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Behind the Candelabra

My Life with Liberace
Narrated by: Peter Berkrot
Length: 8 hrs and 59 mins
4 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Summary

In this unusually frank book Scott Thorson, Liberace's longtime lover, tells all: the good, the bad, and the ugly truths about the legendary entertainer who went to outrageous extremes to prevent public knowledge of his homosexuality.

Liberace's unhappy childhood, dominated by a mother determined to force him into a concert career, serves as the prologue for a story that goes on to detail Liberace's early appearances in honky-tonks, his move to New York to seek fame, and, finally, his first booking in Las Vegas, where he was courted by the Mafia.

As Thorson attests, such successes provide a bright counterpoint to a darker tale of a man hungry for power, given to every excess. Liberace's credo - "too much of a good thing is wonderful" - is reflected here in his acquisition of new lovers, luxurious homes, a large collection of pornography, and a total of 26 house dogs.

Behind the Candelabra above all explores the fundamentally tender love affair between Liberace and Thorson - whom Liberace sent to his own plastic surgeon to have his face remodeled in Liberace's own image!

This fast-paced story, sprinkled with anecdotes about famous entertainers such as Michael Jackson and Shirley MacLaine, ends with an intimate look at Liberace's final days as he lay dying of AIDS - and his deathbed reconciliation with Thorson. Thorson's story will also appear in the upcoming biopic of the same name starring award-winning actors Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

©1988, 2013 Scott Thorson with Alex Thorleifson (P)2013 Tantor

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Liberace

If you could sum up Behind the Candelabra in three words, what would they be?

Sad. Shocking eyeopening

Who was your favorite character and why?

Probably Liberace himself though sometimes because of his stage act you forget how talented he was as a pianist it also shows if you have enough money you can cover up anything that you want to

Would you listen to another book narrated by Peter Berkrot?

Not sure

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

How to spend your whole life living a lie

Any additional comments?

Scott could have walked away from the situation at any time obviously it suited him not to

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Hear the story first

Would you consider the audio edition of Behind the Candelabra to be better than the print version?

Yes, I would advise anyone to sit back and listen to the truth. It took me around a week. I am sure some would prefer listening to it in a day.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Behind the Candelabra?

I was surprised the at the beginning of Liberace's life was interesting and surprised at how hard he worked. I loved listening to their life on the road and how they entertained guests. The break up of the relationship was inevitable. However, unforgettable is the last paragraph (the end) and their last conversation.

What about Peter Berkrot’s performance did you like?

Overall he was very good throughout.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

How Scott Thorson got hooked on drugs, and how he was asked to leave the Liberace estate.

Any additional comments?

I am glad the book did not get carried away with sex scenes.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey
  • Jeffrey
  • 26-05-13

Viciously honest, candid, sad, fascintating!

Reading this book was like witnessing a violent car accident. You can't turn away, you have to see (read) it through even though in many places you just want to stop and you kind of know in advance that there will be no happy ending and indeed there is not.

The writing style is nothing to "write" home about but one must remember that this book was written in the latter 80's, early 90's for readers' sensibilities back then. It's especially annoying when Mr. Thorson editorializes about gay life and culture using simplistic and hackneyed cliches that are entirely laughable now-a-days.

The narration by Peter Berkrot was spectacular. One felt one was listening to Thorson in person, and the narrator's vocal inflections of Mr. Liberace are worth any downside that the rather bland narrative otherwise presents.

As for the actual events and behaviors presented by the book of Mr. Thorson's life with Lee Liberace and what to think of them, it would be unfair to judge either party. There was presented enough nauseating dysfunction for both men to last ten families ten lifetimes.

In the end, I felt very sad for Mr. Thorson. I believe to this day that he still loves Lee Liberace and will die doing so. It's just such a shame that people have to go through this soft of thing as it affects them until their death. Best of luck to Mr. Thorsen. Rest in peace, Mr. Liberace.


9 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for reallyrob
  • reallyrob
  • 16-05-13

I Believe!

I have been a life long fan of Liberace. My mom and grandmother loved him, so we always watched him when he was on television. Liberace was one of the first shows I ever saw in Las Vegas. Having met Liberace personally while on a trip to Las Vegas, I can honestly say he was very nice, but come on....you'd have to be blind to not know he was gay. I read this book about 23 years ago. With the Michael Douglas movie coming out, I decided I wanted to read it again, so I am getting it either for my Kindle or Audible. I do believe most of what is in this book. You have to look at the time... the early 1980's...All of his peers knew, at that time an entertainer did not come out as gay...most of his fans were older women, it would have been career suicide. No one really knew what Aids was or how you got it. I'm sure if everyone knew back then about Aids, and how it was spread and how to prevent it Liberace would have lived and been performing up into his 80's. There was another movie about Scott and Liberace that had Victor Garber portraying Lee. The end of that movie almost had me in tears when he was taking the hairpiece off at the end. When I met Liberace, I could see what Scott saw in him...he had a way of making you feel special. When you're 18, you just want to fit in and be accepted, so I can see how a young guy could make Lee their life and lose themselves. Read this book, you won't be disappointed. Liberace was a true performer...just seeing him perform, you knew why he was the highest paid entertainer in the world. He made a brand of himself...the Piano...the restaurant, the museum....sadly the museum and the restaurant and Lee are only memories, but his legacy will live on.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Crusader
  • 05-02-14

A very titillating book!

