Gay “Pride” Month and Behind the Candelabra
This month of June will be filled with international global events celebrating gay “pride.”
In New York City, the site of the June 1969 riot at the Stonewall Inn, the Gay Pride march occurs the last Sunday in June, to occur the same day as San Francisco’s Gay Pride March, signifying a bi-coastal commemoration of the history of the lgbt struggle for civil rights and in what cities these major struggles were organized, fought for and won.
As a pre-Stonewall teenager I watched the popular celebrity television “Nance” style performers, followed weekly by American audiences on our small black and white televisions.
The vaudeville era of “nance” performers was long gone but their television counterparts were prime time entertainment.
In the 1950’s Liberace, began his piano playing with this trademark candelabra, successfully entertaining us in our living rooms for over seventeen years, as if he was family. Liberace exuded enormous, appealing happiness, with his flamboyant “Let me entertain you” weekly performances.
Those were the days of television entertainment taking us away from the threat of nuclear war, and opening our eyes to the reality of racial discrimination.
I was learning first hand about the stigma and discrimination of being lesbian. Years later, long after Liberace’s death, I became an activist in the streets of my hometown, as an “out” adult lesbian, working in Connecticut to pass our “gay” rights bill.
Back to our current times, it was a surprise, that across America of the post Stonewall era, the entire cable nation was witness to the largest watched HBO movie, “Behind the Candelabra” documenting the life and largess of Liberace, who we learn, targeted under age, under parented teen age boys, for his personal lifestyle indulgences and improper manner of “taking care” of them, all while promoting the lie of his lifestyle, even towards the end of his life, with a purposely misleading story in the publication of his “life.”
Instead of pride, there should have been a public outcry that this privileged personality used his celebrity, much in the same manner as Michael Jackson, to promote predator protected behaviors, by well paid staff, well aware of Liberace, the “generous benefactor” of young boys just arriving at their legal ages of adulthood.
What pride can we take in this? None. And, certainly none given the response to the HBO event and public discussion afterwards.
While ordinary citizens were fighting for civil rights for all lbgt people Liberace was living the “torment” of being an openly gay man, openly exploiting teenagers, frequenting sex clubs, and being serviced by cute men in tight shorts, having succeeded in court in a lawsuit against the “lie” of his sexual orientation.
Every community has its heroes and its privileged members exploiting the conditions and circumstances of their times.
Liberace was a talented, gifted piano player. His legacy can take pride in his contribution to the entertainment industry. No one can take “pride” in promoting a television event that thought his life was worthy of anything more.