Tag Archives: Liberace

Liberace, Glasgow, 1960

4 Mar

Libreace

There was little danger of the American entertainer Liberace slipping quietly into his hotel when he arrived in Glasgow to take up a three-week residency at the Empire Theatre on a sunny Sunday in 1960. The 41-year-old known as Mr Showmanship went walkabout among fans of all ages, many of whom would have just recently seen him headlining the inaugural Royal Variety Show on TV – and would have read in the morning papers that he was due to arrive at the Central Hotel at 3pm.

Much of the coverage of the OTT pianist and vocalist’s visit centred on his lavish props and bling-tastic wardrobe.Before he arrived in town, the press was rife with stories about his signature candelabra and piano which had been shipped over from the States for his British tour. The piano, with its inch-thick glass top, was said to be guarded so preciously that it had to be locked between performances.

Over breakfast at noon the day after his arrival (that meal would last him until after his opening show), he told reporters that he had brought 40 suits for “walking out” purposes; the reason he had brought so many being that his 22-week season in Britain took in three seasons of cold, mild and hot weather.

Offstage, Liberace – or “Lee” as he said friends called him – was conservatively dressed in a blue suit and tie. Onstage, however, it was a different matter. On the first night at the Empire his black sequin jacket proved to be just a warm-up for a series of ever more outlandish outfits, culminating in a glittering, beaded tail suit with diamond buttons down the front that spelled out his name. Each costume change was preceded by a droll comment. “I hope you folks will excuse me while I slip into something more spectacular,” he said at one point, adding: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

And just in case anyone couldn’t spot such details as his diamond rings – one in the shape of a grand piano; the other in the form of a candelabra – he descended into the stalls to show them off to individual audience members.

His music – a tribute to Gershwin and a highly personal take on Tchaikovsky were the only musical aspects mentioned in reviews – went down well. However, it was his wry patter – not at all, said the critics, as gushing and “sugary-voiced” as it had been during his old TV series – which most endeared him to the first-night crowd.

Apparently overwhelmed by the applause, he said: “I am going to have so much fun in Glasgow that I’m ashamed to take your money. But I will!” It was a different story by the end of his three-week run, however. Speaking of his disappointment with box office figures in Glasgow – the result, it was speculated, of the fine weather and the steep ticket prices in particular – he told the press that he was unlikely to return to Scotland unless it was for a series of one-nighters.

Text (c) Alison Kerr (2013)

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