Behind the Candelabra, a biopic that some are calling a touching homage to the flamboyant pianist, Liberace, will air on HBO tonight, offering a complex portrait of the iconic figure.
Liberace became famous for dazzling audiences during the ’50s and performed through the ’80s, his opulent image replete with rhinestones, capes, and stages full of sparkling candelabra. At the same time, his hidden homosexuality co-existed with this image of joyful “gayness” that the public was able to enjoy, yet deny. Director Steven Soderbergh delves deeply into the character of Wladziu Liberace — whose name perfectly captures his background of Italian and Polish decent. His larger-than life figure is brought to life by legendary actor Michael Douglas in the title role.
There is considerable buzz about this film. Based on the memoirs of Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon), his longtime partner, it promises to explore Liberace’s penchant for excess, determination to remain closeted, and the freedom of a world before AIDS, which would eventually take his life.
But these themes are likely only part of the appeal of Behind the Candelabra. The public loves flamboyant men in music, whose sense of drama and outrageous sense of style keeps audiences delighted. Sometimes it’s the fellas with the fiercest frocks that best know how to rock. Just like Liberace, these multi-talented instrumentalists and vocalist pair a love of beauty with the God-given gift to entertain.
In celebration of musical men like these also inspired by the muse of style, we bring you our list of black Liberaces. These male African-American entertainment icons likely have never met a rhinestone they didn’t like.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.