Steven Soderbergh’s new HBO movie Behind the Candelabra stars Michael Douglas as Liberace, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson, whose memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace is the film’s source material.
The film suggests a focus on Scott Thorson, not Liberace.
Scott Thorson was a 16-year-old trainee veterinarian when he met Liberace. One of Liberace’s pet dogs was suffering from an eye infection, and Scott Thorson was called out to attend. Scott Thorson had been installed as live-in houseboy and not only commanded the Liberace estate by day, but featured nightly in Liberace’s Vegas stage act, driving the star on stage in a rhinestone encrusted limousine, tidying the train of Liberace’s fur gown, and being introduced to the audience by name.
Scott Thorson and Liberace lived together for five years, a period which demands a new word for “decadence”. When Scott Thorson said he loved Liberace’s gold-plated Rolls Royce, for example, Liberace wrapped the car in an enormous red bow and gave it to him, and Thorson was never seen without his ghastly gold-plated Zippo lighter, another gift from Lee, on a gold chain around his neck.
Scott 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, Scott Thorson said that after he put on weight during a trip with Liberace to Paris, Liberace introduced him to Priscilla Presley’s plastic surgeon. Scott 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 Scott Thorson later had the chin implant removed.
Apparently, Liberace and his plastic surgeon drank bottles of vodka together before general anaesthetic was administered and cosmetic procedures were carried out at Liberace’s home. Robert Goulet, Charo, Phyllis Diller and Debbie Reynolds were routine houseguests. While Scott Thorson confessed to a daily diet of “co***ne, quaaludes, Biphetamine, demerol”, Lee only drank, and snorted amyl nitrate like a demon.
In 1982, after they’d broken up, Scott Thorson’s lawyers launched a $100 million palimony lawsuit. They finally settled in 1986 for $95,000, two dogs (including the one that originally had the infected eye) and the gold Rolls Royce. It was a smaller settlement than what the London tabloid the Daily Mirror demanded in 1987 once it was revealed that Liberace’s sudden weight loss was not in fact due to what his people had told everyone was the result of a watermelon diet – a refund of the half a million pounds it had been forced to pay him 30 years earlier when he sued them for implying he was homos***al without any proof 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 s** and our middle-aged matrons fed up with s** alike should fall for such a sugary mountain of jingling claptrap wrapped up in such a preposterous clown.”
Around that time, Scott Thorson allegedly made statements like this to the world’s press: “I know three young men now that are dead because of AIDS because of him.”
But other reports are that when Liberace was on his deathbed, Scott Thorson was there, at Liberace’s request. After Liberace died, Scott Thorson stated that the conflicts 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 the dogs.
Then, allegedly, Scott Thorson had an affair with Michael Jackson.
All that would be enough adventure for most people and it covers the action in Behind the Candelabra it’s just the beginning of Scott Thorson’s story.
The Wonderland murders, otherwise known as the Lauren Canyon killings, occurred on the night of 1 July 1981, while Scott Thorson was still living with Liberace. A few days later, John Holmes broke into the home of Eddie Nash, owner of West Hollywood clubs such as the Kit Kat and the Starwood. John Holmes was casing the joint for the Wonderland gang, who lived at 8763 Wonderland Avenue and traded drugs. The gang broke in the next day, tying up Eddie Nash and his bodyguard and stealing a bunch of stuff.
Later, Scott Thorson was over at Eddie Nash’s house picking up some deals when right in front of his eyes, Nash’s heavies dragged John 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. Scott Thorson agreed to testify against Eddie Nash, on the proviso he go straight into witness protection.
After several years in Alaska, Scott Thorson was transferred to Jacksonville, Florida and exited from the witness protection program due to his ongoing use of dr**s. According to his memoirs, he was watching a Pat Boone documentary on TV one night when d**g dealers broke into his motel room and shot him five times. Scott Thorson insists he had no prior dealings with his assailants and that the attack was not ordered by Eddie Nash who, incidentally, now owns the gold Rolls Royce after Thorson exchanged it for co***ne.
In 2008 Scott Thorson was sentenced to four years in prison on d**g and burglary offences and now lives with his wife in New England.