We're all familiar with Liberace's flamboyance: the rhinestones, the piano covered in mirrored tiles, the fleet of Rolls-Royces, the red-white-and-blue hot pants suit worn to celebrate the Statue of Liberty's centennial—and more rhinestones. Less well known, perhaps, is Liberace's commitment to arts education. In 1976, he created the nonprofit Liberace Foundation to provide scholarships for college students in the performing and creative arts.
To help support the foundation, the pianist opened the Liberace Museum three years later in a shopping center in Las Vegas two miles from the Strip, at East Tropicana Avenue and Spencer Street. Housed in two remodeled buildings, the museum displays many of Mr. Showmanship's intriguing and outlandish props, costumes, and possessions.
Building One holds 18 of the 39 pianos in Liberace's private collection, including Chopin's French Pleyel, Gershwin's Chickering baby grand, and of course Liberace's own rhinestone-studded Baldwin.
You'll also find several of the many cars he owned, including a Rolls Phantom V Landau covered in etched mirrored tiles.
Building Two sports a huge glass "rhinestone" topped with a neon piano and has a display of jewelry and costumes, including Liberace's infamous hot pants and his 200-pound "King Neptune" outfit. It's the one encrusted with seashells and pearls.
Don't miss the expanded gallery with a re-creation of the bedroom suite from Liberace's Palm Springs home and a time line covering his life and his early years in Las Vegas.
The exhibits change regularly but there's always something to dazzle, astound, or delight. For more information, call (702) 798-5595 or visit www.liberace.org.
Photography by Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in May 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.