Zur ARTE-Sendung Look Me Over Liberace Glitzer, Glamour und Glanz: Liberace in auffälligem Mantel bei einem seiner Auftritte in Las Vegas. Seine spektakulären Shows hatten großen Erfolg. © Kinescope Film Foto: RB Honorarfreie Verwendung nur im Zusammenhang mit genannter Sendung und bei folgender Nennung "Bild: Sendeanstalt/Copyright". Andere Verwendungen nur nach vorheriger Absprache: ARTE-Bildredaktion, Silke Wölk Tel.: +33 3 90 14 22 25, E-Mail: bildredaktion@arte.tv

Night after night he drove onto the stage in a mirrored Rolls Royce. Behind him he pulled the meter-long train of his white chinchilla coat. With a big grin he presented his diamond buttons of his coat. On this show he changed only insignificant details over a period of 27 years. Because with this mixture of exuberant luxury and virtuoso piano numbers between pop and classic, Wladziu Valentino, known by his family name Liberace, became the best-paid entertainer of all.

30 years after his death, Jeremy Fekete looks back on a life torn between pomp and secrecy. The Swiss author reconstructs the broken life story of a gay man who never came out. Certainly, in show business, his homosexuality was an open secret. In the conservative USA of the 1970s, a confession to one’s sexual orientation would have harmed one’s career in any case. Thanks to his strict Catholic upbringing, he could never fully accept that he was homosexual, even in private.

The pressure of a bigoted public weighed heavily on him. The eccentric king of the showmasters lived out his excesses behind the scenes all the more violently. With his extravagant lifestyle, which he made his trademark, he compensated for his childhood in poverty. As a young man, Liberace slaved away in bars. He literally embodies the dishwasher who made it to a multi-millionaire.

Throughout his life, Liberace was obsessed with cosmetic surgery. So one day he gave the surgeon a pen and ink drawing. According to this template he was supposed to dress up his lover Scott Thorson so that he literally resembled him, Liberace, like a spitting image. Unfortunately, the almost 40-year-old partner had a massive drug problem. It became increasingly difficult for him as a chauffeur to steer the glittering Rolls-Royce onto the stage night after night. When he raced his car into the audience, the powerful show managers set Liberace a tough ultimatum: either he separates from Scott Thorson. Or his career is over.

In contrast to Steven Soderbergh’s feature film based on Thorson’s biography, Jeremy Fekete sheds a slightly different light on the novelty of that mud fight between the entertainer and his dumped lover. When Thorson went to court to seek $100 million from Liberace, he set a precedent. For the first time it was not a woman who sued her husband – but a man. In a tormenting way, a homosexual love affair was dragged into the glaring light of the public. The film makes it clear how traumatic this affair was for the entertainer. His whole asset was his unique relationship with the audience. And that’s why he was terrified that after the attempted outing someone in the auditorium would suddenly call him a “faggot”.

When the pianist died of HIV infection in 1987, the AIDS hysteria had the country in a stranglehold. People were afraid to touch anything that belonged to Liberace. Apart from re-enactment scenes, in which a former lover drives up to original locations in a swanky car, Jeremy Fekete succeeds in creating a portrait that is well worth seeing. Managers, lawyers, friends and acquaintances tell. Dazzling anecdotes illustrate the mendacity surrounding the bird of paradise. An informative and at the same time very sad film about one of the most dazzling figures in the entertainment industry.