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Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace | [Alex Thorleifson, Scott Thorson]

Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace

In this unusually frank book Scott Thorson, Liberace's longtime lover, tells all: the good, the bad, and the ugly truths about the legendary entertainer who went to outrageous extremes to prevent public knowledge of his homosexuality. Liberace's unhappy childhood, dominated by a mother determined to force him into a concert career, serves as the prologue for a story that goes on to detail Liberace's early appearances in honky-tonks, his move to New York to seek fame, and, finally, his first booking in Las Vegas, where he was courted by the Mafia.
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Publisher's Summary

In this unusually frank book Scott Thorson, Liberace's longtime lover, tells all: the good, the bad, and the ugly truths about the legendary entertainer who went to outrageous extremes to prevent public knowledge of his homosexuality.

Liberace's unhappy childhood, dominated by a mother determined to force him into a concert career, serves as the prologue for a story that goes on to detail Liberace's early appearances in honky-tonks, his move to New York to seek fame, and, finally, his first booking in Las Vegas, where he was courted by the Mafia.

As Thorson attests, such successes provide a bright counterpoint to a darker tale of a man hungry for power, given to every excess. Liberace's credo - "too much of a good thing is wonderful" - is reflected here in his acquisition of new lovers, luxurious homes, a large collection of pornography, and a total of 26 house dogs.

Behind the Candelabra above all explores the fundamentally tender love affair between Liberace and Thorson - whom Liberace sent to his own plastic surgeon to have his face remodeled in Liberace's own image!

This fast-paced story, sprinkled with anecdotes about famous entertainers such as Michael Jackson and Shirley MacLaine, ends with an intimate look at Liberace's final days as he lay dying of AIDS - and his deathbed reconciliation with Thorson. Thorson's story will also appear in the upcoming biopic of the same name starring award-winning actors Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

©1988, 2013 Scott Thorson with Alex Thorleifson (P)2013 Tantor

What Members Say

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  •  
    Jeffrey Austin Texas, United States 05-26-13
    Jeffrey Austin Texas, United States 05-26-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Viciously honest, candid, sad, fascintating!"

    Reading this book was like witnessing a violent car accident. You can't turn away, you have to see (read) it through even though in many places you just want to stop and you kind of know in advance that there will be no happy ending and indeed there is not.

    The writing style is nothing to "write" home about but one must remember that this book was written in the latter 80's, early 90's for readers' sensibilities back then. It's especially annoying when Mr. Thorson editorializes about gay life and culture using simplistic and hackneyed cliches that are entirely laughable now-a-days.

    The narration by Peter Berkrot was spectacular. One felt one was listening to Thorson in person, and the narrator's vocal inflections of Mr. Liberace are worth any downside that the rather bland narrative otherwise presents.

    As for the actual events and behaviors presented by the book of Mr. Thorson's life with Lee Liberace and what to think of them, it would be unfair to judge either party. There was presented enough nauseating dysfunction for both men to last ten families ten lifetimes.

    In the end, I felt very sad for Mr. Thorson. I believe to this day that he still loves Lee Liberace and will die doing so. It's just such a shame that people have to go through this soft of thing as it affects them until their death. Best of luck to Mr. Thorsen. Rest in peace, Mr. Liberace.


    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Welborn Illinois/Florida 05-16-13
    Robert Welborn Illinois/Florida 05-16-13 Listener Since 2006
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    "I Believe!"

    I have been a life long fan of Liberace. My mom and grandmother loved him, so we always watched him when he was on television. Liberace was one of the first shows I ever saw in Las Vegas. Having met Liberace personally while on a trip to Las Vegas, I can honestly say he was very nice, but come on....you'd have to be blind to not know he was gay. I read this book about 23 years ago. With the Michael Douglas movie coming out, I decided I wanted to read it again, so I am getting it either for my Kindle or Audible. I do believe most of what is in this book. You have to look at the time... the early 1980's...All of his peers knew, at that time an entertainer did not come out as gay...most of his fans were older women, it would have been career suicide. No one really knew what Aids was or how you got it. I'm sure if everyone knew back then about Aids, and how it was spread and how to prevent it Liberace would have lived and been performing up into his 80's. There was another movie about Scott and Liberace that had Victor Garber portraying Lee. The end of that movie almost had me in tears when he was taking the hairpiece off at the end. When I met Liberace, I could see what Scott saw in him...he had a way of making you feel special. When you're 18, you just want to fit in and be accepted, so I can see how a young guy could make Lee their life and lose themselves. Read this book, you won't be disappointed. Liberace was a true performer...just seeing him perform, you knew why he was the highest paid entertainer in the world. He made a brand of himself...the Piano...the restaurant, the museum....sadly the museum and the restaurant and Lee are only memories, but his legacy will live on.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 08-23-13
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 08-23-13 Member Since 2007

    Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton.  In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!! 

