He was a flamboyant showman but also very generous. He never forgot his humble beginnings and how others helped him get started in his musical career. He established a foundation to provide scholarships to students in the performing and creative arts. His full name was Walter Valentino Liberace but he shortened it to just Liberace. (www.Liberace.org)
Liberace had bought a strip mall where he could house his collections of antiques, art, cars, etc. He also had a place where performers could rehearse and hang out. At that time, it was at the edge of town because Las Vegas was much smaller than now. The tour begins in the building which houses his pianos and cars. Only one of his cars is maintained in running condition to be used for special occasions. In the second building there is a gift shop, snack area, the cabaret showroom and a display of many of his costumes, all of which were actually worn by Liberace. Some were stage costumes and some were used for public appearances, such as record and book signings.
My visit ended in the Cabaret Showroom where I heard a concert by Philip Fortenberry, “Liberace and Me.” He opened the concert with Liberace’s arrangement of “Chopsticks.” He also played some of the songs for which Liberace is most famous, as well as classical favorites and popular Broadway standards. He weaved the music around his own story. He told how, when he was only four years old, he was playing with his cars in the back yard of his home in Columbia, Mississippi. Suddenly he had an overpowering urge to go inside and play the piano. He just began playing songs he had heard at church or on the radio. By the age of seven, he was the accompanist for his church and continued in that role through high school and college. He is a very versatile musician and has performed in a wide range of genres. For this concert, he used Liberace’s mirrored Baldwin grand piano. What a performance! (www.philipfortenberry.com)