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Sad tradition in Vegas is ignoring its tradtion

Mar 12, 2002 9:56 AM

It happened again. A day that should have been marked with great commemoration, once again, came and went last month with little or no notice at all by this great city.                                  

February 4 marked the 15th anniversary of one of the city of Las Vegas’ greatest Âí­losses. The silence of tradition, though, on that day this year was once again almost deafening.

The loss that occurred on February 4, 1987 was that of the man who personified the glitz, glitter, glamour and all-too-often overlooked generosity of this city. How much that man meant and gave to this community over the years, is well documented. He didn’t just take the money and run. He lived here and gave back to this community, many times over.

Four generations reveled in the joy of his labor ”” a labor of love that so influenced the entertainment industry that the mere mention of his trademark ”” the candelabra ”” immediately brings his name to mind.

He bedazzled hotel showroom audiences with elaborate and outrageous costumes long before Elvis or Elton John. In fact, Elvis admitted being influenced by his flare for the eccentric onstage in Vegas.

He flew onto the stage from the fly loft long before Peter Allen and others who followed. Only Mary Martin’s Peter Pan preceded him. And, even she said he looked better in fur than she did in green tights.

He was the daytime television must for the ladies long before Oprah or the myriad soap operas ”” TV’s first Âí­matinee idol.

So great was his impression on us that you have read this far, knowing exactly whom I have been talking about and I haven’t even mentioned his name.

The nature of the shadow that shrouded Liberace’s passing doesn’t matter any more, only that the glitter of the garb and the shimmer of the candelabra were never completely dimmed. All of the lights along “The Great Bright Way” forever lost a little of their sparkle that February in ’87, even though those lights darkened for Sammy and Dean and Frank, on their passing, but not for Mr. Showmanship Âí­”” the man who personified those lights.

One evening back stage at the Las Vegas Hilton, a young writer asked if he would tell the story behind his use of the candelabra. He leaned over and softly queried, “Did you ever see the motion picture ”˜A Song to Remember?’ ” When the answer came that he hadn’t, Lee whispered simply, “Do!”

When the flick finally appeared on the Late, Late Show, Cornell Wilde portraying Frederick Chopin, was sitting at the piano with candelabra standing behind the fallboard, where the sheet music rested.