Jon de Vos: Was that a rhinestone Rolls Royce?
June 3, 2010
We drove into Las Vegas at dark, a great time to see all 6,000 megawatts in action. We passed under the Statue of Liberty on our way to check into New York, New York, Casino and Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. The 2,000 room hotel is a one-third scale replica of the Manhattan skyline.
Our room was on the 42nd floor of the Chrysler Building. Our window looked directly out at a giant roller coaster monorail that wrapped like a tentacle around the outside of the building. They even re-created the rattle and roar of living under the elevated portion of the New York subway, as cars full of bilious drunks careened past our window every few minutes. Great soundproofing. We couldn’t hear their screams but the looks of terror on their faces told us that, at least on the 42nd floor, it was better to be inside the building.
Downstairs, in the casino, Greenwich Village has been reproduced right down to the graffiti on the trash containers and mailboxes. Ethnic restaurants abound and the casino action has been carefully woven throughout a forest of Central Park muggers. After 20 minutes of walking around, I got this urge to be rude to people for no reason at all.
Did I mention that Las Vegas has a lot of lights? If I got the decimal points right, their daily power consumption would light up all of Grand County for about 25 days. But we didn’t come to gawk, to gambol, or to gamble, but what we did come for was the Liberace Museum.
Wladziu Valentino Liberace went from a child prodigy at 4 years old in 1923, to the highest paid musician in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. In every picture on display of Liberace, he’s sporting an ears-wide grin. The museum gives insight to this genius of showmanship that will convince you that here was a man who thoroughly enjoyed his life and everything he did. Liberace gave substance to the term “flamboyant” with his world famous, red, white, and blue hot pants suit.
Who could be unhappy driving around early Las Vegas in a 1934 Mercedes Excalibur convertible covered in Austrian rhinestones, wealthier than most African nations, and performing before adoring audiences wearing stage costumes that cost upwards of a million dollars? He also owned two Rolls Royce convertibles, one painted in a red, white, and blue, stars and stripes motif, and the other clad entirely in mirror tiles, etched with a custom design of galloping horses.
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Liberace’s television show premiered 1952. Two years later it was carried on 220 U.S. stations and in 20 foreign countries. In 1953, he played to a capacity crowd at Carnegie Hall, broke attendance records at Madison Square Garden, packed an over-capacity crowd of 20,000 into the Hollywood Bowl, and played before an incredible audience of 110,000 at Chicago’s Soldiers Field. It never stopped.
Thirty years later he was still on top. His Radio City Music Hall concert in 1984 drew more than 80,000 people in a standing-room-only crowd that broke all sales and attendance records in the 51-year history New York’s fabled Art Deco palace.
The museum houses much of his jewelry including his trademark candelabra ring with platinum candlesticks and diamond flames. Also on display: a dazzling white and yellow gold piano-shaped ring, complete with 260 individually set diamonds, as well as a piano-shaped wristwatch dripping with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds.
If you happen to be near, stop by my office and I’ll show you my Liberace Museum souvenir travel mug.