Liberace in Las Vegas (1980)

“Well look me over. I didn’t dress like this to go unnoticed.”

Lovers of Camp sooner or later discover Liberace, and the videotape Liberace in Las Vegas, at slightly less than 90 minutes, is a Liberace performance at the Las Vegas Hilton recorded in 1980. With numerous flamboyant costume changes, and over-the-top special effects, it’s easy to see why Liberace was known as Mr. Showmanship. Liberace plays the piano, and sings while entertaining a rapt, adoring audience with his usual infectious optimism and unabashed, unapologetic rampant consumerism. One of the fascinating things about Liberace is the demographics of his fan base, and so watching him in action as he takes command of the stage is always an exercise in understanding Liberace’s phenomenal success.

The film begins with scenes of Liberace in one of his mansions. Then Liberace arrives onstage at the Hilton in a pink and silver classic Rolls Royce and wears a fur coat that trails several feet to the rear. But there is no shortage of glittery costumes, and Liberace even removes one of his cloaks to the sound of strip music at one point. He plays a range of music–boogie-woogie, a Strauss medley, and even some disco. Various other performers add to the fun–including the Ballet Folklorico de Nacional de Mexico and singer Mario Valenti. There’s a good deal of audience repartee centering on Liberace’s outfits and jewelry–naturally, there’s a High Camp Factor (HCF) throughout, and that’s why I’m a Liberace fan. After all, he’s “famous throughout the world for his candelabra.”

Liberace ends his performance with one of my favourites–the ever popular, I’ll Be Seeing You. The VHS film lacks sharpness, and unfortunately the colours are somewhat faded, but Liberace’s Joie de Vivre is still perfectly evident.

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