Seeing the announcement of a new Broadway show this fall recreating one of Liberace’s Vegas showroom concerts, I got to thinking: Doesn’t the Great White Way have a gay-enough reputation without a show starring a man in a gold-sequined tuxedo? Not that there is anything remotely gay about Wladziu Valentino Liberace, of course. This truly gifted pianist, who once described himself as a “one-man Disneyland,” died of complications from AIDS in 1987 after repeated denials that he was gay (and successful lawsuits against papers that implied he was anything but heterosexual). Sure, he could lisp his way through an episode of Batman as a piano-playing villain or camp it up with Phyllis Diller on his short-lived TV show (see the clip below), but there weren’t enough gay fans at that time to pay for all those rhinestones and candelabras. So he did what he could to keep the swooning house fraus happy.
Aside from Broadway, though, have things changed all that dramatically for performers vying for stardom in the American mainstream? Consider the string of American Idol contestants who, for whatever reason, have chosen to remain closeted while on the show (or sidestep questions about their sexuality). What do you think, PopWatchers? Is Liberace too gay even for Broadway? And could a sequin- and guyliner-loving performer like Liberace still be embraced by middle America today?