Travel Weekly contributing editor Amy Baratta visited two
museums that celebrate the lives and careers of two of the city's
entertainment icons, Liberace and Elvis Presley. Her reports
LAS VEGAS -- Visitors to this city should not even think about
leaving until they've wandered through the Liberace Museum.
To see the transformation of a classically attired, tuxedo-clad
young man into a seasoned, sequined powerhouse of a performer is to
witness the evolution of Las Vegas itself. It's history in the
making, times two.
Initially, the museum was not at all what I had expected.
Located at the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Spencer Street --
well off the Las Vegas Strip and in a shopping plaza, of all places
-- the small, red-roofed building with a light-colored stucco
facade could have housed just about any business establishment. The
only hint that something out of the ordinary existed here was a
piano-shaped neon sign.
Liberace purchased the entire shopping center, now known as
Liberace Plaza and owned by the Liberace Foundation for the
Performing and Creative Arts, and opened the museum himself on
April 15, 1979, a year after he created the foundation, according
to Sandra Harris, executive director of both the museum and the
"It was a place to show his collection [of items]," Harris
"He was a collector, and it also would provide a marketing tool
for the foundation."
At the time, she said, Liberace chose the museum's location
because of its proximity to his home -- within a mile -- and to
The museum also "was really kind of far away from what was
happening on the Strip," Harris said.
"Liberace wanted it to be a family destination. He wanted it to
be off the Strip."
The museum, which includes upward of 80,000 individual pieces of
memorabilia, actually is divided into two exhibit areas. What is
known as Building 1 houses some of Liberace's cars, pianos and
Building 2, which is located across the parking lot from
Building 1, contains some of the performer's costumes and jewelry
as well as furniture, china and crystal from his Palm Springs
estate. The building also features exhibits on Liberace's family
history and a museum store.
Some of the museum's highlights include:A hand-painted French Pleyel piano played by Frederic Chopin in
the early 1800s. This is the most valuable piano in the Liberace
Museum's collection.A Baldwin piano covered in Austrian rhinestones that was used
in the finale of Liberace's last performance at Radio City Music
Hall.A 1934 Mercedes Excalibur covered in Austrian rhinestones and
with a tool kit under the front bumper.A 1954 red, white and blue Rolls-Royce custom designed to
commemorate the country's bicentennial.
The car was used again in Liberace's salute to the 100th
anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. Also on display is the
matching red, white and blue hot-pants costume Liberace wore for
the Statue of Liberty centenary.A collection of miniature pianos, including one made by a fan
from 10,000 toothpicks.The world's largest Austrian rhinestone, totaling 115,000
karats and weighing more than 50 pounds.The performer's stage jewelry, including a diamond grand-piano
ring given to Liberace by Barron Hilton.
Although there are no rotating exhibits currently at the museum,
Harris said she hopes in the future to have a permanent collection
as well as a portion of displays that will change from time to
time. The problem is that there is not a lot of room, she
"We want to attract different types of visitors, and to do that
we need to broaden the scope [of the displays]," she said.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through
Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday; it is closed
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Admission is $6.95 for adults, $4.95 for students and senior
citizens and free for children ages 12 and under. Group rates are
Phone: (702) 798-5595