What can one do to quell ever-frequent presidential assassination fantasies? One cozy, escapist idea is to dive headfirst into the vintage book Liberace Cooks!: Hundreds of Delicious Recipes For You from His Seven Dining Rooms as told to food critic Carol Truax. Gratitude to Carol, though Wikipedia states she joined the spirit world before co-author Mr. Showmanship bade us all adieu. Liberace Cooks! was published in 1970.
The names of chapters teeter on the edge of tasteful and kitsch—“Do It Yourself and Eat It Yourself in the Kitchen,” “Seven Dinners in the Formal Dining Room,” and “Sauces, Sauces Everywhere.” However, in this tome, the actual recipes align with classic Continental cuisine, with tame, formal titles like Lobster Newburg (serves 8!), a few varieties of Chef’s Salad (one with tongue), and the pre-mad cow disease Brains in Black Butter. The 1970 ingredients—6 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate, 1 pound Cheddar cheese grated or cut up—are definitely not for the health-conscious. Perhaps the most-telling recipe included here: Sticky Buns.
Although Liberace Cooks! was published nearly half a century ago, 2007 was blessed with Joy of Liberace: Retro Recipes from America’s Kitschiest Kitchen, a compilation of over 80 Mr. Showmanship recipes. Presumably authors Michael and Karan Feder borrowed extensively from Truax’s original book, though the dishes are re-christened with terms of gay connotation (Celery Victor/Victoria), as well as pop-culture slang commonplace in our new century, such as Angel Bling Cake Pie, corny but apropos of Liberace, a trailblazer in public displays of wealth and extravagant wardrobe, the last laugh reserved for hip-hop homophobes.
Although there is a treasure trove of Liberace footage on YouTube, surprisingly little of it features Mr. Showmanship’s culinary talents. Those cooking clips that do exist are a sight for sore eyes reddened from celebrity pie holes such as bloated bro Guy Fieri and notorious bad tipper Rachael Ray.
According to longtime lover Scott Thorson, Lee, as he was known to close friends, preferred to spend his free time cooking, decorating and playing with his dogs.
In 1986, one year before he succumbed to complications from AIDS, Liberace appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, to promote his first ever performance at Radio City Music Hall. An unusually restrained Letterman “assisted” the piano legend in demonstrating how to make the Liberace Individual Egg Casserole, a dish then served at Liberace’s gourmet restaurant in Vegas.
A much more comforting video is a tutorial with the entertainer in a more swashbuckling era, showing the eponymous Liberace Lasagna, taking place in a beautiful example of a 1972 kitchen. His first instruction is to “remove all diamond rings.” When he puts his jewels into his pocket, please notice the harlequin pants.
Lastly, treat yourself to a view of the trailer (or watch the entirety on Amazon Prime) for the 1954 television special Spend the Holidays with Liberace, which does involve food. In under two minutes, Mr. Showmanship fondles a wishbone over a plate of turkey, welcomes family (don’t miss brother George) for merriment round the Christmas tree, romantically serenades Santa Claus, and winks at us, his eternal TV audience.