|This is an invitation to 1971 performance by Liberace at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
It measures 5 3/4” x 4 1/2”
A fun glimpse at the glamorous life of Mr & Mrs Vincent Price.
Liberace was born Wladziu Valentino Liberace at 1649 60th Street, in
West Allis, Wisconsin, on May 16, 1919, the survivor of twins.
There was music in the family; Liberace's father and some siblings
were also in the music industry. There are rumors that some of
Liberace's first performances were in Milwaukee's gay establishments,
although this is unconfirmed to date. But he was an extremely talented
pianist with a special flair, and quickly became in demand both locally
and then nationally. He became a national icon, the highest paid pianist
ever, and was known around the world as "Mr. Showmanship".
For decades, Liberace was known for his music, candelabra, charisma,
diamonds and dazzle. Liberace transported audiences to a dazzling world
of color, joyful music, glittering costumes, and humor. Liberace had fun
with his costumes, cars and homes.
Over the years Liberace acquired an astounding array of prestigious
awards, including: Instrumentalist of the Year, Best Dressed Entertainer
and Entertainer of the Year. He also earned two Emmy Awards, six gold
albums, two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is listed in the
Guinness Book of World Records as the world's highest paid musician and
pianist. Best of all, he was known and loved throughout the world as
In 1940, his night club dates took him to the Persian Room in New
York's Plaza Hotel as an intermission pianist. Seven years later, he
returned with his own oversized grand piano and his first trademark, a
glittering candelabra. Acting on Paderewski's early advice, Liberace
dropped his first two names, opting to use "Liberace" exclusively.
In 1950, he made his first film debut as honky tonk pianist in the
movie "South Sea Sinner," with Shelley Winters. A little later, while
playing a club date at the San Diego Coronado Hotel, he was discovered
by a television producer. A local Los Angeles television show was
created. A national television series debuted in 1952. Liberace turned
to daytime television in 1960, with a series on ABC.
For three years, 1976 - 1979, Liberace was acclaimed "Pop Keyboard
Artist of the Year" by Contemporary Keyboard Magazine. Liberace returned
to television in 1978 with his first American TV special for CBS,
followed by a second in February 1979.
In 1977 Liberace founded the non-profit Liberace Foundation for the
Performing and Creative Arts. Liberace considered the Foundation, which
funds scholarships for schools and colleges across the nation, as one of
his greatest achievements. On April 15, 1979, Liberace opened The
Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Museum serves as the key
funding arm for the Foundation.
In 1980, Las Vegas named him both Star of the Year and Entertainment
Personality of the Year. In 1981, Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters presented
him with its coveted "Golden Mike" award. In 1982, he was voted to the
Keyboard Magazine Hall of Fame by the publications' readers. Also in
1982, Liberace made a special showcase appearance at the Academy Awards,
performing all five nominated film themes.
In the spring of 1984 Liberace's premier engagement at New York's
famed Radio City Music Hall broke all sales and attendance records of
the 51-year history of the Art Deco palace. More than 80,000 people were
on hand for what Liberace described as "the fulfillment of a dream and
the culmination of my 40 years in show business." Commenting on the
engagement, The Wall Street Journal said: "Liberace occupies his own
special rhinestone-studded niche in the American dream."
Liberace's final performances were at Radio City Music Hall October
16 through November 2, 1986. After his Radio City engagement he went on a
four-city-tour to promote his fourth book, "The Wonderful Private World
of Liberace." Then he returned to his Palm Springs home where he passed
away on February 4, 1987, just a few months before his 68th birthday.
Liberace's death was later reported to have been of complications from AIDS.
It has been observed that Liberace's life invites comparison with
that of Roy Harold Scherer, known as Rock Hudson. Both were Midwestern
boys of the same generation (Hudson was born in 1925 in Winnetka,
Illinois), hit their heights of stardom in the 1950s, remained highly
closeted and closely guarded by a circle of friends, and died of AIDS
within 16 months of each other.
About Vincent Price:
Vincent Price is best remembered for his roles in horror movies, specifically the Roger Corman adaptations from Edger Allan Poe. Although these gave him a wide variety of characters to play and were striking enough, they type cast him for the remainder of his career. Price did not start out with the intentions of becoming an actor but rather an art historian. He obtained degrees in Art History and English at Yale and then taught school for a year. He felt that he needed to further his education though as the students seemed to know more than he did! Price returned to college to take his Masters in Fine Arts at the Courtauld Institute in London, he also studied briefly in Vienna.
