LIBERACE Biography - Musicians


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Name: Wladziu Valentino Liberace                                                               
Also known as Walter Busterkeys                                                               
Born: 16 May 1919 West Allis, WI, United States                                               
Died: 4 February 1987                                                                         
Wladziu Valentino Liberace (May 16, 1919 - February 4, 1987), better known by                 
only his last name Liberace, was an American entertainer.                                     
Liberace was born in West Allis, Wisconsin to                                                 
Frances Zuchowski, a Polish American, and Salvatore ("Sam") Liberace, an                       
immigrant from Formia, Italy. He grew up in a musical family. He had a twin                   
who died at birth. He was classically trained as a pianist and gained wide                     
experience playing popular music. Liberace followed the advice of famous Polish               
pianist and family friend Paderewski, and billed himself under                                 
his last name only.                                                                           
As his classical career developed, he found that his whimsical encores, in which               
he played pop songs and marches, went over better with audiences than his                     
renditions of classical pieces, so he changed his act to "pop with a bit of                   
classics". At other times, he referred to his act as "classical music with the                 
boring parts left out". During the mid- and late 1940s, he performed in dinner                 
clubs and night clubs in major cities around the United States.                               
In his early career days he used the stage name Walter Busterkeys.                             
In 1943, he appeared in a couple of Soundies (the 1940s precursor to music                     
videos). He re-created two flashy numbers from his nightclub act, "Tiger Rag"                 
and "Twelfth Street Rag". In these films he was billed as Walter Liberace. Both               
Soundies were later released to the home-movie market by Castle Films.                         
He had a network television program, The Liberace Show, beginning on July 1,                   
1952. Producer Duke Goldstone mounted a filmed version for syndication in 1955,               
and sold it to scores of local stations. The widespread exposure of the                       
syndicated Liberace series made the pianist more popular and prosperous than                   
ever. His brother George often appeared as guest violinist. Liberace signed off               
each broadcast with the song "I'll Be Seeing You". This show was also one of the               
first to be shown on UK commercial television in the 1950s where it was                       
broadcast on Sunday afternoons by Lew Grade's ATV company. This exposure gave                 
Liberace a dedicated following in the UK.                                                     
Liberace became known for his extravagant costumes, personal charm, and self-deprecating       
wit. His public image became linked with one ever-present stage prop, a silver                 
candelabrum perched on his piano. By 1955 he was making $50,000 per week at the               
Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and had over 160 official fan clubs with a               
quarter of a million member fans (who throughout his career were mostly middle-aged           
women). He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 for his                       
contributions to the television industry.                                                     
In 1966 he appeared in two highly-rated episodes of the U.S. television series                 
Batman. During the 1970s his appearances included guest roles on episodes of                   
Here's Lucy and Kojak. In a cameo on The Monkees he appeared at an avant-garde                 
art gallery as himself, gleefully smashing a grand piano with a sledgehammer as               
Mike Nesmith looked on and cringed in mock agony.                                             
Liberace was also the guest star in an episode of The Muppet Show. His                         
performances included a "Concerto for the Birds" and an amusing rendition of "Chopsticks".     
In the 1980s he guest starred on television shows such as Saturday Night Live (on             
a 10th-season episode hosted by Hulk Hogan and Mr. T), The Tonight Show and the               
1984 film Special People.