UPDATE: Liberace’s Las Vegas home was just relisted on June 20! Read on for more information on Liberace’s other homes…
Liberace – the King of Showmanship – had a flair for the extravagant, which extended to his many opulent homes. On May 26 viewers had a chance to see those homes recreated in all their glory in HBO’s new movie, “Behind the Candelabra,” directed by Steven Soderbergh. The movie is based on the memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace, written by Liberace’s lover, Scott Thorson.
Early scenes of the film were shot at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house, which she has been trying to sell since June 2011. You can see a glimpse of the home’s exterior – and its unique copper roof – in the trailer. Zsa Zsa was present at the home while the crew was filming; she is currently confined to a bed in a separate wing of the mansion. She and her husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, have been renting the home to movie studios to pay for her medical costs. In addition to “Behind the Candelabra,” the home appeared in the 2012 award-winning hit “Argo.”
On May 20 a sale was pending on Gabor’s home, and later that day it was delisted from the MLS, so it looks like she may have finally found a buyer. The new owner will have to deal with one unique stipulation; according to the Huffington Post, a Los Angeles judge ruled that Gabor and her husband can remain in their Bel Air house until the actress dies, or for three more years. A potential buyer must oblige to this “deferred transaction” in addition to paying the couple $325,000 a year.
Gabor’s Bel Air manse was the perfect set for the movie; its Old Hollywood style resembles Liberace’s homes in Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which all resembled European castles – well, at least on the inside. He was known for purchasing lower-end houses and bedazzling the interior (pro tip: that’s not a good investment). One of his favorite hobbies was to collect art pieces and furniture for his homes, so each one had a distinct Liberace style.
Read on for more information on his fabulous – and no longer fabulous – abodes. Some have been beautifully preserved, while others have fallen to ruin. Like Liberace, each has a unique story…
Liberace purchased this home in 1966, and it was where he passed away in 1987. Rumor has it that Liberace decorated each of the bedrooms with a theme, including a Valentino Room with a sleigh bed, and a “Persian tent room” off to the side of the pool. When Liberace died, most of his furniture and belongings went to museums, so unfortunately we can’t see the home in its original splendor. However, a few years after his death the Liberace Foundation sold the home to Stefan Hemming, a San Francisco real estate investor, who refurnished the home in Liberace’s style. The listing photos reveal a master bedroom fit for a king, a large dining room with a commanding crystal chandelier and walls adorned with custom paintings, including one of Liberace himself.
You can see Liberace’s influence throughout this home, from the plaque on the driveway that reads “Piazza de Liberace,” to the street sign in the entrance that says “Liberace Lane,” to the musical notes along the fence. Even the mailbox is shaped like a grand piano – sans candelabra. Liberace lived here from 1968 to 1971. The home’s current owners, Elizabeth Smalley and Garth Gilpin, bought the home in May 2010 for $625,000. The couple told Palm Springs Life that the prior owner was a fan of Liberace and Elvis Presley, and the interior was perhaps even more decadent and colorful than when Liberace lived there. “There were painted cherubs on the ceiling, a room that was Dalmatian and cow print, fake flowers, red velvet, gold, with Elvis and Liberace everywhere,” Smalley said. The listing photos are proof; you can see the cow print, red velvet and abundant fake foliage throughout the house. Smalley and Gilpin have since updated and restored the home, returning the gold-plated faucets to their original splendor.
Liberace bought this Las Vegas estate in the 1960s, and owned it until his death in 1987. Unfortunately JP Morgan Chase owns it now; it went into foreclosure in 2010 and hasn’t been sold since. According to Inside Edition, “the walls are stained, and the once beautiful landscaping is now just dirt…Wallpaper is crumbling, and wiring is exposed.” Terrance Dzvonick, a real estate investor, bought it in 2006 for $3.7 million, when it was being used as a banquet venue. However, when neighbors complained of noise and traffic due to events held at the home, the county zoning board denied Dzvonick’s license to operate. He told AOL News that without an operable business, it was impossible to make the more than $20,000-a-month mortgage payment.
Unfortunately there are no listing photos available on the MLS, but AOL News reports that there are a few hints at the former owner. There’s a portrait of Liberace above the Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, marble pillars and crystal sconces adorn the home, and there’s a mural worth $1.5 million dollars above the master bedroom. Liberace claimed the mural was painted by a descendent of Michelangelo, though the truth to that has not been confirmed. [UPDATE 6/25/13: Photos are now available on the MLS, be sure to check them out!]
Los Angeles Area
Liberace lived in this home from 1961 to 1979. The gigantic estate has 30 bedrooms, seven dining rooms, 17 pianos, and a hand-painted toilet. In 1975 Liberace attempted to turn it into a museum, with proceeds from ticket sales benefitting his non-profit foundation. He told The Daily Record, “I’ll pop in once in awhile to surprise the tourists. And I’ll continue to give parties here after hours, I think people are interested in how celebrities live and decorate their homes.” He was right! Within one month the museum had 17,000 reservations. Unfortunately soon after, the neighbors complained about noise and traffic from tourists, and the museum was shut down.
The most famous feature of this home is the piano-shaped swimming pool, with black and white keys embossed on the concrete. Liberace lived here from 1953 to about 1957, when the lack of security caused him to spend more time at his other estates. His mother and brother lived in the home while he was away, and unfortunately in 1957 his mother was attacked by two men in black hoods in the home’s garage. Many believed the attack was related to Liberace’s lawsuit against Confidential magazine, which had run an article alleging his homosexuality. He sold the home in the 60s, and it remains a tourist destination to this day. But Liberace isn’t the only famous person to own it; Ryan Stiles, from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” purchased the home in 1997 for $525,000, and sold it in 2004 for $1,210,000.
Liberace owned two adjacent co-ops at this location, on the famed Pacific Coast Highway. The building has since been converted into six condo units. According to the L.A. Times, this home featured a piano-shaped bar, piano-shaped couch, bath towels and ice bucket with keyboard designs, drinking glasses with swizzle sticks in the shape of musical notes, and his trademark: a black baby grand piano with candelabra on top. According to Bob’s Liberace, Liberace held his last Christmas party for family and friends at this estate. Liberace’s long-time publicist, Jamie James, said Liberace thought about Christmas all year long. James told the Las Vegas Sun, “He had seven homes at one point and decorated each one in a certain style…The Malibu mansion had black Christmas trees adorned in silver.”
Liberace also owned a 25,000-square-foot office building with a 5,000-square-foot residential penthouse, located at 7461 Beverly Blvd. The penthouse has been used for award show after-parties. He also owned a mansion in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where he kept many of his dogs (he owned 27 of them at one point).