HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Gender & Orientation » LGBT (Group) » L.A. CONFIDENTIALSteven S...

Sun May 26, 2013, 09:00 AM

L.A. CONFIDENTIALSteven Soderbergh’s gorgeous homage to Liberace

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/television/2013/06/03/130603crte_television_nussbaum


Michael Douglas, as Liberace, is playful, even when he’s selling the world a line. Illustration by Daniel Adel.

IIn Dave Hickey’s 1992 essay “A Rhinestone As Big As the Ritz,” the critic made a case for the neglected legacy of Wladziu (Lee) Liberace, superstar pianist and sometime cultural punching bag. Liberace’s joyful opulence, his disciplined showmanship, made him “a genuine rhinestone, a heart without malice,” Hickey argued. By spinning his flamboyant personality into fame, he managed to “Americanize the closet, democratize it, fit it out with transparent walls, take it up on stage and demand our complicity in his ‘open secret.’ ”

Steven Soderbergh’s fabulous bio-pic, “Behind the Candelabra,” on HBO, is a standing ovation for that argument, painting a nervy, empathetic portrait of a life style (a word that actually fits the bill here) that might easily be seen as macabre. “Candelabra” hardly skimps on the grotesqueries—there’s a scene in which a plastic surgeon rotates Liberace’s ear to a soundtrack of the pianist’s own ragtime music—but it’s rooted in a love story, not only between Liberace and his young partner, Scott Thorson (on whose memoir the film is based), but between the creators and the period they portray: Hollywood, post-Stonewall, pre-aids, a few years before any major star was “out.” It’s a culture teetering on extinction, first because “the gay plague” soon eroded the ability of figures like Rock Hudson to keep their sexuality private, and then because of what followed: the triumph of a social movement predicated on proud visibility. Yet there’s no room here for Boys-in-the-Band self-loathing: as the man who invented the convention of winking into the camera, Soderbergh’s Liberace is confident that, in some more significant sense, he’s got nothing to hide. His was a closet that had its own pleasures, particularly since he had the resources to decorate it to his specifications.

“I call this ‘palatial kitsch,’ ” Liberace declares as he shows off his home to Scott, a blond hunk played with dopey sweetness by Matt Damon. “Don’t you just love that?” Liberace sweeps through the mansion in a translucent ankle-length lounging robe with a Nehru collar, and he clearly gets a kick out of his stardom and everything he owns and controls—a confidence that is narcotic to Scott, who grew up in a series of foster homes. In many ways, theirs was a typical Hollywood marriage: a powerful star spots a young blonde, drapes her in jewelry, foots the bill for plastic surgery to suit his fetishes, and makes promises of security that ping all her daddy issues. To further amplify the May-December vibe, he’s her sugar daddy, the one who calls her Baby. She’s sweet on animals, and dabbles in music, but mostly she’s on call 24/7, at once his accessory and his pet. At first, they have a blast—cuddling, sipping champagne in a hot tub with solid-gold fixtures. But in the long run they have sexual issues: he wants it, she doesn’t. (She was never in it for his body, after all.) She gets hooked on diet pills. He proposes an open relationship. She hocks her jewelry. He calls her a gold-digger. The star finds himself a new blonde—this one colder-eyed—and it all blows up in court.


3 replies, 2162 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 3 replies Author Time Post
Reply L.A. CONFIDENTIALSteven Soderbergh’s gorgeous homage to Liberace (Original post)
xchrom May 2013 OP
monmouth3 May 2013 #1
niyad May 2013 #2
Kurovski May 2013 #3

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 09:34 AM

1. I remember watching him in the early '50s. Especially enjoyable was when his brother George would

join him and they would talk and joke and George would play. I think it was either a fifteen maybe thirty minute show but he crammed a lot of music into it. His audiences loved him, he joked and included them in his shows. Would have loved to have met him...

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 10:55 AM

2. I had the pleasure of meeting him many years ago. He was charming and very courteous to this

fan. What I remember most about him is that he supported many young musicians, and introduced many people to classical music who might not otherwise have been drawn to it. His zest for life was a treat to watch.

he used to make comments about "laughing all the way to the bank" when people made fun of his performance persona. after a while, he said, "you know that bank I used to laugh all the way to? I own it now"

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed May 29, 2013, 07:03 PM

3. Girls would hope to dream of him at night.

"...and lots of wavy hair like Liberace" "Mr. Sandman"...was it a joke?

It was just too easy to be in the closet then. people didn't even KNOW that boys could like to kiss and canoodle boys, and ladies could doodle-bug ladies.

I hope to see that movie.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread