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Rocking the ClosetHow Little Richard, Johnnie Ray, Liberace, and Johnny Mathis Queered Pop Music$
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Vincent L. Stephens

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042805

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042805.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

Building an Empire of Illusion

Building an Empire of Illusion

Liberace and the Art of Queering

(p.147) Chapter Five Building an Empire of Illusion
Rocking the Closet

Vincent L. Stephens

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores Liberace’s ability to attract audiences through a clever and spectacular masculinity that distracted them from his sexuality. Tracing his evolution into an international performer, it outlines his ability to create musical and visual spectacles and to carefully manage his image. As he became a multimedia celebrity, critics and tabloids maligned his queer masculinity. Through self-neutering and counterdomesticating, he reframed himself as an exemplar of normalcy. These tools helped him triumph through during a 1959 libel suit that threatened to expose his sexuality. He then spectacularized his image exhibiting an unmarked transvestism that endeared him even more. During his final years, when a former lover attempted to expose him and he was dying of HIV/AIDS, he maintained a conspiracy of blindness with his audience.

Keywords:   Liberace, spectacular, tabloids, queer masculinity, self-neutering, counterdomesticating, unmarked transvestism, HIV/AIDS, conspiracy of blindness

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