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    "SURPRISINGLY GOOD FOR A CELEBRITY EXPOSÉ"

    I was pleasantly surprised by Scott Thorson's candor. He told all of the dirt - even his own. What is sad is Liberace's delusion about the world knowing that he was gay. And that he tried to hide this fact even when he knew he was dying of AIDS. Another disturbing thing is Scott Thorson's insistence that a tired old queen, 40 years his senior, was giving him the love he missed growing up with a mentally ill mother and being shuttled from one foster home to another. He comes off more as one of the many young teenaged boys who worked the Sunset Strip and Las Vegas, looking for lonely old gay men. I ain't saying he's a golddigger but I think he would have been "less gay" if he hadn't been taken in my Liberace at age 17. He even admitted to being "disgusted" by male sex acts - what does that say about his intentions? This book ends right after the acrimonious $113 million "palimony" suit that Thorsen filed against Liberace, settled right before the performer's death for a mere $75,000 after 5 years of litigation. THEN I had to ruin it by Googling Thorsen in a "What Are Thet Doing Now" moment. Scott not only goes further downhill as a person, he is arrested and jailed, shot 5 times, and - the most ridiculous ploy of all - claimed just a few months ago that he had an affair with Michael Jackson. This, after giving MJJ a very respectful chapter in this book, a friendship which ended in the 1980s. Can a lying sequel be far behind with Thorsen having gay affairs with every dead celebrity from Isaac Hayes to James Gandolfini? Readers, just check out this book then wipe both Scott Thorson and the pitiful predatory Liberace from your little gray cells!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simone St Laurent, Quebec, Canada 08-19-13
    Simone St Laurent, Quebec, Canada 08-19-13 Member Since 2006

    Join me on GoodReads too!

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    "Tawdry"

    I like biographies, but I am dubious about the accuracy of this one! While I’m sure this is Scott’s honest recollections, I have a hard time believing that he was so innocent and that he didn’t know what he was getting into. Ok yes, he was 18 and maybe a little naïve… but I don’t buy the innocent deer-in-the-headlights routine.

    You know what they say: there are always 3 sides to every story – his version, her version, and the truth. The book was interesting, yet felt a little tawdry, and therefore lost some credibility for me.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerold Seattle, WA 09-12-13
    Jerold Seattle, WA 09-12-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Psycho Daddy"
    What made the experience of listening to Behind the Candelabra the most enjoyable?

    Scott's brutal honesty.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Liberace because he was so damn bizarre.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    HBO and Michael Douglas did a great job as it is. Michael Douglas taking Matt Damon is plenty hysterical considering Michael's history.


    Any additional comments?

    Great read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    susan Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada 06-02-13
    susan Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada 06-02-13 Member Since 2011

    I like to weed and read at the same time.

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    "Eight hours of sheer yawn"

    I should have known better. I don't think there is anything here that we couldn't have gleaned from a tabloid over the years. This book reads like a full length tabloid article and although I was fascinated by the man after about 10 minutes I was asking myself 'Why am I bothering?' I'll get a refund and watch the movie.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna Golden, CO, United States 03-04-14
    Donna Golden, CO, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Image Changer"

    My grandmother enjoyed watching Liberace on TV and I have vague memories of watching him with her. This book certainly changed the perception I had of that man.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Crusader Palm Springs, CA, United States 02-05-14
    Crusader Palm Springs, CA, United States 02-05-14 Member Since 2008
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    "A very titillating book!"

    Although this book is filled with numerous and obvious factual errors that I totally missed when I first read it in the 1980s, this book otherwise appears to give an inside honest look into the life of Liberace (which isn't always flattering).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robyn Modbury, Australia 01-26-14
    Robyn Modbury, Australia 01-26-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Liberace, prejudice, AIDS"

    I always take first person accounts with a grain of salt, but read this as light relief from my usual serious reading agenda. It was an interesting picture of talent, the quest for stardom, and the distorting power of money and fame. The ins and outs of family and love affairs are always titillating but for me, the book is most informative as a social history of being gay in the pre-AIDS and post-AIDS Western world. Early in his life and career Liberace had no choice but to remain in the closet and, once the pretence was established, what could he do but maintain his stance and deny the rumours? It is a sad indictment of prejudice and persecution of gay men. How different Scott and Lliberace's lives would be if they were born now - if not fame/notoriety, at least more freedom to be who they are than they could ever have dreamed of.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan'sEarbuds Delaware Valley 12-02-13
    Susan'sEarbuds Delaware Valley 12-02-13 Member Since 2010
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    "What is Better Than Real Life?"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I didn't think the performance was that good. I didn't think "overall" should be rated more than mediocre. But what is better than real life told by someone who participated in it? Whether or not it is all true or unbiased, it is a slice of several people's lives and I wanted to hear about it. I wept, I sighed, I cringed, and thought to myself, why isn't life more fair and all children be loved and cherished? I skipped some parts because they were repetitive, but more than not, I listened to enlarge my compassion. No one's life is easy. Some are a lot harder than most. Love is what all of us want. I liked this real life story because it taught me that love is hard to find.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Jennifer
    ILFORD, United Kingdom
    8/3/13
    Overall
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    "Hear the story first"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Behind the Candelabra to be better than the print version?

    Yes, I would advise anyone to sit back and listen to the truth. It took me around a week. I am sure some would prefer listening to it in a day.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Behind the Candelabra?

    I was surprised the at the beginning of Liberace's life was interesting and surprised at how hard he worked. I loved listening to their life on the road and how they entertained guests. The break up of the relationship was inevitable. However, unforgettable is the last paragraph (the end) and their last conversation.


    What about Peter Berkrot’s performance did you like?

    Overall he was very good throughout.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    How Scott Thorson got hooked on drugs, and how he was asked to leave the Liberace estate.


    Any additional comments?

    I am glad the book did not get carried away with sex scenes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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