Thursday, April 16, 2009 | 5:53 p.m.
Ten years ago the Liberace Museum was the most visited tourist attraction in Las Vegas.
Today, it’s “one of the most.”
Before it slips to “Liberace who?” the museum is going to reintroduce “Mr. Showmanship” to the world, with a tour of some of his more spectacular possessions — glittering costumes and jewelry, furs, pianos and cars.
The Liberace tour will begin early next year. It’s a joint venture by the Liberace Foundation and Exhibits Development Group of St. Paul, Minn.
Liberace Foundation board chairman Jack Rappaport made the announcement on Wednesday at the 30th anniversary celebration of the opening of the museum, which funds the foundation. During its 30 years the organization has granted $5.2 million in scholarships to more than 2,500 students around the nation.
“Liberace is an iconic part of Las Vegas entertainment history,” Rappaport said, “and he was known as a kind and generous soul.”
The anniversary at the museum was a celebration of the flamboyant entertainer’s life.
While Liberace was known as a person with a warm heart, the celebration took place on a cold day – temperatures in the 40s with persistent wind gusts that made it feel in the 30s.
The walk down the red carpet by more than a dozen celebrities was uncomfortable for most, but none more than two male performers from the adult Cirque du Soleil show “Zumanity” at New York, New York. The two men were dressed in a few brightly colored feathers and rhinestone cod pieces, a salute to Liberace’s flashy persona.
Singer — and former Lt. Gov. — Lorraine Hunt-Bono and her husband, radio variety show host Dennis Bono, hosted the red carpet and co-hosted the evening of entertainment that followed.
Admission to the museum for on day only was 30 cents, in honor of the 30th anniversary.
“Seriously, someone asked me if he could get a senior’s discount,” Dennis Bono laughed.
If he laughed at discounts, asking for a comp probably was out of the question.
Among those who attended was Mary Wilson of the Supremes. “When Liberace and the Supremes were in town at the same time they ran out of rhinestones,” Wilson quipped.
A dozen entertainers performed at the event, including vivacious vocalist Denise Clemente, who toured with Liberace. “He helped me buy my first house,” she said.
He also helped Domenick Allen, former vocalist with Foreigner, buy his first home in Vegas. Allen opened for Liberace for several years in the early 1980s. When Liberace’s mother passed away, he sold her home and its furnishings to Allen for $1.
Allen sang a duet with his daughter, Cayleigh Capaldi – one of two 9-year-olds who performed that night. The other was pianist Abigail Varghese, a Henderson resident who won the Classical Junior division of the 2008 Liberace Piano Competition.
Glen Colby, a trumpeter in “Jersey Boys,” also performed. He was the first Liberace scholarship recipient to graduate from UNLV.
Some of the elite of Las Vegas entertainment used their artistry to pay homage to the man who may have been the catalyst for the glamour and glitz for which the city has become known. Among them were: Clint Holmes, Billy Fayne, Bob Rosario, Bob Sachs. Tommy Deering, Frankie Scinta, Lani Misalucha, Sonny Turner of the original Platters, Rebecca Spencer and Kristin Hertzenberg of “Phantom, the Las Vegas Spectacular,” Vicki Van Tassell of “Mamma Mia!”, Travis Cloer, Keith Thompson and Philip Fortenberry of “Jersey Boys.” Pianist Fortenberry is artist in residence at the Liberace Museum.
The spectacular evening of entertainment brought back memories of an older Las Vegas that so many wish would returned. It ended with the Bonos, Spencer and Thompson leading the 100 or so guests in “I’ll Be Seeing You,” Liberace’s theme song and the number that closed his shows.