Liberace – Lawsuits and Allegations of Homosexuality
I am watching “Behind the Candleabra: My Life with Liberace” and couldn’t help diving into the backstory of Liberace and allegations of homosexuality. In the words of another 60’s icon: “fascinating.”
Liberace’s fame in the United States was matched for a time in the United Kingdom. In 1956, an article in the Daily Mirror by columnist Cassandra (William Connor) mentioned that Liberace was “…the summit of sex—the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love”, a description which did everything it could to imply he was homosexual without actually saying so.
Liberace sent a telegram that read: “What you said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank.” (This phrase was already in use by the 1940s.) He sued the newspaper for libel, testifying in a London court that he was not a homosexual and had never taken part in homosexual acts. He won the suit, partly on the basis of Connor’s use of the derogatory expression “fruit-flavoured”, the case partly hinged on whether Connor knew ‘fruit’ was American slang implying that an individual is a homosexual. The £8,000 damages he received from the Daily Mirror (then approximately $22,000) led
Liberace to repeat the catchphrase to reporters: “I cried all the way to the bank!” Liberace’s popularization of the phrase inspired the title of Crying All the Way to the Bank, a detailed report of the trial based on transcripts, court reports and interviews, by the former Daily Mirrorjournalist Revel Barker.
Liberace fought and settled a similar case in the United States against Confidential. Rumors and gossip magazines frequently alleged behavior that strongly implied that he was homosexual. A typical issue of Confidential in 1957 shouted, “Why Liberace’s Theme Song Should Be ‘Mad About the Boy!'”
In 1982, Scott Thorson, Liberace’s 22-year-old former chauffeur and alleged live-in lover of five years, sued the pianist for $113 million in palimony after he was let go by Liberace.
Liberace continued publicly to deny that he was homosexual and insisted that Thorson was never his lover. The case was settled out of court in 1986, with Thorson receiving a $95,000 settlement. Thorson stated after Liberace’s death that he settled because he knew that Liberace was in profoundly ill health, and that he had intended to sue based on conversion of property rather than palimony.
Since Liberace never admitted that he was homosexual, confusion over his true sexuality was further muddled in the public’s mind by his public friendships and romantic links with women. Articles like “Mature Women Are Best: TV’s Top Pianist Reveals What Kind of Woman He’d Marry” were published.
In a 2011 interview, actress and close friend Betty White stated that Liberace was gay, and that she often served as abeard to counter rumors of the musician’s homosexuality.