If you subscribe to HBO, you can go over any time to "HBO GO" online and take a look at a recent film about the life of Liberace, the iconic Las Vegas entertainer and closeted homosexual.
As a young, gay pianist of some promise, I was always uncomfortable with the very idea of Liberace. You can imagine some of the things I heard. Liberace remains alluring, and the young (and highly talented) pipe organist Cameron Carpenter continues the "Mr. Showmanship" tradition though in my opinion, Carpenter's virtuosity and creativity as a keyboardist and arranger far outshines Liberace's.
So, I went and watched the film--"Behind the Candelabra", starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas--about Liberace's last years and his relationship with a young man, Scott Thorsen.
More over the fold.
This is not a film review, and it's not a review of Liberace's career though it is beyond doubt that it was highly successful--no matter what you might think of his taste and politics, both of which were pretty bad. This is about the closet, and what the story of Liberace and Scott Thorsen tells us about its toxicity.
The closet, ultimately, ruins lives. It certainly made Liberace's difficult. The fact that because of his career, he felt he had to live in a glass closet that he probably wouldn't have to live in today tells us a lot about how far we've come as a society. I wonder: if Liberace were alive today and having a career, would he come out? We can never know, but self-loathing and glass closets for gay entertainers are things which have become increasingly out-of-date. To see actors of the stature and talent of those in Behind the Candelabra willing to tell this story is also telling. Michael Douglas, who does an excellent job playing Liberace, clearly has no problem "playing gay" and it's not the first time for Matt Damon. What does this tell us about the state of the closet today?
I think it tells us a lot, and I think we've come a long, long way. We're not there yet, but if you have the time to see it, Soderburgh's film is worth a look if you're interested in gay rights and social progress.