Sunday in Las Vegas! All the glitter, all the tinsel, the bright lights, the razzle-dazzle. This time we bought into it!
Our first stop was to have been the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Park, established in 1855. But first we stepped into the Flying J Travel Stop to try to find a little doodad for Cousin Carol. They didn't have the little doodad any longer, but the clerk remembered they used to have the little doodad before being taken over by Pilot. What they did have, however, was the ever-present electronic slot machines. Between the two of us, we fed in five $1 bills, and came out 75 cents ahead. Not bad for beginners!
As it happens, the Mormon Fort State Park is closed on Sundays and Mondays -- sounds like barbershops to me. So we moved on to our second scheduled visit - (Look out, Al, here it comes!) - the Liberace Museum.
For you youngsters out there, Liberace (pronounced Libber - ahtchy) was the son of poor Polish immigrants who lived in Wisconsin. Turned out the kid had musical talent, and so did his brother George. Liberace (whose first name was Walter, or Vladziu in the Polish tongue), dropped the first name, went on television, appeared in New York, soared to the top in Las Vegas. He was a piano wunderkind, played piano like nobody before and nobody since.
In our time, he was sometimes considered a joke. Many of us remember him for his tacky smile, his constant references to his brother George (who played the violin on his TV show), and his theme song, "I'll Be Seeing You." His Las Vegas shows and his fabulous (some call them outrageous) costumes earned him the name "Mr. Showmanship."
But he was a true piano virtuoso, unlike any before him. He could outplay anybody; he performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. And he established the Liberace Foundation to support and reward upcoming artists of any genre.
With the millions Liberace amassed, we expected a fabulous flashy museum. Image our dismay when we saw:
But that was only Building One. Building One housed the collection of his pianos and his cars. Many of the cars were actually used in his Las Vegas and other shows, and I suspect some of the pianos were also, although many of them are fragile antiques. We'll show you a few cars and a few pianos here, more can be seen (with some detailed descriptions) on our web album titled 2010 Liberace Museum. Please feel free to take a look -- just click the blue words!
Building Two (partly within his now converted Tivoli Gardens restaurant) contains the showman's many costumes, his jewelry, and the recreation of his bedroom from one of his homes, as well as a cabaret, a cafe and a gift shop). Once again, we'll show you a few costumes - you gotta see the rest of them at our web album -- 2010 Liberace Museum.
And the really outrageous ----
Liberace was above all a fine pianist, but he figured out early in life you don't get rich playing classical piano. He becase a showman, and it worked. As an artist, he died too young. As a showman, he left a legacy that can never be matched.
But -- today's young people have no idea who he was.
The sad note is that this museum, once one of the biggest draws in Las Vegas, will be closed next month. It can no longer draw the crowds it used to draw, and it cannot support itself. Where will everything go? Storage. There is talk of a new museum in a more attractive spot. There is even talk of a movie starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. If that comes out, we'll be in line at the box office, someday ahead in ... Our Life on Wheels.
In the meantime, "I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places...."