12 February 2004 | cariart
Audience-Friendly Musical Show Made Liberace a Star...
While the memory of Liberace, today, is that of the quintessential gay Vegas showman with glittering rhinestone outfits and pianos, huge musical extravaganzas, and an overzealous army of elderly female fans, the television program that provided his 'breakthrough' was a small, intimate affair that focused on his unmatched artistry on a keyboard, and his warm, charming personality.
"The Liberace Show" had no dazzling production numbers, or fancy backup singers and orchestra, and only a minimal set, with a few curtains, and a single piano topped with a flickering candelabra. But when Liberace, elegantly attired in a black tuxedo, would smile and welcome viewers, audiences nationwide were enchanted by the wavy-haired young musician with the ready smile. Performing a couple of pop 'standards' and a light classical piece, occasionally accompanied by his brother, George, the pianist would demonstrate a smooth, sensitive style of play far removed from the fancier, more combative approach to the instrument demonstrated by his musical 'rival' of the 50s, Roger Williams. Between musical numbers, Liberace would reminisce about his youth, or the reasons a particular piece was a personal favorite, in a chatty, light banter. He never tried to tell jokes, or to introduce 'heavier' elements into the show, preferring to simply 'be himself'.
To millions of American viewers, for years, Liberace was a welcome 'house guest' who never overstayed his welcome. Although his phenomenal success would ultimately lead to the grandiose caricatured image of himself that he would nurture, later in life (until his tragic death, at 67, from AIDS, in 1987), he never forgot the fans of his early television show, and would always acknowledge them whenever, and wherever he performed.
Liberace was one of a kind!