beloved and be-loathed
One of the most frequently quoted fallacies in show business is that people must love an artist in order to watch him. In this country Gilbert Harding was one of the first to stick pins into this balloon of false belief, and now Liberace has killed the maxim for good and all.
No other artist can have a larger following of admirers and loathers than this flamboyant pianist with the brilliant technique and the smooth air of self-confidence. Loved and hated by millions, Liberace takes himself very seriously. Every week we can watch him at his very grand piano smiling, winking and purring at his very large audience. He plays anything from popular classics to the latest pop song, and his mood changes with the music; gay for Hot Diggity, tragic for Beethoven. Even those who find his manner most irritating admit, if grudgingly, that Liberace is no fool as an entertainer, and a first-class technician to boot.
In an age of highly publicised performers it has taken a great deal to build up the Liberace legend. Thirty-six-year-old Liberace has a house with a piano-shaped swimming pool, a car with a piano-shaped dashboard, a ring with piano-shaped stones – in short, his life has been shaped by the piano.
A recent cabaret engagement in Las Vegas netted Wladziu Valentino Liberace, to give him his full name, £25,000 [£640,000 today allowing for inflation]. He has packed the Carnegie Hall and the Albert Hall, Madison Square Gardens and the Hollywood Bowl. In Chicago he once played to 80,000 servicemen at one session. To top his 78 telefilms and 50 concert engagements a year he has now entered the world of motion pictures, and hearsay has it that we can now expect a piano-shaped screen to replace the old wide one!
When he arrived in this country for a concert tour and television appearances, Liberace was given a royal welcome at Waterloo Station, which had been cordoned off for hours before his arrival by the alert station authorities. Even so, several thousand fans were waiting for the ‘Liberace Special’ to steam in.
His sternest critics – almost without exception, male – were confounded by his first British television appearance in Sunday Night at the Palladium. Despite the fact that he is not used to ‘live’ television appearances – the majority of his American TV shows are filmed – Liberace proved himself to be an expert showman with a line in comedy patter. So great was the ovation he received, that within three weeks he was back at the London Palladium for another Sunday programme by popular request of the viewers.
A remarkable phenomenon, this Liberace, whom English audiences have now been able to see at first hand. He has left an indelible piano-shaped print on many a middle-aged lady’s heart – so many of them see in him the portrait of an ideal son.