I just saw Behind the Candelabra on HBO GO on my iPad. Between you and me, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have wanted to stick around for this one. The truth is, I had never seen you in a movie or on TV. I knew you as a pop culture icon– a flamboyant gay performer who, at one time, was the highest paid entertainer in the world. In. The. World.
But, with my borderline unhealthy obsession with celebrity culture, I couldn’t resist checking out the movie starring Michael Douglas as you, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson. What was shocking to me wasn’t so much anything about your consentual adult relationship. What shocked me was that anyone with two eyes and two ears didn’t realize that you were gay. Really?
What I also don’t understand is why you went to such great lengths to hide this fact. This is where the generation gap widens to its most significant distance. I don’t get it. OK, maybe I do. On a much smaller scale, I understand that to come out must have been incredibly scary at that time– the 70s and 80s. In fact, director Steven Soderbergh couldn’t even get a theatrical release for the movie because people thought it was “too gay.” That’s ridiculous.
What strange, contradictory life you must have lived. With your 15-foot fur capes, your countless candelabras, the make-up, the jewelry, the hair and plastic surgery– you weren’t hiding who you were. You exploded your personality onto everything and everyone within a 20-mile radius. Why, then, did you deny so fiercely that you were gay? I think that’s sad.
I wonder what you would think about all the marriage equality goings-on now? I hope you’d be right out there with every other celebrity advocate shouting from the rooftops that denying civil liberties to gay Americans is the last bastion of true prejuduce this country faces. I hope you would come out and be on the right side of history.
But you weren’t known for your personal life or your politics. You were known for your showmanship, the decication and reverance you showed to your audiences and your musical abilities both as a pianist and an arranger. You were the ultimate entertainer, and you lived a lifestyle that seemed absolutely absurd to the outside world. I mean, how many rooms and vases and pianos (real and tiny) does one person need? Well, I suppose it’s not a matter of need. It’s a matter of taste and living the fantasy and building a brand. You did that, and you did it spectaularly.
I hope that from wherever you are, you can shine a little light on Scott Thorson. For all your midwestern manners and gentlemanly reputation, I think he got completely screwed. Yes, he shouldn’t have become a drug addict. That was not cool. But no one has a script for living the Liberace life. No one. Give him a break from the great beyond. He’s in a jail in Reno right now and he hasn’t seen the movie. I think it would break his heart all over again. Please just send him some love, some luck and a few bars of something to soothe his soul. He’s not a bad guy. Neither were you. If you believe in reincarnation, try to come back as someone who doesn’t really care what people think. You may not get a mansion, but you’ll never be lonely.