Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Liberace was "Actually a Decent Pianist" - Too Bad He was Popular

KSJR, a Minnesota Public Radio station, almost played some Liberace a few minutes ago.

The announcer explained that we'd been listening to a pianist playing a tribute to Liberace. Then the announcer explained that Liberace had been a showman who could, given any melody, play arpeggios around it.

But, the announcer continued, Liberace was "actually a decent pianist," who had played classical music.

It's all quite true: The Liberace Foundation has a biography of Liberace (AKA Walter Valentino Liberace), which acknowledges that Liberace's father played with the John Phillip Sousa Marching Band, but that Liberace himself was once a soloist, at age 20, with the Chicago Symphony Dr. Frederick Stock, directing.

But, from there (from a 'proper' point of view), Liberace's career was downhill all the way:
  • 1940: intermission pianist at New York's Plaza Hotel's Persian Room
  • 1950: portrayed honkey tonk pianist in moving picture "South Sea Sinner"
  • 1952: began a shudder series of performances for those Iconoscope devices (the bourgeois term is television)
    • Adding insult to injury: It was popular
  • 1953: capacity crowd at Carnegie Hall watched Liberace
  • 1976: Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts founded
  • 1980: Will the horror never end? Las Vegas named Liberace
    • Star of the Year
    • Entertainment Personality of the Year
    • LAS VEGAS!!
    And on Liberace's career went: bigger, glitzier, performances all the way - with bigger crowds to match.

    No wonder a highbrow station announcer said Liberace was "actually a decent pianist," who had played the proper sort of music at one time. I think that admission came from a knowledge that Liberace let people know that classical music wasn't the dreary, near-lethal dose of boredom that the hoity-toity set seem to prefer.

    The Lemming likes Liberace's music - and showmanship. The Lemming also likes the works of Mozart and Peter (P.D.Q. Bach) Schickele, Brahms and Spike Jones, Beethoven and Jimi Hendrix. I love 'classical' music.

    More, at the Liberace Museum.

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