Liberace: 'Behind the Candelabra' in 1981

VIDEO: Liberace intervew with ABC News in 1981.
ABC News

Long before there was a Steven Soderbergh-directed movie about Liberace's life there was a man stroking 88 keys beside his trademark candelabra. The flashy showman came to fame in the 1950s with television's "The Liberace Show," gaining him a fan base who delighted in his costumes and humor.

Following the small screen came live shows which gave the boy from Wisconsin an opportunity to tour the world. In addition to his piano, Liberace filled the stage with disco roller skaters, folk dancers and luxury cars. Concerts were an extravaganza of Las Vegas glitz. His onstage outfits of rhinestone capes, jeweled fingers and diamond buttons would put the most outrageous costumes worn by Madonna, Elton John or Lady Gaga to shame.

HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" will no doubt touch on private aspects (sexuality and plastic surgery) of the entertainer's life, but over 30 years ago Liberace opened the doors of his Las Vegas home to ABC News' "20/20" for an original look behind that candelabra. A few of his treasured dogs made the cut too. Take a look.

VIDEO: Liberace is interviewed by ABC News in 1981.
ABCNEWS.com
Musical Style

Liberace's grandiose style set him apart from other piano players. The Wisconsin native, whose early ambition was to become a concert pianist, demonstrated his signature touch for ABC News with "Chopsticks."

VIDEO: Liberace is interviewed by ABC News in 1981.
ABCNEWS.com
Showmanship

The performer admitted to using "gimmicks" in his lavish shows. Clothed in capes and jewels, Liberace would arrive on stage in a chauffeured Rolls Royce and often played at a revolving piano. Did we mention the dancing fountains?

VIDEO: Liberace is interviewed by ABC News in 1981.
ABCNEWS.com
Life at Home

Liberace spent 32 weeks a year on the road, but life at his Palm Springs and Las Vegas homes found him bonding with his dogs or going over musical arrangements for the next tour. As for eating habits, housekeeper Gladys Luckie said he was "like a child" in his love for delicious, fattening foods such as cakes and pies.

VIDEO: Liberace is interviewed by ABC News in 1981.
ABCNEWS.com
Gay Rumors

Liberace denied being gay during his lifetime. He died of pneumonia caused by AIDS on February 4, 1987.

VIDEO: Liberace is interviewed by ABC News in 1981.
ABCNEWS.com
Dogs Are 'My Children'

A childless Liberace showered affection on his many dogs. He often referred to them as "my children" and in his 1986 memoir, "The Wonderful Private World of Liberace," he wrote, "They spoil me with endless loyalty, love and fascination." His collection of canine kids included Yorkshire terriers, Malteses, Shar-peis, a cocker spaniel and French poodles.

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