Publicist John returns Liberace to spotlight

Wharfedale Observer: Ilkley fans meeting Liberace at the London Palladium in the 80s, the late Yorkshire and England cricketer Don Wilson, his wife Jill, brother-in-law Paul Roberts, Annie Binns and Val and John Obank. Ilkley fans meeting Liberace at the London Palladium in the 80s, the late Yorkshire and England cricketer Don Wilson, his wife Jill, brother-in-law Paul Roberts, Annie Binns and Val and John Obank.

A showbiz journalist who helped keep Liberace’s sexuality a secret has written a book about the flamboyant star.

John Rimington was publicist to the performer and helped prevent his homosexuality from becoming public knowledge for many years.

His working relationship with the star was so close that he and his wife Joyce – then deputy headmistress at Benton Park School – spent their honeymoon in Liberace’s Hollywood home after their wedding in Frank Sinatra’s hotel suite at Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas 38 years ago.

Rimington represented Liberace as a publicist during the 25 years he was the Las Vegas-based Fleet Street freelance showbiz correspondent, and later, whenever the star appeared in London, until his Aids-related death in 1987.

Now retired and living in Rawdon, Rimington has written Liberace – “Mr Showmanship” to coincide with the release of the film Behind The Candelabra that focuses on Liberace’s affair with his stage chauffeur and companion Scott Thorson.

Whereas the film, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, concentrates on the star’s sexuality, Rimington insists his glossy coffee table-top book chronicles the successful career of Liberace, the showman, and is not a kiss and tell revelation.

“Liberace loved performing and adored his fans. I leave it to others to decide whether Liberace’s legacy will be his sexuality or his showmanship,” he said.

His book is packed with exclusive pictures of the interiors of the American entertainer’s homes In Las Vegas, Hollywood and Palm Springs. It also includes pictures of Liberace – who reputedly persuaded Elvis Presley to wear more ‘glitzy gear’ on stage – wearing his own incredible costumes.

Rimington reveals Liberace’s costume designer Anna Nateece went blind while sewing by hand tens of thousands of sparkling Austrian rhinestones into the luxurious lining of the black diamond mink and Russian sable full–length cape she spent a year making.

It took months of specialist treatment, and surgery before her eyesight was fully restored, he says.

Other revelations include the fact that Liberace’s declaration of love for former beauty queen Debby Robert was intended “to scotch revived rumours about his sexuality”.

“Liberace would have taken the secret of his sexuality to the grave had it not been for Scott Thorson’s revelations about their five year affair after Liberace had sacked him for excessive drug taking and erratic behaviour,” Rimington said.

Up to then the publicist – along with Liberace’s management team and business associates – had managed to keep the star’s homosexuality secret, as the entertainer feared it would ruin his career if it became public knowledge.

The book will be launched at a three-day showbiz charity event at Handpicked Hall in Skipton next week, from June 21 to June 23. Sales will be in aid of the children’s charity Bethany’s Smile.

The book, priced from £20, it can also be ordered through Rawdon Copy Shop, The Old Bank, Harrogate Road, Leeds LS19 6HW. Telephone (0113) 391 0316 or e-mail andy@ rawdoncopyshop.co.uk for details.

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