Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Remembering when Liberace played the Hollywood Bowl

ConcertsMusic

"Behind the Candelabra," Steven Soderbergh's humorous look into the life of Liberace that debuted Sunday on HBO, features a scene in which the popular piano entertainer (played by Michael Douglas) recalls his experience performing at the Hollywood Bowl.

"I show up for rehearsal and I look at this vast, enormous open air theater and I look at the black piano. I think -- black piano, black tuxedo, who is going to see me in this giant clamshell?" he tells a rapt Las Vegas audience.

Brandishing his gaudy cape, he then says, "I ask you -- can you seen me now?"

PHOTOS: Lessons from Liberace - Concert dress

A showman first and a musician second, Liberace performed five times at the Bowl during his career, according to archival information provided by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The best known of those was a Sept. 4, 1954, pops concert in which a 35-year-old Liberace appeared alongside the L.A. Philharmonic conducted by his brother, George.

The printed program for the evening didn't list the pieces Liberace would play because he often changed them at the last minute. In his review, then-Times music critic Albert Goldberg wrote that the concert included a mix of crowd-pleasers and classical pieces, plus a number that Liberace wrote titled "Rhapsody by Candlelight."

Goldberg was no Liberace fan. Describing his performance that evening of a piece called "Cornish Rhapsody," the critic sniffed: "Thereafter so much corn was sprouted that we thought we were back in Iowa."

Most critics showed little love for Liberace. As Goldberg put it, "The reason critics go to his concerts is for the same reason he gives them: they get paid for it. But not nearly enough, considering."

A Times report the following month speculated on Liberace's relationship with a young female dancer named Joanne Rio. The article stated: "Liberace, according to the rumors, told friends that he planned to marry Miss Rio in about a year, that while there has been no formal engagement the two have reached 'an understanding.'"

PHOTOS: Liberace - From the archives

As recounted in "Behind the Candelabra," Liberace entered into a relationship with a teenage Scott Thorson in 1977. Their stormy affair ended in 1982, with Thorson suing the performer for palimony.

Liberace's other Bowl appearances were in 1952, 1953, 1956 and 1967.

Goldberg was back for the '67 Bowl concert, and made note of Liberace's garish costumes in a Times review: "The first number was in shocking pink, and after the audience had been sufficiently awed, Liberace strolled around the outer edge of the pool displaying his diamond rings."

Liberace held campy court at other venues around Los Angeles, including concerts at the  Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center and the Long Beach Terrance Theatre.

The entertainer was once a resident of Sherman Oaks -- living in a house with a pool in the shape of a grand piano -- before he made Palm Springs his main residence.

ALSO:

Hollywood Bowl to offer naming rights for major donors

L.A. Phil announces 2013-14 season: From Amadeus to Zappa

Hollywood Bowl announces 2013 season, anticipating summer's glow

MORE

PHOTOS: Hollywood stars on stage

CHEAT SHEET: Spring arts preview 2014

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures


Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
ConcertsMusic
  • Police shootings spur workers compensation awards
    Police shootings spur workers compensation awards

    Ever since her bipolar, unarmed son was shot and killed during a struggle with Baltimore police, Marcella Holloman has felt a sense of soul-crushing loss. She breaks out into shakes, and feels angry all the time. She sees other happy families — and resents them.

  • Hopkins picked to create Ebola training tool
    Hopkins picked to create Ebola training tool

    Federal health regulators picked Johns Hopkins Medicine on Friday to lead development of a Web-based tool to train doctors, nurses and other health care workers on the protocols they should follow when treating patients with, or at risk of contracting, Ebola.

  • Police search Towson U office of rabbi
    Police search Towson U office of rabbi

    Police searching the Towson University office of a prominent Georgetown rabbi accused of secretly recording women in a ritual bath found a backpack with an assortment of tiny cameras hidden in everyday household objects, including a computer charger, a clock and a tissue box, according to a...

  • In rare move, hands-on Ulman seeks job as No. 2
    In rare move, hands-on Ulman seeks job as No. 2

    Democrat Ken Ulman, dressed in Lucky jeans and a polo shirt, strode to the entrance of Robinson Nature Center, excited to give a tour of one of his favorite accomplishments as Howard County executive.

  • Rutherford known for 'making the trains run on time'
    Rutherford known for 'making the trains run on time'

    Boyd Rutherford was raised in a Democratic family in Democratic Northeast Washington, but the running mate of Republican Larry Hogan says he decided early on that the GOP was closer to his values.

  • Sun endorsement: Brown for governor
    Sun endorsement: Brown for governor

    Our view: The race presented a difficult choice, but we believe the lieutenant governor would be better able to enact the changes needed to maintain Md.'s prosperity

Comments
Loading