Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Baubles, Bangles, Bright Shiny Beads

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...."


  1. What an amazing museum. Too bad it will be closing soon. He was an unusual person but really enjoyed life it seemed. He had big talent, no doubt about that. A master showman.

    Thanks for sharing your visit.

  2. I remember Liberace well from his TV days. But, to be perfectly honest, I couldn't stand the guy. He gave me the creeps!!

    I enjoyed reading your blog about him though and seeing all the great photos of his old cars and the other stuff from his museum.

    It's too bad it's closing even though I'd probably never go there!

  3. We always watched when he was on TV. My dad loved classical music and especially the piano. Liberace always had a candelabra on the piano. He was glitzy in every way, but also a talented musician.

  4. How did we miss that museum? Thanks for the tour.

  5. What? No matching Liberace t-shirts for Jerry and Suzy? ;)

    I enjoyed your tour of the museum and I'm sad to see that it will be closing. Soon nothing will be left of "old" Las Vegas! Good thing Ethel M isn't closed!

  6. I was just a kid but remember his tv show fondly. He was unique and extremely talented. I miss those variety shows so much.


  7. What an interesting museum! Too bad it's closing, but I can understand why it can't sustain itself, with all the other attractions in Las Vegas. Maybe it will re-emerge elsewhere in the future. I'm almost in agreement with Rick, didn't care much for the guy, but I can appreciate his talent and showmanship. Thanks for the tour.

  8. I fondly remember watching many of Liberace's TV shows. My Mother played piano by ear & I have always loved piano music because I grew up with a large piano in our house. I am a music person & with Liberace it was his music I listened to. His showmanship was entertaining to say the least but it was his music I liked best. I still marvel today at how all the great piano players can do all that with just their fingers & not make any mistakes. And, I do have his, 'I'll Be Seeing You' in my large music library here on the computer. Have always liked that song & it instantly takes me back to a time in my childhood sitting on the floor in front of our big black & white television watching in awe as this man's fingers flew up & down the keyboard. Not likely I'll ever get to see his stuff so thanks for the tour.........:))

  9. I loved Liberace and still enjoy his music. I remember well his driving onstage in some of those cars. There will never be another like him. Its a shame that they are letting this close. I would love to see it, and thanks so much for sharing it.

  10. Didn't Liberace have a friend named George on his TV show?? Or was that Jack, his was Rochester...I could swear Liberace had a George on with him...Boy, now I AM losing it!! Great photos....

  11. Thanks for confirming that I am NOT losing my mind...George DID exist..his brother...of course...Soooo long ago, right?

  12. you tend to overrate liberace's talents. he was a very talented pop pianist with a knowledge of the concert repertoire. as such he was probably as talented as jose iturbi and carmen cavallero. but concert virtuosos like horowitz did NOT consider him to be their peer........


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