Although this book is filled with numerous and obvious factual errors that I totally missed when I first read it in the 1980s, this book otherwise appears to give an inside honest look into the life of Liberace (which isn't always flattering).

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Robyn
  • 26-01-14

Liberace, prejudice, AIDS

I always take first person accounts with a grain of salt, but read this as light relief from my usual serious reading agenda. It was an interesting picture of talent, the quest for stardom, and the distorting power of money and fame. The ins and outs of family and love affairs are always titillating but for me, the book is most informative as a social history of being gay in the pre-AIDS and post-AIDS Western world. Early in his life and career Liberace had no choice but to remain in the closet and, once the pretence was established, what could he do but maintain his stance and deny the rumours? It is a sad indictment of prejudice and persecution of gay men. How different Scott and Lliberace's lives would be if they were born now - if not fame/notoriety, at least more freedom to be who they are than they could ever have dreamed of.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Susan'sEarbuds
  • 02-12-13

What is Better Than Real Life?

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I didn't think the performance was that good. I didn't think "overall" should be rated more than mediocre. But what is better than real life told by someone who participated in it? Whether or not it is all true or unbiased, it is a slice of several people's lives and I wanted to hear about it. I wept, I sighed, I cringed, and thought to myself, why isn't life more fair and all children be loved and cherished? I skipped some parts because they were repetitive, but more than not, I listened to enlarge my compassion. No one's life is easy. Some are a lot harder than most. Love is what all of us want. I liked this real life story because it taught me that love is hard to find.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jerold
  • 12-09-13

Psycho Daddy

What made the experience of listening to Behind the Candelabra the most enjoyable?

Scott's brutal honesty.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Liberace because he was so damn bizarre.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

HBO and Michael Douglas did a great job as it is. Michael Douglas taking Matt Damon is plenty hysterical considering Michael's history.

Any additional comments?

Great read.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Simone
  • 19-08-13

Tawdry

I like biographies, but I am dubious about the accuracy of this one! While I’m sure this is Scott’s honest recollections, I have a hard time believing that he was so innocent and that he didn’t know what he was getting into. Ok yes, he was 18 and maybe a little naïve… but I don’t buy the innocent deer-in-the-headlights routine.

You know what they say: there are always 3 sides to every story – his version, her version, and the truth. The book was interesting, yet felt a little tawdry, and therefore lost some credibility for me.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Sue C
  • 02-06-13

Eight hours of sheer yawn

I should have known better. I don't think there is anything here that we couldn't have gleaned from a tabloid over the years. This book reads like a full length tabloid article and although I was fascinated by the man after about 10 minutes I was asking myself 'Why am I bothering?' I'll get a refund and watch the movie.

4 people found this helpful

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  • minderbinder
  • 29-11-18

I really don't like Scott Thorson

Back in the mid-eighties, a friend of mine who worked at a local restaurant (and knew I adored Liberace) tipped me off that they were staying late for a private dinner for Liberace, following a local performance. As rotten as it may seem to ambush the poor guy after a performance, I waited outside the restaurant hoping to meet him. When he came out, I approached him and, rather than being irritated, he just beamed ear-to-ear, thanked me for my kind words, gave me a big hug, and just wanted to talk and talk. Standing against the waiting limo, though, was a younger man who scowled at me with a weird white-hot intensity so obvious that, after ten minutes or so, Liberace laughed and said, "You'll have to excuse my companion. He wants to get home, he's exhausted from watching me work." Now, after listening to Scott Thorson whine throughout an entire book about how Liberace stole his innocence and treated him abominably and drove him to drugs, and how Liberace was so insecure that he fed on adoration from his fans (like me, I suppose) when he found those fans so very annoying, I know just who that younger man was. What a self-entitled jerk. I read a few more recent news stories about Thorson's lengthy jail sentence for credit card fraud and can't help but wonder if that's the fault of the long-deceased Liberace also? I am ashamed that I bought this book and donated further cash to this sugar-daddy-seeking hustler who feels that he didn't get enough of a free ride off Liberace while he was still alive, so extended it with this book after Liberace was dead and unable to defend himself.

1 person found this helpful

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  • K. Adair
  • 16-06-14

Don't waste your time or money

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

The story had no flow or rhythm. I couldn't decide if it was bad writing or bad narration or both.

Would you be willing to try another one of Peter Berkrot’s performances?

No.

1 person found this helpful