The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada turned off the lights and closed its doors one final time on Sun. Oct.17,2010 marking an end of an era. Hundreds of visitors flocked to the museum to admire the feathered capes and bejeweled costumes during the museums final hours. Fans described the Liberace Museum as a representation of a fading era of over-the-top showmanship, showgirls and great costumes.
The Liberace Museum opened in 1979, honoring the flamboyant entertainer who was known as much for his glitzy costumes and extravagant performance style as for his piano playing, and the epitomizing bling he brought to each and everyone of his shows. Often referred to as “Mr. Showmanship”, Liberace gave his audiences exactly what they wanted with performances that included everything from classical to pop music. The museum had exhibits of the entertainers costumes, cars, pianos, candelabra and jewelery.
Even with the waning interest in recent years, a drop from a high of 450,000 annual visitors at its peak to about 50,00 visitors today, the museum’s announcement that it would close after 31 years was still unexpected according to the director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The director went on to say that it is seen as a significant loss to Las Vegas, as the city doesn’t have that many museums and it was a good thing for the city. “The one time very popular attraction was a very unique part of Las Vegas cultural history for 31 years and something visitors liked to experience”, a public relations manager for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said.
Despite it’s dynamic history, the draw to the museum has been eclipsed by some of Las Vegas’s increasingly other lavish attractions in recent years and along with the museum’s other problems including real estate and mortgage debt, the decision was made to close the Liberace museum. The decision was also based partially on the danger of draining the Liberace Foundation scholarship account according to the Liberace Foundation president. Since 1976, roughly $6 million in music scholarships have been awarded to some 2,700 students.
Liberace was born here in the Upper Midwest in the state of Wisconsin in 1919 to working class Polish-Italian immigrant parents. By the age of 20 he had performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He cut his classical pianist career short for a life in show business, adding more contemporary music performances. Known as “Mr. Las Vegas” for almost 40 years, he set attendance records at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl.” It was a sell-out house every time he went on stage, and he was one of the first entertainers to understand the potential of television”, Darden Asbury Pyron, author of “Liberace: An American Boy”, said. Fans described him as someone who never lost sight of who he was and the fact that the audience made him. “He put the glitz in Las Vegas and he was way ahead of his time,” “at the keyboard there was no other match to him,” “he made you smile and feel better about yourself” were just some of the remarks made by his loyal followers and those who are very saddened by the closing of the Liberace Museum. Liberace died in 1987.
The Liberace Museum closed its doors with no fanfare, whatsoever. But people can rest assured that the museum’s collection won’t go into hiding for too long. A traveling tour of at least part of the collection is being planned for as early as summer 2011. A new incarnation of the museum is also possible. I, myself was sad to see this museum close. I had the pleasure of being able to visit the Liberace Museum on more then one occasion and have only good memories of my visits.