TV Cream

Films: L is for...


Late ’80s telly movie starring Garak off of Deep Space Nine as the George-related ivroy tinkler, which provides us with a slim but graspable chance to launch a re-appraisal of Lee’s career we fancy and a renaissance of his life and work since we’ve always thought that he was great. His ATV series was easily the most glamorous and silly programme ever made in Britain, with Richard Wattis as his butler ringing top flight guests into his mawkish piano room to do ludicrous duets with him. We recall seeing a fantastic clip of Terry-Thomas on it with Dickie Wattis bringing him in to the music room wearing a stupid glitter-festooned jacket to fit in with his surroundings and Lee saying, “You’re wearing my pyjamas!” before starting a duet of Has Anybody Seen My Girl, with TT and Liberace providing alternate comedy lines (L: “On each fingers rings and pearls”, TT: “Enough about you now what about her!”; TT : “She’s got two eyes above her mouth, one points north and the other points south”!) while the former played the ukele in perfect comedy manner (fumbling over the strings and slapping it on the back and all that) and the latter of course flourishing away on the piano. Big Fuck Off LE Cobblers in the grandest Grade tradition. There are the films of his mental Las Vegas concerts of course, where he arrives in his special glass Roller, or comes on wearing a coat made of white ostrich feathers – apparently in the 70s each outfit cost over $100,000; where’s your Danny La Rue now, eh? – and of course there are those excellent clips of his original 50s shows on American telly when he was still very much the darling of the elderly ladies who would have liked to marry him during which he would play softly then catch the eye of the camera and smoulder accordingly into it. After the infamous Cassandra case against the Mirror on this side of the ditch however he could never be openly gay so he had to maintain the ludicrous premise of his partner Scott being his ‘chauffeur’ which must have been the least well kept secret of true intentions since the Gestapo put skulls and crossbones on their hats. A tragic end for him of course, with drugs and drink and irresponsible and quite disturbing plastic surgery before his famous demise as an early celebrity victim of AIDS and perhaps that lead him to be dismissed by all quarters so easily, not least the gay community itself who seem happy to have him cast aside as being too outrageous. This in the age of ‘Sir’ Elton John, too. He cropped up on the soundtrack of Misery several years ago giving one of his unique interpetations of popular song in performing I’ll Be Seeing You but that’s not nearly enough. However, we’d love to see more and more of Liberace in the year to come.



  1. George White

    November 21, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    Watching this Liberace show.
    It’s basically a kind of weird sitcom/variety show hybrid. A mix of Americans (Phyllis Diller, Minnie Pearl, George Gobel, Eve Arden, Jack benny Eva Gabor, Chad EVerett, Dick Shawn, black impressionist Stu Gilliam), (Paedophie Rolf Harris, Tessie O’Shea, Ray Alan and lord Charles, Mary Hopkin, Matt Monro, ANita Harris Jck Haig, Leslie Sarony, Moira Anderson, Frankie Vaughan, Engelbert, Shani Wallis, Jack Wild, Dusty, Millicent Martin, the Duke of Bedford, Cliff) plus Sacha DIstel, Nina and Frederik

    Lew Grade’s variety cobblers increasingly fascinates me. Des O’Connor doing Andy Pandy parody with Britt Ekland and Harry Secombe.

  2. Richardpd

    November 21, 2021 at 9:59 pm

    There was a Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas a few years ago.

    One incident featured was on the day of Kennedy’s assassination when Liberace assumed his performance would be cancelled due to the events of that day & told his staff to stand down. But then the news came that the gig was still on & his wardrobe manager was unable to be traced & had the key to the room storing most of his costumes. His only available stage costume was still sweaty from the night before’s performance, so he got one of the staff to go out for some dry cleaning fluid to try & clean it up. This was done & he fell asleep in the same room, still full of dry cleaning fumes & woke up feeling rather worse then able to perform.

  3. THX 1139

    November 22, 2021 at 10:00 am

    I’d like to see a film about Space Liberace.

  4. Droogie

    November 22, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    There were actually 2 Liberace biopic TV movies out at the same time in 1988. One was this one starring Andrew Robinson who was brilliant as the Scorpio killer in Dirty Harry. The other was a low budget Canadian effort called Liberace: Behind The Music starring Victor Garber who previously played Jesus Christ in Godspell (!) There’s one unintentionally hilarious scene when Liberace meets the young Elvis Presley and teaches him stagecraft by swapping his sparkly jacket with Elvis, They then do a rock n roll duet together. The fact the guy playing young Elvis looks more like Shakin’ Stevens adds to the hilarity.

    • George White

      November 22, 2021 at 9:47 pm

      I was watching the Elvis clip and he actually sounds Cockney/Australian.
      Victor Garber’s also played both Mountbatten (in 1993 CBC/Sky TVM Dieppe, costarring John Neville and Gabrielle “Brenda off Rising Damp” Rose), and Prince Charles (in the Hallmark William and Kate).

  5. Sidney Balmoral James

    November 22, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve not seen the one with Andrew Robinson – but the Victor Garber one isn’t bad, and catches quite well the sadness of Liberace pretending to be something he wasn’t (at least in his early years). I thought the Michael Douglas one was a good effort, although Douglas – perhaps understandably given his usual persona – didn’t catch the twinkly good humour of the real Liberace (who was always sending himself up). I also thought the film still seemed too much a case of ‘ooh, look what gays get up to’, rather than a study of an odd, doomed relationship. So not a massive advance on, say, Staircase (another example of casting known lady-killers, as gay men).

    • Droogie

      November 23, 2021 at 12:50 am

      @ Sidney Balmoral James I quite enjoyed the Michael Douglas Liberace movie – though Rob Lowe steals the film as Liberace’s plastic surgeon who’s also had a bit too much work done on himself. I genuinely felt sorry for the character of Scott played by Matt Damon and the way he was groomed, but since learned he was no saint himself and is currently still in prison after years of credit card fraud and meth use.

      • THX 1139

        November 23, 2021 at 10:34 am

        Liberace famously had so much cosmetic surgery that by the end of his life, he couldn’t close his eyes anymore. He had to sleep with his eyes open.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    November 22, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    Lew Grade seemed to think ATV was a branch of Hollywood, rather than an ITV contractor that after 1968 was confined to the Midlands. Yes he made Crossroads and the cheapo daytime soap General Hospital, but everything he did in peak time had to be more lavish, more expensive to make and more attractive to American buyers than everything else ITV made. Socialist Granada made Coronation St and World In Action, ATV made a star studded Liberace special and also spent millions on specials featuring Tom Jones, both of which made millions in exports sales. Obviously Sir Lew overreached himself in the end with his film flops, but in the seventies ATV smacked of glamour and escapism that no other ITV contractor could match.

    • Richardpd

      November 22, 2021 at 10:08 pm

      Also bankrolling The Muppet Show when Jim Henson couldn’t get the American networks interested.

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