We'll get to see Michael Douglas playing the piano as Liberace in HBO's May 26 movie "Behind the Candelabra" — and the Oscar winner does a fine, fine job of playing the over-the-top performer — but for those who may want to become a little more familiar with the handiwork of the real Liberace, here's a roundup of 10 choice videos of the superstar in action, acting, dancing, singing, and, of course, playing the piano.
Liberace Teaches Lou Ferrigno How to Play the Piano ... Sorta
Liberace met the Hulk — "The Incredible Hulk" star Lou Ferrigno — during a January 1980 episode of "The Mike Douglas Show" and gave the actor a brief lesson in piano playing ... and costuming for piano playing. Side note: Did they just slap green body makeup on Ferrigno for his TV series? Because he looks very Hulkian, even in his street clothes.
Liberace vs. Batman
In a pair of Season 2 episodes from the 1966-68 "Batman" TV series, Liberace guest-starred as a Gotham City villain — make that two villains. Not only was Liberace the flamboyant, piano-playing Chandell, but he also played Chandell's evil twin, the cigar-chomping Harry, in "The Devil's Fingers" and "The Dead Ringers." Harry was blackmailing his brother into some major bad-guy misdeeds, which they tried to carry out while Batman and Robin were on vacay. The episodes are really the height of guilty pleasure viewing, as the King of Camp was perfectly cast in the campy TV classic.
NEXT: See Liberace on "The Muppet Show"...
Dancing With the Stars ... of "The Muppet Show"
"Batman" was far from Liberace's only TV guest spot. He also made appearances on the NBC daytime soap "Another World," "Here's Lucy," "Hotel," and, here, in a 1978 episode of "The Muppet Show," in which he jokes with Kermit and company, plays the piano, and allows Rowlf to play his piano while he dances with a large, rainbow-colored bird. It's supersilly, and supercharming, and a nod to Liberace's widespread appeal. Even Statler and Waldorf, those grumpy old dudes in the balcony, dance along with Liberace's tunes.
This clip, from a film called "The World of Liberace," provides glimpses of some of "Mr. Showmanship's" most elaborate costumes, including the very patriotic red, white, and blue sequined shorts set (complete with sequined argyle socks, glitter shoes, and a baton), and one of his electric suits, this one a sparkly white number that he says weighs in at 35 pounds.
Driving Mr. Liberace
This video was played as the intro at Liberace's performances at the Las Vegas Hilton and features a mini-tour of his home (complete with cheeky winks at the camera, a shot of Liberace in a bubble bath, and the inside of his walk-in closet), his preshow routine, and his arrival onstage in a sequined limousine. The limo's driver? The equally outrageously costumed Scott Thorson, Liberace's former boyfriend, whose dishy book "Behind the Candelabra" is the basis for HBO's May 26 Liberace movie of the same name.
Though Thorson's book details a complicated relationship between Liberace and his mother, Frances, she was regularly featured in the entertainer's shows and even in his performances, such as in this clip from the 1950s TV series "The Liberace Show," in which he plays the piano and sings "Easter Parade" to her in all her Easter-bonneted glory. Too bad the video's in black and white, because that was, no doubt, one very colorful hat.
NEXT: What did Liberace reveal during his interview with Oprah?
And He Can Draw, Too
Liberace was the celebrity mystery guest in this episode of the game show "What's My Line?" and even with his disguised voice, it didn't take a contestant very long to guess his identity. But our favorite part of the clip is the beginning, when Liberace comes out onstage, signs his name (very fancy signature), and does a quick, very cool little drawing of a piano with his autograph. Bet he would have been a great celeb guest on "Win, Lose or Draw."
Liberace and Sammy Davis Jr.
Pianist, singer, artist, dancer ... and Liberace didn't just save his dancing skills for boogying with "Muppet Show" characters. In this 1967 clip from the TV show "Hollywood Palace," Liberace and host Sammy Davis Jr. have a dance-off, and Davis eventually gives up on trying to get his guest to tap and dances Liberace-style instead.
Liberace and Oprah
This Christmas 1986 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was Liberace's final interview before he died in February 1987. The Q&A is notable for many things, including Liberace talking about losing his virginity — he says to a female when he was a teen, though Thorson, in his book, says Liberace told him he lost his virginity to an NFL player — about being sued for palimony by Thorson, and about cooking all the food for his annual holiday parties. Sadly, though he was publicly denying he had AIDS, Liberace was clearly so ill during the "Oprah" appearance that he didn't really look like himself.
That's All, Folks
Liberace used to sign off from his TV series with a performance of "I'll Be Seeing You," and the 1938 tune eventually became one of his signature numbers. Here, he sings the sweet, sentimental song at the end of one of his concerts, wearing a costume that, by his usual standards, was fairly conservative.
"Behind the Candelabra" premieres Sunday, May 26.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Lou Ferrigno