Clad in glam attire that befits any 1970s superstar, Michael Douglas was photographed for Vanity Fair as he films his latest, hotly anticipated project for HBO – Behind the Candelabra. In it, he plays Liberace – the eccentric superstar who glimmered on stage while he spent his life very much in the closet (who he really ever fooled is anyone’s guess). And Matt Damon, also pictured in a brilliant blonde shag behind the scenes, stars as the maestro’s gay lover Scott Thorson whose book the film is based.
Back in the day, Thorson, then a much younger “protege” of Liberace – they had a five-year affair and the superstar even used Thorson in his Las Vegas show – sued for palimony after the relationship ended. The lawsuit was stunning in 1982 as Liberace, despite his showiness and over-the-top personality – and having dodged rumors and gossip for years as he launched successful TV shows and live concerts – never publicly revealed that he was gay.
While the two men eventually came to a quiet agreement (Thorson got the dogs and a few other demands), Liberace died from complications of AIDS by 1987 at the age of 67, though reports tried to hide this fact, suggesting that it was really anemia, heart disease and emphysema that extinguished Liberace’s extraordinary flame.
The HBO film, directed by Steven Soderbergh and co-starring everyone from Rob Lowe and Cheyenne Jackson to Debbie Reynolds, is due out next year – and we can’t wait.
And here’s a clip of Liberace’s more famous stage entrances in Las Vegas in 1981 – you can see inside his home during a video, as well as Thorson as the, um, chauffeur: