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Liberace - Valentine's Day
Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 49 mins . G . PAL

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So, just how do you introduce somebody like Liberace? The entrant into the Guinness Book of Records as the highest paid musician and pianist eventually gained notoriety for his increasingly over the top onstage (and offstage for that matter) gear – enough sheer opulence to make even Zsa Zsa Gabor blush, with more glittery things than ever consumed by the entire glam movement, and enough fur to keep the greatest expanses of Alaska wrapped up all snug and warm for many a lifetime. What is often overlooked, however, was his popularity which transcended generations – he had his own TV show back in the ‘50s, made film appearances, won Emmys, received all the gold records he could eat and was even a pop culture icon before the phrase was even coined, as anybody who has ever seen the classic Warner Bros short The Three Little Bops could attest to (even if they don’t actually realise it). Liberace certainly wasn’t without actual talent, either, the once Milwaukee native even learned to play piano by ear at the age of four! While he passed away back in 1987, he left more than simply a musical legacy, he had also set up a charity to provide scholarships for needy music students which is still funded by proceeds taken from the Liberace Museum, an ode to glitzy excess chock full of pianos, cars, costumes and more.

This Valentine’s Day special was made for television in 1979, and combines Liberace’s famed, if rather heavy-handed, piano playing (hey, you’d have troubles being delicate too if you had the average annual yield of a diamond mine attached to each hand!) with his trademark candelabra, gift for audience participation, corny one liners and general all around genuine nice guy-ness. After wafting into the Las Vegas Hilton via hot air balloon, proceedings commence with some selections from Chopin (which is sweetly dedicated to his Mum). A rather jaunty medley of Gershwin classics follows complete with not one, but two Liberaces. Oh, hang on – you’d better make that thr... no, four... umm, FIVE Liberaces! His guests for the evening are Sandy Duncan and Lola Falana, who are wheeled on next to sort of play piano whilst the dazzling one conducts the orchestra.

Whilst some performers are happy to have a few costume changes, not only does Liberace have more then your average fashion show, he ups the ante by having actual piano changes. The next ebony and ivory wielding instrument to be wheeled on looks seriously like a recycled coronation coach, and is his weapon for the somewhat waltzy Lover. We’re then treated to a quick guided tour of Liberace’s eponymous museum, a spot of tap dancing, some party organisation and then a trip to "his" yacht – which is actually the Queen Mary. It’s on this esteemed vessel that the toilet breaks ensue, as Sandy Duncan plods through It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish and Lola Falana slaughters the Grease classic You’re the One That I Want (eww, eww, eww!).

After a touch of Boogie Woogie, even at 16 to the bar, it’s time for Liberace to bid his farewell to the strains of I’ll Be Seeing You, but as the song itself decrees, we’ll always think of him in everything that’s warm and gay...

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

Let’s be frank, visually this isn’t within a diamond’s throw of great quality. It’s a ‘70s television show and it doesn’t betray its origins, with its full frame-ness exhibiting all manner of gremmies such as aliasing, dropouts and a variety of videotape SNAFUs. Things are a little hazy throughout, whilst black levels are average and the colour is quite washed out.

The audio presentation doesn’t far a lot better, being mono stuffed into Dolby Digital stereo and including a couple of dropouts and quite a lot of hiss at times. Still, synching is fine and there are no problems understanding what’s being said at any time.

As for extras, all that’s here is a 13 page biography, a nine page (!) discography, one page promos for two other releases, Leapin’ Lizards! It’s Liberace! and Liberace Live: London Philharmonic, both of which are reversed on the menu – so if you pick one you get the blurb for the other – Oops! There’s also the standard trailers, or “propaganda”, for other Umbrella releases, in this case My Beautiful Laundrette, The Secret Policeman’s Ball and the disc they must have a warehouse full of that needs shifting (as it seems to be promoted on EVERY disc they release), Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?.

If you’re after some incredibly camp entertainment (in fact it’s camper than Volkswagen’s entire Kombi output, ever) then this disc from the man they justifiably called Mr Showmanship may not be top notch, but show-wise his flair for performance and genuine likeability could never be called into question. Now, if only his brother George had been there...


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  •   And I quote...
    "A pop culture icon before the phrase was even coined, this disc may not be top notch, but the display of Liberace’s talent and flair for showmanship could never be called into question..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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