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February 02, 2005

ALONG THE WAY: Liberace Museum


Liberace Museum

Rick Rikert, Tour guide at the Liberace Museum- 'Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the Liberace Museum and Center for the Performing and Creative Arts. My name is Rick Rikert and I'm here to tell you a little bit about the museum.'

Long before his death Liberace was making plans that would enable people to enjoy his legacy for many years to come.

Liberace, from the video 'The World of Liberace'- 'I would like to think that my music would be remembered, and also some of the beautiful things that I've collected in my homes. In fact' I have formed a trust so that my personal belongings and my homes will be shared by the world after I'm gone as a sort of a museum.'

Sandra Harris, Executive Director, Liberace Foundation and Museum- 'It's far more than that.'

Sandra Harris is the Executive Director of the non-profit Liberace Foundation and Museum.

Sandra Harris, Executive Director, Liberace Foundation and Museum- 'That part is fun, but I think what people are surprised about when they come here is that we have a very highly trained professional staff that is teaching a lot. Not just who Liberace was and his story, which is very interesting and very important, but you're learning a lot of history. Whether it's Las Vegas, or about pianos or, cars, or costume design. And it's going to a broader cause, which is his legacy which was to help other people have a career in the arts.'

Rick Rikert, Tour guide at the Liberace Museum- 'Steinway revolutionized the piano by replacing the old wooden frames in older grand pianos with cast iron frames, which allowed the piano's volume to double, and it became a true concert instrument. This all occurred back in the early 1860s, and it was the last great evolution of the piano.'

Sandra Harris, Executive Director, Liberace Foundation and Museum- 'Last year was the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano, and the Smithsonian Institution had a very large scale exhibit about the history of the piano. And we participated in the research for that exhibit, and one of Liberace's pianos was sent to DC for that exhibit. And we've been able to adopt a lot of that information, and provide that for our visitors.'

Every year over a hundred thousand visitors find that the museum isn't just about viewing the flamboyant entertainer's memorabilia.

Sandra Harris, Executive Director, Liberace Foundation and Museum- 'Even if you removed the name Liberace from it and go through the museum it's a fascinating collection. And it is really the roots of our entertainment, as we know it in Las Vegas. He began his first performance was in the '40s when all we had was the El Rancho. He opened the Riviera in the '50s as their first headliner, and performed here till the 80s. And through those years you can sort of trace his career and his style with everything that was going on in Las Vegas. And so it really is a good representation of where we've come from and what the whole world thinks of when they think of 'Vegas' style onstage.'

Liberace, from the video 'The World of Liberace'- 'Recently ladies and gentlemen I had the pleasure of doing a show with my good friend Jack Benny, and I introduced a number on that show for the first time that I thought he announced in a unique sort of way. So, if I may borrow his words' He said 'Ladies and gentlemen, Liberace is now going to play two well know piano compositions. One is the Prelude in C sharp minor by Rachmaninoff the other is the love theme from the motion picture 'The Godfather' by Nino Rota. And he's going to play them both at the same time. Which proves that he's not only a great musician, but a big show-off.'

Sandra Harris, Executive Director, Liberace Foundation and Museum- 'I think to really understand Las Vegas - this is an important piece of it. To understand it's one individual who came to this town with an idea of how to market himself, how to perform, how to really relate to audiences, and really it's what our whole city is still based on. Is attracting people to come here, giving them something they won't see anywhere else. And I think it's still very valid and very relevant. And I think to really understand how this all started, and maybe where we'll end up, it's a good place to come and see that.

It is arguable that Liberace is the individual responsible for the larger than life persona that we ascribe to Las Vegas today. And you can see the birth of that personality in the elaborate costumes, jewelry, personalized automobiles and pianos they've gathered in the museum. But Liberace was more than just props. He was the consummate performer.'

In show businesses a great entertainer will always leave them wanting more, but a legend like Liberace will continue to provide entertainment long after they're gone.

See discussion rules.


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