Liberace, who originally hailed from Milwaukee, knew the importance of pleasing the audiences of middle America.
I wonder what Lee (as his friends called him) would think of another movie being made about his private life.
Based on the 1988 autobiography "Behind the Candelabra," written by the glitzy showman's much younger companion Scott Thorson about their 6-year relationship, HBO is airing their new film of the same name on television premiering 8 p.m. Sunday night with Matt Damon as Thorson and Michael Douglas as Liberace.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, it stars Debbie Reynolds as his beloved mother Frances, Dan Ackroyd as his longtime tough manager Seymour Heller and Rob Lowe as Liberace's plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz. All of these principle figures are all dead, with the exception of 54-year-old Thorson, who is now in jail in Reno for burglary charges.
This isn't the first time Liberace's private life has unfolded on screen. In October 1988, just a year after his death, two network made-for-tv rival movies aired. On ABC, it was "Liberace," starring Andrew Robinson as Liberace, John Rubinstein as his publicist Jamie James and Rue McClanahan as his mother Frances, the project headed by Liberace's attorney Joel Strote.
On rival CBS, "Liberace: Behind the Music," starred Victor Garber as Liberace and Maureen Stapleton as his mother, with Liberace's manager Heller as this movie's producer.
Though we shared a mutual friendship with late comedienne Phyllis Diller, I never met or interviewed Liberace. In fact, I only first met Phyllis in 1986 when she played the Holiday Star Theatre, now Star Plaza Theatre, which was just a year before Liberace's death.
Bill Wellman, 88, an executive of Whiteco Industries and region restaurateur, was the man hired in 1976 to work with the White family to help develop the then new venue, Holiday Star Theatre, which opened in 1979.
Wellman's favorite entertainer of all time is still Liberace, who would play 14 shows at Holiday Star in 12 days, and based on gross revenue, remains the theater's biggest money-making headliner.
I last visited the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas in 2007, and it closed after 31 years in 2010. While there, I purchased items for a contest giveaway. I have a copy of a Liberace kitchen apron, emblazoned with piano keys, a keepsake book calendar of photos, a copy of his spaghetti sauce recipe, and a 24-carat gold Liberace Christmas ornament.
Now, here's the trivia question to answer correctly to have your name entered in today's drawing:
• What is the name of the famous ice skater who dated Liberace?
You have until midnight tonight to call with the correct answer to this question.
All the readers who call in with the correct answer will be entered in the random drawing. PLEASE INCLUDE your name, town you reside in and a best contact telephone number. Call the CONTEST LINE at (219) 933-4173 with your answers.
Winners will be contacted Tuesday. The contest is not open to Times employees and their immediate families.