204 of 215 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2012
The book is closer to the truth than one might think. I first met Scott and Liberace through one of my dearest friends, Ray Arnett, who produced and directed the Liberace Show for 30 years. He said he always felt sorry for Scott and that he (Scott) was treated very badly by Liberace, who had foolish and unrealistic expectations of a young, well spoken, handsome boy less than half his age.
The book is specifically NOT about the Liberace Show, nor does it pretend to be great literature. It tells honestly, the story of how a 10 year relationship between a closeted super-star and a teenaged dog-sitter came to be, how it survived and how it finally devolved amidst a backdrop of the glitz & whirl of the '80s and a society decimated by a poorly understood disease called AIDS. It would be a common and uninteresting tale had it not involved two men, a great deal of money, mob connections and, by the standards of Europe and Canada today, constituted a 10 year marriage.
The movie (of the same name) is shooting right now and is due to be released in 2013. It stars Matt Damon as Scott and Michael Douglas as Liberace. If it sticks to the book as intended, it will be both a conscientious statement on gay marriage rights in the US as well as an entertaining event.
I paid $14.00 for the hard cover and it is signed by the author.Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace
111 of 119 people found the following review helpful
This book is a great read--full of dish and gossip. Yet it provides readers with a view of Liberace's personal life as seen through the eyes of former lover Scott Thorson, only 18 years old when he met the famous entertainer. Liberace went to outrageous lengths to protect his public image as that of a confirmed heterosexual bachelor entertainer, yet ironically Thorson and the gay community watching one of Lee's Vegas shows knew the truth right off the bat. I believe Thorson's book is the first one that spoke of Lee's lifestyle, dispelling all the carefully constructed myths by Lee's PR people and by the entertainer himself. Thorson writes about how Liberace's circle of friends and employees always jostled for position with the entertainer; how these cronies resented Scott's position with the famous star. You can see that Thorson developed a great affection and love for Liberace; however, Liberace, ever the Svengali, goes to extremes to remake Scott in his own image with fancy clothes, jewelry, and plastic surgery, which proves to be Thorson's undoing. A life of excitement, mega-shopping sprees, expensive gifts and largesse, turns into one of isolation, betrayal and drug addiction. Thorson was responsible for exposing Lee's true lifestyle to the public and was entangled in a 4-year lawsuit which he settled, upon learning that Lee had HIV. It would be easy to look upon this book as a celebrity trashing by a bitter lover, but fortunately Thorson never stoops that low. He still maintains great affection for Lee, even when he details the bitterness and battles of their relationship.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2013
Format: Perfect PaperbackVerified Purchase
Right off, please be aware there are no pictures in this book with the exception of the one on the front cover which I found disappointing. I assume considering his relationship with the family at the time he could not obtain permission to print any. I found this disappointing that is why I gave it a 4 instead of a 5.
I have been a big fan of Liberace since evenings when my family would sit and watch his show in the late 50's on our old black and white TV. Was priviliged to see him at the Seattle Opera House in the early 70's and was still awed by the man. I have read Bob Thomas' "Liberace: The True Story" and found it to be a good companion to Scott Thorson's book, however I found this book to be a touching memoir of the relationship between these two men who I, without a doubt felt a great deal of love, devotion and affection for each other. Although this book may be what some rock solid Liberace fans may not want to read, I believe Mr. Thorson has written a very honest account of his life with Liberace. I did not find any hostility or revenge motive in this book whatsoever in fact, I found it written with compansion and love.
I recommend this book as a definate read. It does differ in some areas from Mr. Thomas book as it relates stories told by Liberace to Scott about life experiences in his life that were not the ones Liberace wanted the public to hear about. Liberace wrote his own book which was not always truthful because he worked so hard to hide his homosexuality which, unfortunately other biographers and filmakers have relied upon in their own narratives.
I find this book totally believable, however the one discrepency I found was his version of how Bugsy Siegel was murdered. The true story is well documented so I'm not sure where he got his version....maybe from Liberace himself.
47 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I have been a life long fan of Liberace. My mom and grandmother loved him, so we always watched him when he was on television. Liberace was one of the first shows I ever saw in Las Vegas. Having met Liberace personally while on a trip to Las Vegas, I can honestly say he was very nice, but come on....you'd have to be blind to not know he was gay. I read this book about 23 years ago. With the Michael Douglas movie coming out, I decided I wanted to read it again, so I am getting it either for my Kindle or Audible. I do believe most of what is in this book. You have to look at the time... the early 1980's...All of his peers knew, at that time an entertainer did not come out as gay...most of his fans were older women, it would have been career suicide. No one really knew what Aids was or how you got it. I'm sure if everyone knew back then about Aids, and how it was spread and how to prevent it Liberace would have lived and been performing up into his 80's. There was another movie about Scott and Liberace that had Victor Garber portraying Lee. The end of that movie almost had me in tears when he was taking the hairpiece off at the end. When I met Liberace, I could see what Scott saw in him...he had a way of making you feel special. When you're 18, you just want to fit in and be accepted, so I can see how a young guy could make Lee their life and lose themselves. Read this book, you won't be disappointed. Liberace was a true performer...just seeing him perform, you knew why he was the highest paid entertainer in the world. He made a brand of himself...the Piano...the restaurant, the museum....sadly the museum and the restaurant and Lee are only memories, but his legacy will live on.
60 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2013
Not a lot of heavy lifting in a literary vein, but a good story. The book is not written by Scott, Liberace's young lover, but by Alex Thorleifson (female), free-lance writer and released in 1988, a year after Liberace's death. Scott honestly claims, on the last page, that he's publishing the book for the money. He was, after all, shortchanged in his 113 million palimony suit against Liberace: hopefully this made up for it.
Behind the Candelabra is the story of Scott Thorson's homeless, loveless and traumatic beginnings; abandoned by his father, picked up and put down by a mentally-ill mother and shuffled from one foster home to another. As a blonde, blue-eyed, handsome, 6'2" seventeen year-old, he is awestruck with the glitz of Vegas and flattered, during a back-stage meeting, by the attention of its biggest star, fifty-eight year-old Liberace. With very little balance in his life experience, Scott has come to define his sexual preference as gay. Liberace, who died of AIDS, pursues Scott with the passion he imbued in his performing career: no limits! Wanting to sculpt the young man in his image and likeness, Liberace insists upon plastic surgery and dieting for Scott, which comes with a cocktail of drugs that leads to his dependence on cocaine. Neither is there any limit to Lib's cold cut off when he unceremoniously dumps Scott and replaces him with another eighteen year-old (when Liberace is sixty-two).
The effort of this book is good and the subject of interest gives us a glimpse into the real world of the $150,000 a week super-star, but there is a veneer of name dropping and political correctness here with so many clichés that it doesn't ring in Scott's words.
No doubt Scott needed a father. He found an accomplished, eccentric, solipsistic, very rich sugar daddy, godfather and grandfather; but not a father, for a father would have given him direction and paved his way to a positive future.
What can one do but wish Scott the best of luck?
38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
"Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace" is the involving book written by Scott Thorson who was at first Lberace's driver then ultimate lover. Few in the 1980's will ever forget the scandal that erupted when Scott filed suit against Liberace for wrongfully firing him in 1982. That suit finally brought public attention to Liberace's true sexuality, something Liberace tried hard to hide for most of his life either because he was ashamed of who he was or he didn't want the public to turn on him.
The book is a well-written story of how Liberace met in 1977, their eventual relationship and how Scott was thrown out of Liberace's life not just by the legendary singer, but those miscreants who worked for him.
Scott writes the book with fondess of the star, yet truthfully tells the true story of what happened between them both and how leaving Lee (as Liberace was called) probably saved Scott's life as Liberace died from AIDS in 1987.
In 2013 HBO will air an amazing movie with the same title as this book starring Oscar winners Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson that has already started people talking.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
...as is my habit with movies taken from books. However, the movie came on HBO one night in the fall when I couldn't find anything else on, so I thought, "I'll just watch a few minutes." Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, along with a strong, talented cast who understood the story they were telling very well, pulled me in and my fascination kept me glued until the end. Unfortunately, the basic story was old and tired except for the obvious change of older male to younger male homosexuals as opposed to the typical heterosexual May-December version. The homosexuality is not what bothered me, however. Troubling were the subtexts of Liberace attempting to maintain his narcissistic view of himself as The One Upon Whom God bestowed talent (especially involving his illness regarding the dry cleaning fluids in November 1963 which very nearly caused his death), and more troubling was the fact that his homosexuality was simply a minor detail in regard to his self-defined theological knighthood of his talent because God bestowed special favor on Liberace himself - and after all according to the Catholic catechism doesn't talent and wealth trump obedience?) After being able to peek through the one-sided mirror of hypocrisy, it was apparent that the only people allowed to see who he really was Behind The Candelabra were the young, sexy men who truly understood the real reason for his famous wink and smile. He needed to grow his narcissistic self love, and he drew Scott Thorson in to perpetuate it. Why was this unfortunate for Scott? Because of his rootless background and naive youth he was the perfect target for Liberace. After all, it wasn't like 16-year-old Scott's parents were going to come to Las Vegas and bang Liberace's gate down to save their underage child from the clutches of a modern-day bloodless vampire, who slept all day, was up all night plying his trade and working the hordes of young, adoring gay fans from which to choose his next quarry. He used his charisma and ostentatious wealth as bait, and then pulled the rug out from the used-up quarry when he was bored with and tired of his companion...whether said companion caused bad publicity or wouldn't do exactly what he was told, when he was told to do it.
Not that Thorson is blameless in this romance-turned-tragedy. His naiveté quickly evolves into a self-serving understanding of how valuable his desired assets became in getting what he wanted from the much older Liberace, who played against type by showing how much he wanted and needed Scott - who later became what all of Lee's previous companions became by not being smart enough to recognize what caused the previous companions to lose their place in the sun...becoming a spoiled brat. The tantrums, substance abuse, and failure to allow the relationship with Lee evolve into what Lee really wanted, which was to be spoiled himself. The old belief that "If you want to know how someone wants to be treated, pay attention to how they treat you" was an unspoken need of Lee's, yet he ensured that he would never have this need fulfilled by choosing young, selfish, and ultimately spoiled companions who were obsessed with getting what they wanted rather than giving Lee what he wanted for himself. The whole story, when viewed from both perspectives, was doomed for failure no matter what Lee or Scott did to try to save it. A tragi-comedy-drama that ends with the premature death of the Svengali, the failure of the quarry-target to grow up past the age of his emotional attachment to said Svengali, and the predictable entanglement with drugs, criminals, murder, hiding out in Witness Protection but being stupid enough to stick his head up whack-a-mole style and getting whacked, chronic pain from gunshot wounds near the spine, anal cancer, and yet not being smart enough to realize that had he gotten AIDS from Lee that his chance at a good life would be over. Does Thorson have a death wish? It would seem so. He would be smart to start making his life count for something more than, "I was Liberace's boyfriend in the 70's and 80's" because most people now under age 35 don't even know who Liberace is, or was. Scott's bisexuality, homosexuality, etc., is not as shocking now as it was back in the day with Liberace, so he should take the advice of people who tell him to clean up his act, live a clean and circumspect life no matter whom he is sleeping with, and for heaven's sake, grow up!! Does Thorson believe that he is the only person on planet Earth who has been betrayed by a lover? Get over it and find a purpose besides crying "Liberace loved me and left me" because not only is it too common, but Scott is now demonstrating the most disturbing aspect of any personality disorder common to Lee's former companions...narcissism.
Why did I say that I should have read the book first? Because the movie downplays Thorson's first-person narrative, and hence his responsibility for where his life ended up, and the reader is subjected to Thorson's limited perspective of life and love. In spite of his narrow view in which he provides the feeling that is taken away from the book, this reader has the overwhelming need to take a shower after reading the final page. Michael Douglas more than earned the Emmy Award for his portrayal of the too-wealthy-for-his-own-good Liberace. Matt Damon moved up in the Top 5 favorite actors on my list for his portrayal of the flawed and rags-to-riches-to-rags Scott Thorson. Damon's portrayal of Thorson was quite sympathetic to say the least, but my gratitude extends to him and Douglas both for keeping the viewer interested and tuned in, not just feeling dirty and needing a shower. Watch the movie, read the book, but understand going in that we all have a relative, a crazy uncle or cousin, who is just like Thorson. Whatever you do, don't believe his stories, and don't lend him money.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2013
Format: Perfect Paperback
I'm listening to the audio edition of this book, which is quite good, and am thoroughly enjoying it, but find myself asking how much of this is really true. Scott admits that Liberace frequently exaggerated or invented things out of whole cloth, yet much of what Scott reports about Liberace's life before him must have come from Liberace. And there are several points at which Scott's description of the "facts" differs from historical fact in readily verifiable ways. This makes me ask myself, if Scott failed to concern himself with the accuracy of facts that can be verified, how much effort did he put into accurately reporting things that the reader couldn't verify?
For example, Scott talks about the downfall of Oscar Wilde, but doesn't seem to be aware that the real reason Wilde was prosecuted for being a homosexual was not because he had an affair with the son of an aristocrat, but because he sued that aristocrat for libel when the aristocrat accused him of being a homosexual. During the course of the trial, inasmuch as truth is a defense to a charge of libel, the truth came out. Wilde ended up dropping the lawsuit and later being prosecuted for homosexuality.
With regard to Bugsy Segal, Scott reports (presumably based on a story told by Liberace) that he had offered Liberace a ride home from Vegas and that it was lucky that Liberace had not accepted the ride because Segal was killed by the mob during his drive home and that Liberace would have been shot if he had been with him. According to my research, Segal was shot and killed at his home, not in a car driving home from Vegas.
Later in the book, he bemoans the fact that Liberace had no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Perhaps I misunderstood what he was trying to say and that he meant that Liberace had no star on the walk of fame for ACTING, but it didn't sound that way to me in that portion of the book. I researched it and Liberace actually has TWO stars on the walk of fame -- one for music and one for television.
So, again, this is a fun read, but I'm worried that it may be more a work of fiction or imagination than of fact. With that caveat in mind, I still recommend it, as long as you take it's recitation of the "facts" with a grain of salt.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Having seen the movie recently I decided to revisit Scott's account of his life before, during, and after Liberace. It is heartbreakingly sweet how he fits into Lee's life, creating a real loving partnership. But most sadly, although Liberace was generous and happy, his selfishness led to Scott's addictions and the end of a real relationship. Scott's obvious hero worship of Lee kept him from growing as a person. He had no real self identity. Lee was a self gratifying mess and made so many promises to this young man he had no intention of keeping. All the show business aside, Scott's life is very similar to women who marry into wealth and find themselves dismissed with no way to support themselves and really, no identity beyond being "the former wife of". Scott's story is a classic cautionary tale in that regard. I'm also reminded of the "Real Housewives" reality shows where the plastic surgery is rampant (and so obvious and poorly done) in a quest to stay that "pretty young thing" the husband married. It is Scott's early life of dependency on others after his mother was unable to care for him that led him where he is today. He's in a place where a fractured childhood, an older lover and finally drugs brought him and left him. So sad.
The book opens with an excellent section on gay celebrity and the advent of the AIDS virus. Young people today need to read this book to have a first hand look at both the gay lifestyle in the 1970s and how a generation of young men died mostly due to their forced secret lives. The "shame" of being gay was the weapon of mass destruction.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2013
Format: Unknown Binding
This will be filed as one of the most bizarre and impulsive reads I've embarked on this year. I was inspired to read this memoir after reading an article in last week's "Entertainment Weekly" about the upcoming HBO movie on Liberace's life and lover starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglass. I was so intrigued that I went out and got the book, even hough I know little to nothing about the legacy of "Mr. Showmanship." This book told me everything I ever wanted (and didn't want) to know about the private and hidden life of one of the world's most notorious and high paid performers.
This memoir was written by Liberace's ex-lover, Scott Thorson, several years after Liberace died of AIDs. In Liberace's lifetime he vigorously denied he was gay, even up until his final moments, Scott Thorson howver, tells a different tale, the real nature of Liberace's life.
Scott was eighteen when he was wooed and seduced by Mr. Showmanship, a man forty years his senior. They had a love/ hate relationship and within five years this poor foster kid was living a more opulent lifestyle then he could ever imagine. Fur coats, priceless jewels, multiple cars, hanging with celebrities. It's every kid's dream. That dream however, turned into a nightmare when Scott underwent plastic surgery to have his face resemble Liberaces (clearly Liberace was a vain man, who makes their lover undergo surgery to look more like themselves?!?!) and as a result became addicted to drugs. The nightmare came to a close when Liberace cheated on him and then kicked him to the curb.
This tell all tale is morbidly fascinating and I can't wait to see the HBO version. Read it, you won't be disappointed!