Finding ‘the gay’ in Las Vegas

Liberace was the original Las Vegas diva.

A gay sensibility rests comfortably in plain sight behind the monstrosity of glitz and glam that is Las Vegas. Queerness is lost completely on many (most?) tourists doing The Strip. Others are confused about whether they’re witnessing gay “that way” — or just the bevy of theatrical oddballs they’d expect to find in Sin City.

For decades, the blue-rinse set thought Liberace was just theatrical. They lapped up his frequent proclamations of heterosexuality, devoutly watching a pianist dripping in diamonds and pink feathers. “And doesn’t his handsome chauffeur, Scott, look like a wholesome Midwestern boy?”

Wearing red, white and blue sequined hot pants and jacket patterned after the Stars and Stripes along with white majorette boots, Liberace marched past the double entendre of “pianist” and an attempt by gossip rag Confidential to out him in 1957 to become, during the height of his fame, the highest-paid entertainer in the world.

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