VIDEO VAULT | Liberace's Las Vegas mansion hits the auction block
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
Las Vegas has been known as the "Entertainment Capital of the World" dating back to the middle of the last century. Many star performers have taken up residence in Southern Nevada, at least part time.
Thirty years ago this week, one the of the valley's best-known celebrity homes was on the block.
"Go 500,000, 500,000. Let's try 100,000," barked out auctioneer Eric Nelson in December of 1988.
The property up for grabs on Shirley Street just south of UNLV was actually two houses joined together to become the mansion that had been the home of "Mister Showmanship," Wladziu Valentino Liberace.
"And then they swam right over the dam," sang the performer known by his last name in a video clip from the 1970s.
"Oh, they don't write lyrics like that anymore," he laughed after concluding the 1939 tune. "Thank God!"
In addition to his dynamic musicianship, Liberace was known for his humor, the candelabra on his piano and his outrageous costumes and jewelry.
"I remember quite a few times that I had to work five minutes before his opening night," costume designer Anna Neece told News 3 in 1988. "In order to finish some of the rhinestones or beads."
"He knew then that gimmicks worked," said longtime publicist Jamie James. "So the costumes were one that he premiered in Las Vegas."
"I don't blame you for laughing. Sometimes I look at all this stuff and I can hardly believe it myself," Liberace told the 1970s audience with a smile. "Oh well. My clothes may look funny, but they're making me the money!"
The performer passed away on February 4, 1987 at age 67. Much of his clothing and jewelry collection along with several classic cars had already been on display in the "Liberace Museum" on Tropicana at Spencer since 1979. The memories continued.
"He would be very proud of it," said sister-in-law Dora Liberace after a 1988 renovation. "And if he was here, God love him, he'd be right in the middle of it."
"Some people seem as if they'll never die," reminisced James. "And Liberace was one of those people."
"And you miss that," said Neece of Liberace's outsized personality. "When you know that they want to give you that wonderful feeling of life."
The performer's home a half-mile away was every bit as over-the-top. In an open house before the auction, potential buyers had a chance to view:
- An ornate living room with a bejeweled grand piano
- A luxurious bedroom which included a canopy and curtains
- A bathroom with Liberace's smiling face on the ceiling above a center-room sunken tub
For a home that had previously been on the market asking $2,769,500, the winning bid seemed like a steal.
"$325,000 going once," said Nelson, slowing way down to allow for any last increases. "Going twice ... sold! $325,000."
The new owners were Lorna Burroughs and Harvey Sedger, who had pooled their money in making the bid.
"I've always been an admirer of Liberace," gushed Burroughs. "And we've gone along with a lot of people who want to preserve the home as a remembrance of him."
These days under new owners, the Liberace Mansion is undergoing renovations and restoration, but is still available for private events and tours.
The Liberace Museum closed in 2010 due to declining attendance, with much of the collection now housed at the former Las Vegas home of Michael Jackson. The classic cars are available for viewing at the Liberace Garage on Dean Martin Drive. The restored sign is now on display at the Neon Museum.
"Never say goodbye; say ciao," wrote Liberace for a song he would use to conclude performances. "Until we meet again. Say Ciao."