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The other king has left the building. Or, more accurately, the building has left him.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the board of directors of the Liberace Foundation has voted to close the Liberace Museum in Vegas, citing declining revenue. The museum celebrating the flamboyant entertainer, who was born in West Allis and raised in West Milwaukee, will shut its doors Oct. 17.
“Keeping that brand alive has been very difficult,” Jeffrey Koep, chairman of the Liberace Foundation’s board of directors, told the Review-Journal in a story that ran Saturday.
Koep told the Review-Journal that the museum’s out-of-the-way location, competition from flashier shows on the Vegas strip, and a lack of resources to promote Liberace’s music were all factors in the museum’s declining revenue. As long as 12 years ago, Koep said in the interview, the foundation began taking money from its endowment to help fund the museum’s operations.
Liberace himself opened the Liberace Museum opened in a Las Vegas shopping center in 1979; since then, it’s been expanded and renovated at least twice. At its peak, according to past news reports, the museum drew as many as 150,000 visitors a year when Liberace was still alive; the total dropped to 100,000 and fewer in the years since the showman’s death in 1987.
In his performing days, Liberace was the original King of Bling, known for flashy costumes, flashier jewelry, gaudy sets and a cheesy grin. But he also was a virtuoso pianist, credited in his 1950s heyday with making classical music more palatable for mass audiences on the then-fledgling medium of television.