It was while in London In 1934 that the theatre bug hit him, theatre tickets were relatively cheap and Price took advantage of this. He first appeared as an actor at the Gate Theatre, at the time a private experimental theater, as the judge and a policeman in the play "Chicago'. He also appeared here as Albert in 'Victoria Regina', the role that was to bring him to Broadway and the public's attention. The show's producer Gilbert Miller, decided to take the play to New York and open with Helen Hayes (the number one actress in America at the time), in the leading role. Miller also decided to take Vincent Price to New York to play opposite her. The play opened on the 26th December 1935 and ran for three years.
The program notes in the original 1936 playbill give an interesting insight into Vincent Price's entrance to the theatrical profession....
"Vincent Price's appearance as leading man to Helen Hayes marks his professional as well as his American debut on the stage. This extraordinary circumstance is due to the fact that although Mr. Price has had stage aspirations since he was ten years old, he was forced to earn his living as a schoolmaster until mere chance decreed otherwise.
He was studying the history of German art at the Courtauld Institute in London when a friend took him to London's Gate Theater, where casting of Maurine Watkins' "Chicago" was in process. American accents being at a premium, Mr. Price was thrust into the production and found himself doubling as a burly policeman and a venerable judge. His remarkable resemblance to Prince Albert led to his being offered the important role of the Price Consort in the ensuing production of "Victoria Regina".
He received glowing notices and was subsequently signed by Gilbert Miller for the American production."
How accurate that "he was forced to earn his living as a schoolmaster until mere chance decreed otherwise." is probably an exaggeration, his father did own the National Candy Company in St Louis.
Price's love of art never left him and he used his education to good advantage. He was responsible, in 1951, of founding the Vincent Price Gallery, with his then wife Mary Grant Price on the campus of East Los Angeles Collage. Price had been invited to lecture on the ''Aesthetic Responsibilities of the Citizen,'' he arrived to find he was, ''speaking in a Quonset hut on a mud flat.''
He was so struck by the students' spirits and the need for the community to have the opportunity to experience original art works first hand, Price donated some ninety pieces which established the first ''teaching art collection'' owned by a community college in the United States. Over the decades, Price and other patrons continued to contribute art with the goal of illustrating diverse periods, styles, mediums, and techniques: from Egyptian sculpture circa 600 BC to 1990s serigraphs. He continued to maintain a hands-on interest in the gallery with selecting exhibits and developing a fund raising program to which he leant his name and support. In 1991, he was quoted,
''We just wanted it to serve the community. We didn't want to make publicity out of it since everything actors do is suspect! We just shut up and let it grow.''
Price's love of American Indian Art led to another little known side of him, his work for Native Americans, he worked for 15 years with the Department of the Interior and was quoted as saying in an interview:
"I have an enormous respect for the American Indian. I think we shut them off, at a period when they might have become the most creative people on the face of the earth. But we killed them off."
Prior to his movie career Price joined Orson Wells' Mercury Theatre for a brief spell, here he claimed, everyone in the company had a disagreement with Wells at some point or another. Price's first movie was "Service DeLuxe" in 1938 and he went on to play such diverse historical characters as Raleigh, Clarence, Richelieu, Charles II and the Mormon Joseph Smith. He was also cast in several films as a charming but effete young man, notably in 'Laura' (1944) and 'The Fly' (1958). The occasional horror role came his way too at this time, he reveled in the old Lionel Atwell part of the demented sculptor in "The House of Wax" (1953). Price's niche in the horror movie genre was carved in 1960 with the classic movie "The Fall of the House of Usher".
Price did return to the stage in later years. He toured his one-man show of Oscar Wilde throughout America for many years to great acclaim. It was a demonstration of the excellence performing skills of Vincent Price and an escape from the type casting.
In his later years, Price became involved with the rock & roll industry, he was involved in music videos with performers including Alice Cooper, Ringo Starr, and Michael Jackson. Price had his own ideas why he was chosen for this honor.
