Wednesday 5 June 2013

Liberace on 'Desert Island Discs'.

In the wake of the film 'Behind the Candelabra' which opens in cinemas here on Friday, and which I plan to see next Tuesday, I don't know why I hadn't thought of this until now.

The BBC has got available on one of its websites over 1,500 past editions of its radio programme 'Desert Island Discs' - and I've just searched out the one in which the subject was Liberace, which was broadcast on 23rd May 1960, when he'd have been approaching the age of 49, and four years after he'd won the then considerable sum of £26,000 in damages against the British reporter William Connor (under his nom-de-plume 'Cassandra'), for daring to suggest in a national newspaper (in a 'read-between-the lines' kind of way), that he, Liberace, was a homosexual.
     Given the date of broadcast of this 30 minute programme, the subject is treated quite formally and deferentially by today's standards - and nothing is said of the court case or his relationships. (Roy Plomley, the programme's innovator and regular presenter until he died in the late1980s, addresses him as "Mister Liberace.")

    There were several postings made last year by myself and by a few other bloggers expounding on the idea behind the 'Desert Island Discs' radio programme, which has been running since 1940s, in which a celebrity (of any renown at all - actors, show business, sport, science, writing etc -  including a large number of Americans), is asked to nominate which eight gramophone records s/he would take with him/her to a desert island on the assumption that these would be the only music (or speech) which would be heard for the remainder of that person's life. (Choices are to be of single tracks i.e. no more than three or four minutes long - the original idea being that each would occupy no more than the space of an old-style 78 r.p.m. record on a wind-up gramophone - so no complete musicals, operas, oratorios, large works etc)
In addition the subject is allowed to take one luxury (of no practical use in enabling survival) plus one book apart from the Bible (or some other 'spiritual' text appropriate to the castaway's beliefs, if any) and a complete Shakespeare, which are already on the island awaiting the subject's arrival. (If you don't want them you just don't read them!)

I fear that the programme may not be available to those outside the U.K. but here's the site just in case:-

Anyone within these shores wanting to listen should have no problem in connecting.

If you are interested but can't connect to the site I'll do another blog revealing Liberace's choice of eight discs as well as some things he said in the interview, which actually wasn't very deep. He didn't give much away.

Btw: Now that the 'Candelabra's' trailer is being shown in cinemas I can already see that Michael Douglas, however praiseworthy his performance, doesn't quite seem to capture the sheer 'smarminess' which exuded from the guy. I ought to add that, personally, the presence of Liberace on the TV screen never repulsed me as he might possibly have done to others. There was always an intrinsic fascination about him in everything he did or in anticipation of what he'd say. There's no denying, he was a class act - impossible to follow. 


  1. hi honey!

    spouse saw this film on HBO cable TV 2 weeks ago and LOVED IT! it's true that douglas is NOT liberace (as if anyone else could EVER be). spouse says liberace came across as a bit ruthless, tormented soul.

    enjoy the film! smooches!

    1. Greatly looking forward to it, A.M. Although some have hailed Michael Douglas as being 'courageous' in taking the part (and I don't deny he deserves some credit for doing just that) I wonder if a part of it was to re-vivify a stalling career. But I'm still glad that someone did it, and after his recent painful health troubles I don't in the least mind if Douglas does get a boost from this which, in anyone's books, should be regarded as a quite 'significant' film.

      Yes, the real Liberace must have had difficulty in permanently wearing that mask to the world, so it would be surprising if he was in actuality anything like warm, cuddly, fun-loving persona he portrayed. Ruthless (and bitchy as hell!) I would expect him to have been.

  2. I always found the real character, rather unsavoury
    Mind you I hate jewellery on men......perhaps it was that

    1. J.G., I dare say I'd feel the same way if such a character was operating so flamboyantly today while simultaneously suffocating in the closet. (Thank goodness it doesn't happen any more, right?) L had such power and influence back then that nobody would have dared to have crossed him.
      But those were innocent times - at least publicly. Certainly I don't ever recall wondering about his private life. Apart from all gay activity anywhere in any circumstances being totally illegal it was not only never mentioned but never even thought about, at least by me - even though I'd have long been aware of my own sexuality when I first saw him on T.V. I think we of an older generation recall L as part of an 'innocent wonderment' which was to collapse completely during the 1960s, never to return.
      Was he 'unsavoury' in real life? I bet he was!

      I too dislike seeing men wearing jewellery. I did used to sport a gold neck-chain (only when abroad) for a few years in the 80s, when it was 'fashionable', but that was my only foray in that direction. Otherwise never worn any rings or ear-studs etc - or any metal rings etc 'lower down' (You'll know what I mean). And while we're talking about bodily adornments, no tattoos either.

      I also don't care to see make-up - I mean on women as well as men. But that's getting into controversial territory, perhaps a subject for a future blog.

  3. I'd seen "Behind the Candelabra" on HBO and had been waiting to see it from the first post-production notices. I'm just listening now to Desert Island Discs (I listen to anything I can find on BBC from here in Canada). I'm enjoying the selections, but I can't help but notice that the tone that Roy Plomley is taking is a little condescending. Does anyone else notice this?

    1. Hi, N.R.
      I've been listening to 'Desert Island Discs' since the early 1960s - and have heard all but a few since then, the very few exceptions being when the subject was one I just couldn't stand enough to make me want to listen - or I was on holiday abroad.
      As for Mr Plomley, he was very much of the 'old school' radio presenters, urbane and well-spoken, and with hindsight a little on the pro-establishment side, but nevertheless quite a warm person retaining an equanimity in temperament. I wouldn't have thought he'd ever have been considered as condescending to anyone but I dare say it might now come over as reflecting the mores of the period. I suppose I ought to re-listen to the Liberace programme but I can't imagine him as being that way towards any of his guests at all. However, as i say, it could be that you have a point.

    2. Oops, I've just seen above that I DID listen to the programme again. Well there you are! Senility approaches!