Maintaining the Liberace Museum Collection has always been a struggle. Whether it’s a few thieving volunteers over the years, a crooked vender, shady mortgage lender or conniving former insider, the attacks have become predictable and even routine. The latest incarnations, like the wretched superfan threatening retaliation unless a Foundation contribution be made to some fan club, or the smarmy political operative demanding cash for permits, are nothing new. And fortunately, they are also not the majority.
The People who make it work
We have been so fortunate to have visitors with an intellectual curiosity and appreciation of our Mr. Showmanship. Likewise our employees, board members and financial supporters who sacrifice so much because they care about the American and Las Vegas cultural importance of Liberace, and his legacy. Many quietly work behind the scenes to selflessly advance the initiatives established by Liberace himself in 1976. He is far from finished.
Not so quietly, the few others work hard to try to make it all fail, usually because they hope a garage sale might result from such a collapse. These types are more and more frustrated as years go by. The result is similar to when other parties tried to get hold of the Collection in 2013. It just pushes much of the Liberace Museum Collection into more secure locations, the vast majority viewable only by private invitation. So it goes.
Where would you go?
In the long run, perhaps Las Vegas, the Strip and the State and County institutions will finally give Liberace his due, at least by featuring his accomplishments, influence and generosity with a street naming, reference in the State Museum and the like, thus making for a smoother road ahead.
Or, maybe not. In recent years, the Liberace Foundation has derived its support almost entirely from Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, New York, and Palm Springs. You’ll find recognition of Liberace’s influence in London, Hollywood, Palm Springs, Monte Carlo and New York. You may have seen his artifacts at the New York Met, The MET Gala, Monte Carlo Fashion Week, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, on the Grammys and the Oscars, and in various features on screens large and small, all in recent years.
But always the conspicuous silence in the town he put on the entertainment map in 1944, the city he came to personify, which told us “Liberace was not that influential in Las Vegas,” when they declined our request for celebration of his 100th anniversary, in 2019. Thankfully the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian differed with our Mayor’s office in that opinion.
On the Strip, the headliner, in the biggest residency ever, took it upon herself to superimpose her face on Liberace’s costumed body in her residency announcement photo. Others decline use of his actual artifacts and name, in favor of doing a cheapie version of his look with an embarrassing lack of his authentic brand attached. Yesterday, a major star of Broadway and London’s West End told me, “It’s very noticeable that Liberace does not get the recognition one would expect from Las Vegas.” How I hate to admit that is so.
Liberace went where the bookings and appreciation were. That isn’t likely to change. The inquiries continue to flow in, an incredible team has come into place to oversee stage, screen and exhibit opportunities, which abound. Perhaps my home town will be too slow to realize, you can’t fake a legacy.