Buffalo in the ’50s: Liberace is coming to the Aud

By Steve Cichon

At the time the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo brought the half-Polish/half-Italian Liberace to Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium in 1954, the flashy entertainer was mostly known for his appearance in short 1940s movie theater precursor to music videos, and then his Las Vegas act and regular television broadcasts of his piano and glitz live shows.

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Buffalo became a semi-regular stop for Liberace.

Former Melody Fair owner Ed Smith tells a great story about one Liberace visit to Western New York, and how there was a mix-up when the entertainer — born Wladziu Valentino Liberace — tried to cross the border at the Rainbow Bridge. The Canada Customs official didn’t believe it was Liberace in the back of a dark-tinted limo.

Smith continued the story in a 1995 interview with The News.

“How do I know Liberace is in there?” the officer asked. At those words, Liberace held his hand out the back window, flashing his bright, sparkling diamond ring in the shape of a piano. The customs officer smiled and waved the car through.

On another trip to Buffalo, Liberace visited Joseph Palanker & Sons in Snyder and bought a mink rug to drape over the top of a piano.

Even off stage in Buffalo, Liberace was every bit Liberace.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.