I never really knew much about Liberace before my recent trip to Vega$. When I was a kid, my only exposure to him was when he appeared on "The Muppet Show". As I remember, he and his crazy getups gave those Muppets a run for their money (just think of the lineup- Liberace with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!). However, one doesn't have to be a fervent Liberace fan to appreciate the sheer spectacle that is the Liberace Museum. One merely has to have some spare time in Las Vegas, like Matt and I did.
The museum occupies three storefronts in a suburban strip mall on East Tropicana. Besides the shimmery gold sign and the tinkly piano music wafting from the lobby, who could guess what waits inside the squat stucco building? To see the piano and car gallery, the costume gallery (with gift shop), and the research library costs $6.50 for adults. However, the gentleman at the front was very generous, allowing me to get in as a student for 4 bucks (even though I told him I wasn't a student anymore) and making sure Matt got his AAA discount. I guess it helps to look young and poor, or to arrive late in the day. The proceeds go to scholarships for music students, not towards the acquisition of more rhinestone candelabras, in case you were wondering.
I should warn you to avoid this museum if you've recently had your pupils dilated. So many sparkles! Matt and I saw the world's largest rhinestone (about the size of a well-fed kitten), cars covered with rhinestones, capes covered with rhinestones, and pianos covered with rhinestones. I got the feeling that Liberace used rhinestones to liven up anything that wasn't moving.
There were also more bugle beads than I could shake a stick at. Just call him Liberace the Beadazzler! Most of the costumes follow a basic theme: tuxedo and cape covered with shiny and/or furry stuff, but they come in a rainbow of colors for a variety of occasions. Visitors can also gawk at capes that weigh almost 200 lbs, rings the size of hand grenades, and a car like a rolling disco ball. Liberace wasn't much of a minimalist when it came to interior design, either. His furniture is overwhelmingly baroque; just think, you too could have smooching cherubs to keep you company whilst you pay the bills. Or, how about a nice mink bedspread? There's something almost charming about that degree of excess; I can't help but think that the guy had a sense of humor. To think that it all started with a simple gold lamé sports jacket (also on display)...
Video footage of Liberace shows him to be a consummate entertainer, effortlessly balancing elaborate spectacle and friendly chatter to please his portly, middle-aged fans. Hewasn't afraid to pull out all the big guns, like Rolls Royces on stage or virgin mink jokes, either. And, yes,he actually played the piano. He seemed to enjoy his celebrity with gusto.
On every wall there are awards (Deputy Sheriff Liberace?!) and photos of Liberace with other famous folks. There's Liberace with Elvis, Liberace with the Muppets, Liberace with Lyndon B. Johnson, and much more. There's a photo of a marquis advertising Liberace with Barbra Streisand as the opening act. Near the emergency exit, the observant can even find a whimsical drawing of flowers and breakfast foods by Salvador Dali.
Obviously, there's a gift shop, where patrons could buy their own spangly outfits (on a smaller scale, of course). Postcards are 4 for a buck, and they feature the great man himself in a variety of poses. The restrooms are very nice (sorry, no rhinestone fixtures). All in all, the museum is an opportunity to experience glitz on a monumental scale and to escape the rancid air of the casinos.
The World Famous Liberace Museum is located on 1775 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas (702) 798-5595