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Behind the Candelabra: The Wealth & Influence of Liberace

Liberace head shot

Born in West Allis, Wisconsin, in 1919, Wladziu Valentino Liberace was a musical prodigy, starting piano lessons at age 4 and continuing his training at the Wisconsin College of Music at age 7. In 1936, he performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a soloist. Throughout his teen years, Liberace supported his family playing piano at movie theaters and night clubs, under the stage name Walter Busterkeys.

Liberace head shot

In 1951, The Liberace Show premiered. At its peak, the show drew in 35 million viewers and was carried by more stations than I Love Lucy.

Liberace sitting at piano

By the mid-1950s, Liberace was a Las Vegas star. He sold out concerts and sold millions of records. By 1954, he had sold over 400,000 albums.

Elvis and Liberace

Liberace earned an unprecedented $50,000 per week at Las Vegass Riviera Hotel and Casino by 1955. A year later, Elvis joined him onstage for a performance.

Liberace with mom and fans

Apart from millions made from his television show and record sales, Liberace boasted a fan base of 200 official clubs with over a quarter million members. He made $1,000,000 a year for public appearances.

Liberace and Muppets

In addition to starring in his own show, Liberace made appearances on several popular television series of the 1960s and 70s, including Heres Lucy, The Sonny and Cher Show, Batman, and The Muppet Show.

Liberace playing piano against red background

Through the 1970s and early 80s, Liberace performed at the Las Vegas Hilton, earning him $400,000 a week.

Liberace and Scott

In 1982, Scott Thorson sued Liberace for $113 million dollars on the grounds of Liberaces broken financial promises to him  but the case was settled out of court for $95,000.

Liberace with Rockettes

Liberace performed his final shows in the autumn of 1986. He played 18 sold out concerts in 21 days. The series earned him $2.5 million dollars.

Behind the Candelabra

HBO Films

Before Elvis; before Elton John, Madonna, and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace.