The day the glitter died

One of Vegas’s biggest spectacles will close next month. No, a Cirque du Soliel show is not going dark, and the Bellagio fountains will continue to dance. A lesser-known, yet no-less-glitzy landmark shutters on Oct. 17: the Liberace Museum. Financial concerns were cited as the culprit by Liberace Foundation president Jack A. Rappaport, when asked about the fate of the two clay-tiled buildings located a few miles off the Strip.

The next few weeks will be the public’s last chance to check out the flamboyant musician’s personal collection, including pianos coveted by Elton John, jewelry fit for a posse of hip-hoppers, a wardrobe that makes drag queens look plain and a car collection that provided grander entrances than Lady Gaga at a Yankee game. Everything that created the image of “Mr. Showmanship” is here.

Wisconsin native Walter Valentino Liberace sold 60 million records and was once the highest-paid entertainer in the world; yet many under the age of 40 offer a blank stare at the mention of his name, which would account for the museum’s dwindling crowds. (It once drew as many as 450,000 visitors a year, as many as Hoover Dam. The board says the number is now 50,000.) The showman himself opened the museum in 1979 to share his love of razzle-dazzle and to promote the profile of his foundation, formed three years earlier to foster new talent in the creative arts. His legacy will live on in the Liberace Foundation, which has granted over $6 million in scholarships for over 2,700 students. The collection’s future, however, is less clear. There is talk of items such as a pink cape made from turkey feathers and a rhinestone-encrusted Roadster going on a tour, rumblings of it re-opening elsewhere and rumors of the Strip’s performers coming together for a farewell gala. 


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