Lessons from Liberace
I will always remember, during my childhood in the early sixties, sitting on the living room floor on Sunday evenings, watching Liberace with my Grandma Arabella. He was all the way live, and loving it, and I was a little girl, loving him for living and loving it. Everyone back home was especially proud of him – a product of the home state, The Dairyland of America, from right down the road in Milwaukee. Liberace was Polish, the same heritage so prevalent in the town in which I was raised. As elegant as he was though, I could always imagine him outside at the park beneath a big tent at a polka party, eating beer-soaked bratwursts, singing with all of the boys: I don’t want her You can have her She’s too fat for meÃ¢Â?Â¦ Home Boy.
People always whispered about Liberace. Psss. Psss. Back then no one knew for sure about his life or lifestyle. Who was to say? Who cares? I always thought. Then I grew up enough to know that many cared, would still care today. Judgement rises easily amongst those who fear themselves. PsssÃ¢Â?Â¦psssÃ¢Â?Â¦Even at his death. Liberace this; Liberace that: They said he died from this, but I think he died from, you know, with all of the young boys he always had around; he always did have that – flare!
He did have that flare. He had the courage, the nervy grace to live flamboyantly. He was the ideal symbol of androgyny – a finely woven mix of the male and female in us all. He allowed himself the dignity to expand into whatever universe felt most comfortable, most suitable, most real. He allowed himself him self. I was always particularly proud of Liberace, because I knew he knew they all whispered, and I knew he didn’t care. Never enough to surrender. He was always ready and royal, flaunting his fashions and fantasies. He chose to entertain.
I envied him in my youth. I envied the way he so grandly snubbed society. I wondered if I could ever have his force. Looking back, I realize that he was not snubbing society, but rather honoring himself – the man with clothing and candelabras as elaborate as any Catholic Church. He put the positive slant on the negative trail. I have always carried him with me as a symbol of honesty and hilarity. The memory reminds me to honor myself, to carry myself with dignity, never hiding, living as if I am free to be, that it might one day be a reality.