"I have great admiration for rock `n roll, but not when it's done badly. My God! You know, I have a theory about how I get selected for these things. I think they've based a lot of their stuff on my movies. They go out and do the rock `n roll, and they're all high, and making the noise and flying around, and then they go back to their hotel room, turn on the TV, and there I am! Alice and I met a couple of times, and I liked him, then he asked me to do 'Welcome to My Nightmare'. Then one time I got a call and they said would you come and do a recording with Michael Jackson, called 'Thriller'. I said, "Sure, I'll do anything." So I went and did it, and I didn't think anything would happen with it, than it came out and sold 40 million copies! I didn't do it for the money, because I didn't have a percentage of it. It was just fun to do.
You know to be identified with the most popular record ever made is not just chopped liver! It has really done me a lot of good, because it has given me a new audience. "
As if Price didn't have enough to occupy himself during his career as an actor, he began another career as a TV chef, which ran for several series. He had a reputation as an outstanding cook and collector of recipes. He also found time to write a book , “Joe".
Towards the end of his life, he was struck with a great personal loss. His beloved third wife, Coral Browne, succumbed to breast cancer two days after Vincent Price's 80th birthday on May 29th, 1991. In the Autumn of that year a memorial service was held at London's Farmers Church, many of Coral Browne's friends from the Theater and Film attended. Price's own frail health made it impossible for him to be at the memorial in person. A letter written by Price was read out by director John Schlesinger --
When I was courting Coral, the first gift she gave me was a photo of herself simply signed, "Remember Coral" -- not really a challenge as the problem was, how could you forget her? I've come to believe remembering someone is not the highest compliment -- it is missing them. I find I miss every hour of Coral's life -- I miss her morning cloudiness, noon mellowness, evening brightness. I miss her in every corner of our house, every crevice of my life. In missing her, I feel I'm missing much of life itself. Over her long illness, as I held her hand or stroked her brow, or just lay still beside her, it was not the affectionate contact we'd known as we wandered down the glamorous paths we'd been privileged to share in our few years together; we were marching towards the end of our time and we both knew it. But, in our looks, our smiles, the private, few, soft-spoken word, there was hope of other places, other ways, perhaps, to meet again.
One fact of Coral I'll always miss, her many, many devoted friends -- many here, today, in this beautiful church, celebrating her life more than mourning her death, and missing the liveliness of her wit, her personal beauty, her outgoing self. I love them all for loving her. Many of you have shared more of her life than I have, but that very private and intense passion for her is mine alone.
She survived that last long year on the love of her friends, their caring and concern -- and very especially yours, dear John. I miss you all, and though we may not meet as often, nor in the great good company of my wife, you are in my memory locked.
All my love,
Coral Browne (July 23, 1913 - May 29, 1991) was a stage and screen actress, famous for her wit.
She was born Coral Edith Brown in Melbourne, Australia, where she began her stage career. At the age of twenty-one she emigrated to England, where she became established as a stage actress. She began film acting in 1936, with her more famous roles being Vera Charles in Auntie Mame (1958), Mercy Croft in The Killing of Sister George (1968), and Lady Claire Gurney in The Ruling Class (1972).
She married actor Philip Pearman in 1950; he died in 1964. While making the film Theatre of Blood (1973), she met actor Vincent Price, and they married on October 24, 1974. She also allegedly conducted affairs with Firth Shephard, Jack Buchanan, Maurice Chevalier, Michael Hordern, and costume designer Cecil Beaton, as well as affairs with women.
In 1969, Browne played in the original production of Joe Orton's controversial farce What the Butler Saw in the West End at the Queen's Theatre with Sir Ralph Richardson, Stanley Baxter, and Hayward Morse.
While touring the Soviet Union in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet in 1958, she met spy Guy Burgess. This meeting became the basis for the television movie An Englishman Abroad in which Browne played herself.
She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1987 as a gift to Price, in exchange for which he converted to Roman Catholicism as a gift to her (she had converted many years previously).
She died in Los Angeles, California of breast cancer at the age of 77.
She is the subject of a biography The Coral Browne Story by the actress Barbara Angell
* Alan Bennett gives the date of her meeting with Burgess as 1958 in the introduction to his Single Spies, which contains the text of An Englishman Abroad as a stage play and the text of A Question of Attribution about Anthony Blunt. Single Spies, London, Faber, 1989, ISBN 0-571-14105-6.
* The Coral Browne Story by Barbara Angell, ISBN 978 0 646 47322 2.
* Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography by Victoria Price, ISBN 0-312-26789-4.
* Who's Who, 1991, St. Martin's Press, 1991, p. 241.
* Variety, June 3, 1991, p. 69.