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“Liberace” stands for gaudy, tacky glitz in American culture. It stands for flamingo feather capes and sequined suits, rhinestones, candelabras and furs.

Wladziu Valentino Liberace was tacky and vulgar, but he was a revered Las Vegas showman too. He was a piano prodigy as a child, classically trained and inspired early on by European romantic musicians like Chopin, Liszt and Ignace Paderewski. Then he brought his own style of classical music to America’s suburbs and middle-aged women: dumbed down sonatas, and quickie concerti. “I love the fake,” he said. “For me to wear a simple tuxedo onstage would be like asking Marlene Dietrich to wear a housedress.”

Behind all the fakery was a complicated man; a Ronald Reagan republican, a devout Catholic, and a closeted homosexual who died of AIDS.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Asbury Pyron, author of Liberace: An American Boy, talks about the showman of excess and glitz.