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Liberace's once-lavish Las Vegas mansion for sale -- for $529,900

LAS VEGAS — Liberace’s old off-Strip mansion is up for sale for a veritable song, but is the property fabulous or a decrepit fixer-upper?

Built in 1962, the once-lavish 14,939-square-foot spread sits on a half-acre lot near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and features two bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and several large areas for entertaining.

There are flashes of the legendary pizazz once embodied by Liberace, whose life was the subject of the recent HBO film, “Behind the Candelabra,” which details the eccentric entertainer’s secretive romance with former chauffeur and lover Scott Thorson.

PHOTOS: Liberace - From the archives

Liberace, who denied during his life that he was gay, died of an AIDS-related illness in 1987.

Like a bachelor pad from another era, the place features such bling as chandeliers, a mirror bar etched with Liberace’s signature and a bedroom ceiling adorned with a $1.6-million reproduction of Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel.

The asking price: $529,900. That’s $3 million less than what the place sold for in 2006, during this city’s housing boom. The bank that owns the house is entertaining cash-only offers.

But in this town, where celebrities from rappers to boxers come and go — building their domestic castles before moving on — surprisingly few people are talking on the record about the sale. But one thing they will say is that just because a famous person once called a property home, that property doesn’t necessarily retain its glamour, or its price.

Celebrities selling their homes will often hold Realtors to no-talk clauses about the details of the sale. But Liberace has been dead for nearly two decades and the house has been through two owners since the fabulous one last lived there.

Las Vegas Realtor Dan Humeston is listed on public documents as the listing agent.

A woman who recently answered his business phone and who would identify herself only as the Realtor’s “partner,” said JPMorgan Chase, which seized the property through foreclosure in February 2010, wants to lessen pre-sale publicity.

PHOTOS: The over-the-top homes of "Behind the Candelabra"

“The bank people were OK with a local story but now it’s getting picked up nationally, in what they consider a negative manner,” the woman told the Los Angeles Times.

Liberace, once the world’s highest-paid entertainer, enjoyed a career that spanned four decades and included concerts, movies and TV. He was once the poster boy for extravagance.

So why is his old haunt selling so relatively dirt cheap?

“For one thing, it’s in a dumpy old neighborhood where the surrounding houses are selling for a hundred grand,” one Las Vegas real estate veteran told The Times. He asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the sale.

His description of the place went even more south from there.

“It’s been run through the foreclosure ringer. What you’ve got is a seedy old house in the suburbs that from the start was turned into something it wasn’t mean to be. It’s comprised of a bunch of cobbled-together add-ons that fill the lots. It’s an odd duck.”

It gets even worse.

“The place is mediocre even by Vegas standards. I mean, who would live in the thing? Even if you’re a fat cat who has a half-million in cash to spend, it’s not a very nice place to live.”

Liberace bought the house in 1974. His foundation sold the property two years after his death.

How far the once-mighty palace has since fallen.

Still, the woman in the Realtor’s office told The Times that cash offers began coming in the day the property hit the market not long ago.

Her response to the asking amount?

“Hey, I don’t price it. I just sell it.”

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john.glionna@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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