“I’m so sick and tired of Liberace’s people getting on national TV and bashing me, saying that I was nothing but a cocaine addict, just smearing my name.” — Scott Thorson
Scott Thorson is the author of Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace, which is the source material for the HBO movie starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (as Thorson). Thorson met Liberace when he was 16, training as a veterinarian and called out to attend an eye infection suffered by one of Liberace’s dogs. Liberace (“Lee” to loved ones) was taken by Thorson’s animal husbandry and immediately installed him as houseboy number one.
Showered in expensive but not always tasteful gifts — when he said he loved Liberace’s gold-plated Rolls Royce, Liberace wrapped the car in an enormous bow and gave it to him, and look at the ghastly gold-plated cigarette lighter he wore around his neck! — Thorson even starred in Liberace’s Vegas show, driving the star on stage in a rhinestone encrusted limousine, tidyng the train of Liberace’s fur gown, and being introduced to the audience (see clip below).
Booze and dope: Liberace and his plastic surgeon drank bottles of vodka together before cosmetic procedures were carried out under general anaesthetic. Robert Goulet, Charo, Phyllis Diller and Debbie Reynolds were routine houseguests. While Thorson confessed to a daily diet of “cocaine, quaaludes, Biphetamine, demerol”, Lee only drank, and snorted amyl nitrate like a demon.Thorson and Liberace were together for five years.
During this period, Thorson claims he had plastic surgery to look more like Liberace, including a nose job and a chin implant. In a 2002 interview with Larry King, Thorson said that after he put on weight during a trip with Liberace to Paris, Liberace introduced him to Priscilla Presley’s plastic surgeon. Thorson said that Liberace accompanied him to his first consultation, instructing the surgeon to “make him look like my son”. But, the operations weren’t satisfactory, and Thorson later had the chin implant removed.
In 1982, after they’d broken up, Thorson’s lawyers launched a $100 million palimony lawsuit. They settled out of court in 1986 for $95,000, two dogs and the gold Rolls Royce, easy money for Liberace until the London tabloid the Daily Mirror threatened to sue for the half a million pounds it had been forced to pay him 30 years earlier when he sued them for implying he was homosexual when one of their journalists said this about him:
They say that this deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love has had the biggest reception and impact on London since Charlie Chaplin arrived at the same station, Waterloo, on September 12,1921.
This appalling man – and I use the word appalling in no other than its true sense of terrifying – has hit this country in a way that is as violent as Churchill receiving the cheers on V-E Day.
He reeks with emetic language that can only make grown men long for a quiet corner, an aspidistra, a handkerchief, and the old heave-ho. Without doubt, he is the biggest sentimental vomit of all time. Slobbering over his mother, winking at his brother, and counting the cash at every second, this superb piece of calculating candy-floss has an answer for every situation.
There must be something wrong with us that our teenagers longing for sex and our middle aged matrons fed up with sex alike should fall for such a sugary mountain of jingling claptrap wrapped up in such a preposterous clown.
And then, just when Liberace had embarked on his infamous watermelon diet, Thorson made statements like this to the world’s press:
“I know three young men now that are dead because of AIDS because of Liberace”.
But, when Liberace personally requested Thorson’s presence by his deathbed in his final weeks, Thorson was there. In later interviews, Thorson stated that the conflict between he and Lee had been exaggerated, and that it was his lawyers who were out for the money and he personally was primarily concerned about who was going to take care of Liberace’s pets. Then, allegedly, Thorson had an affair with Michael Jackson.
Now, all that would be enough adventure for most people and I gather that it covers the action in Behind the Candelabra BUT it is just the beginning of Thorson’s story.
The Wonderland murders, otherwise known as the Lauren Canyon killings, occured on the night of 1 July 1981. Thorson was still living with Liberace. A few days later, porn star and cokehead John Holmes broke into the home of Eddie Nash, owner of West Hollywood strip clubs such as the Kit Kat and the Starwood. Holmes cased the house for the Wonderland gang, who lived at 8763 Wonderland Avenue and traded drugs. The gang broke in the next day, tying up Nash and his bodyguard and stealing a bunch of stuff.
Thorson was over at Nash’s house picking up some deals when Nash’s heavies dragged Holmes in, and knocked him around with knuckle dusters until he coughed up the address of the Wonderland gang, who were all soon shot dead. Thorson agreed to testify against Nash, on the proviso he go straight into witness protection.
Oh, and in 2008 Thorson was sentenced to four years in prison on drug and burglary offences and now lives with his wife in New England. After several years in Alaska, Thorson was transferred to Jacksonville, Florida and exited from the witness protection program due to his ongoing use of drugs. He was watching a Pat Boone documentary on TV one night when drug dealers broke into his motel room and shot him five times. Thorson insists he had no prior dealings with his assailants and that the attack was not ordered by Nash who, incidentally, now owns the gold Rolls Royce after Thorson exchanged it for coke.
One would hope he’s seeing some money from the adaptation of his story of life with Liberace, but given all the above it’s anybody’s guess who is in possession of the rights to Thorson’s book. In any case, the premiere of the Behind the Candelabra cannot come quick enough.
UPDATE APRIL 27, 2013: The National Enquirer has reported that with the premiere of Behind the Candelabra just weeks away, Scott Thorson has been jailed for stealing credit cards in Reno. And what would any part of Thorson’s story be without drama on top of drama: he is allegedly in late-stage anal cancer.
From the Enquirer:
Thorson, 54, who wrote the book on which the new biopic is based, was arrested on Feb. 22 at the Ponderosa Hotel in Reno, Nev., and charged with four counts of first-degree burglary.
Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Druckman told The ENQUIRER that Thorson – who now goes by the name Jess Marlow – found a wallet containing credit cards and used them at several Reno businesses.
Thorson, who is suffering from anal cancer, claims he wasn’t appreciated by the filmmakers. He said he was snubbed by the cast and crew when he visited the set and received just a small amount of money for the use of the book.
“Now, Scott probably won’t be out of jail before the show airs,” added a friend. ”And if he goes to prison, he could die behind bars.”