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When Liberace sued for being ‘outed’ as gay UK News

I rarely dine out these days and especially after the last two years of health issues. Then, by chance, I was invited to two lunches in a row last week and if someone else pays, who am I to deprive them of my company?

Went with two old friends for the first time since the 1960s in the past visiting Wimpy’s cafe on the high street of Borehamwood, which seems to have become the restaurant capital of Hertfordshire. It was a pleasant and rare experience these days as apparently there are only 66 Wimpy cafes left in the UK. The brand came from America in the 1950s and it was our first taste of burgers back then.

My other nostalgic visit was to Three Horseshoes, which has just reopened as both a bar but with an excellent restaurant. It is set in the sleepy village of Letchmore Heath, which gained cinematic immortality as the location of the 1960 cult classic Village Of The Damned, starring George Sanders and Barbara Shelley.

Read more: The village that hasn’t changed at all since it was the Village of the Damned

Enough of my food outings and this week I’m focusing on this famous showman Liberace, who was hugely successful from the 1950s to the 1980s.

It may come as a big surprise, but he was actually gay, not that you could guess from his flamboyant costumes and act. Now, very sadly, being a big showbiz star and being gay was not a recipe for success back then. I suspect that famous football players unfortunately have the same problem even today.

In the 1950s, a famous columnist for a successful British newspaper “unmasked” Liberace, but knowing it could ruin his career, he sued the paper for libel. Amazingly, he won the case and got damages, but in the process he committed perjury, which is a serious offense. He risked coming to Borehamwood in 1969 to star in nine episodes of The Liberace Show for ATV which is now the BBC Elstree Center with guest stars such as Jack Benny, Terry Thomas, Dusty Springfield and Cliff Richard. He returned to the same studio a decade later for a few days as a guest on The Muppet Show.

Surprisingly, no legal action was taken against him and the media was not nearly as ruthless as it is today. Liberace went on to have a great career and had a large female fanbase. He fell ill in the 1980s and rumors abounded about the cause of his death. To protect his legacy, he was said to have died of a heart attack, but the local health authority refused to accept the death certificate and intercepted his body on the way to burial and an autopsy was conducted. proven to have died of complications from AIDS. It is equally sad that such a disease was then considered a stigma even after death.

I think Liberace was a great pianist and certainly a top class showman, but I doubt the media would have been so kind to him today in their search for the celebrity truth. Personally, this can be a double-edged sword, so if you’re looking for glory, remember to always be careful what you wish for. Meanwhile, I need to burn my wimpy calories, but again tomorrow is another day.

Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree studios

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This notice was published: 2022-04-17 16:22:10

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