CLOSER TO HOME
The man known as Mr. Showmanship pulled out all the stops in his stunning abodes
Take a peek inside Liberace’s luxurious vintage homes in Las Vegas, Malibu and more.
Most people leave home to go on vacation. I do just the opposite,” Liberace once said. “For a holiday, there’s no place like home, especially since I have homes in some very interesting and exciting places!”
Indeed, many of the flamboyant residences that master pianist
Wladziu Valentino “Lee” Liberace owned would be considered resorts or fivestar hotel suites by most people — he had 11 over the years, and owned six when he passed away in 1987 at age 67. “Depending on the season, the weather, or even my mood,” he boasted, “I can have vacations at home that are comparable to a season in Monte Carlo (my Las Vegas place), a Caribbean cruise (in Malibu), a Hawaiian holiday (Palm Springs), [and] Saint Moritz in Switzerland (Lake Tahoe),” plus lavish penthouse apartments in LA and NYC.
What inspired Lee’s lust for land? None other than sex goddess Mae West, who, during a lunch in the ’50s, told him about a property she’d sold for millions. “That’s when he saw gold in real estate,” his longtime publicist Jamie James revealed.
And he added gold, silver and other fine decor and antiques to all of his homes, in a style that could be fairly described as over-the-top. He bathed in a $55,000 marble bathtub with a chandelier, gold-plated faucets and a portrait of himself on the ceiling in his Las Vegas home (recreated in the 2013 HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra, the title
for which references the piano-top fixture that was his trademark).
Befitting a man who made millions tickling the ivories, his homes were filled with all manner of pianos. The Sherman Oaks, Calif., house he shared with his beloved mother in the mid’-50s had a piano-shaped pool and bed, plus a collection of miniature pianos (including one from his initially skeptical father that he prized above all others). His Malibu condo, where he hosted pals like Shirley MacLaine, featured a piano-shaped bar, piano-shaped couch and a baby grand in black.
Several of Liberace’s homes had nicknames, including his three-story, 28-room Hollywood Hills mansion. “My family calls it ‘the palace,’ ” he said, and they weren’t kidding. “The chandelier is
“It may seem like wild extravagance, but when I fall in love with a locale, I want to put down roots and live
18-karat gold and Baccarat crystal,” he said. “The piano [here] was once owned by Chopin.” But his slightly more lowkey Palm Springs house — a Spanish Colonial he called “The Cloisters” and “Casa de Liberace” — was his favorite.
Where did Liberace (who admitted to being a “compulsive shopper”) find his opulent decor? A good deal of it came from garage sales and flea markets. “I love to go to them,” he confessed. “No matter how much money they have, everybody loves a bargain. That includes Jackie Onassis and Liberace.”
He may have paid big bucks for his homes, but he strove to spend smartly. “I’ve never lost money in real estate,” Lee insisted just a year before he died. “Even if I had, when I think of the special holidays each of these homes has afforded me, it would be worth it.”
Can you spot the topiary candelabra outside Lee’s Palm Springs, Calif., mansion?
▶Liberace in 1961, photographed under one of his beloved chandeliers in the living room of his Hollywood Hills home, which he decorated himself in white and gold. At far right is his pipe organ. Lee in 1973, seated at his LA home’s custommade bar
In his Malibu pad, Lee’s fine antiques and fancy knickknacks reflected his rosy outlook.
Liberace’s love of mirrors and ornate pianos was on full display at his Hollywood Hills home in 1961.
The piano pool at the Sherman Oaks home he had in the mid-’50s is surrounded by a “musical fence” displaying 16 bars of his original song “Rhapsody by Candlelight.”
Liberace, walking down from the stone balcony outside his Hollywood Hills home in 1961, always knew how to make a grand entrance. ◀“Believe it or not, this is where I dream up most of my piano arrangements,” he joked of the keyboard bed in his Sherman...