Exterior of Liberace Museum in Las Vegas

Liberace Museum Closes

The Liberace Museum at Tropicana and Spencer Streets in Las Vegas closed October 17th, a casualty of the Recession, at 30 years old.  With a word about “continuing to explore options”, the board of directors released this statement: “Due to the economic downturn and the decline in the number of visitors, the Museum is forced to close the space and focus primarily on its dedication to the Foundation.” Jeff Koep, chair of the Liberace Foundation, said the Foundation has awarded money to music and performance students consistently for 34 years, and will continue to do so.

The Liberace Museum

The Liberace Museum (photo: Michael S. Yamashita / Corbis)

“More than $6 million in scholarships have been awarded to 2,700 students (since 1976),”Koep said.

Liberace who died in 1987 made his first public performance in 1938 in Milwaukee.

He played for President Truman in 1950 but it was 52 when he and his brother George, at the Hollywood Bowl, both came out wearing white tuxedoes. The record crowd for that space that day was 20,000, but Liberace had played to 110,000 the year before at Soldier Field, Chicago. In 1974 he opened at the Las Vegas Hilton and in 1981 was the performer who played all the Academy-Award nominated songs at the Oscars. This was his persona in 1981.

The performer would wear capes and costumes weighing as much as 200 pounds – such as a red white and blue sequined cape and hot pants he put on for the hundredth anniversary of the Statue of Liberty — and of course, his signature white piano, candelabra, and bling were always part of the show. “Mary Poppins eat your heart out,” he would say as he flew off the stage in a patriotic Cadillac.

But undoubtedly my favorite Liberace story was the off-the-cuff one about some New York friends visit to his show in the mid-80s. “Henny shocked Liberace,” said Linda. If such a thing were possible.

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