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RSVP : One Final Fling in the Land of Liberace

December 14, 1994|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Billing it as a "last chance" to see Liberace's Hollywood Hills estate, Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services staged a fund-raiser at the late entertainer's aerie Sunday--before its new owner erases much of its Liberace-ness.

For the occasion, the flocked-wallpaper-lined, nine-bedroom house (with enough chandeliers to convince you Liberace really did live here) was filled with music once again. Cabaret and lounge pianists tickled the ivory on rented baby grands in the living room, dining room, patio and even the master bedroom (gold wallpaper). The expected appearance of Michael Feinstein never materialized.

The 400 or so visitors who paid $30 to $100 each to support GLASS' efforts--including group homes, street outreach and placements for HIV-infected children and infants--sipped champagne, ate bagels and cream cheese and roamed through the unfurnished, though still over-the-top house.

"You'd definitely have to change the aqua carpeting and other things, but it has potential," said Sandy Edelstein, a mortgage broker.

"I was in this house several years ago," said comedy writer Bruce Vilanch. "It looked like Liberace's act with a view."

There was no mistaking Liberace's longtime stage manager and producer, Ray Arnett. He was the glittery fellow in the rhinestone-studded tuxedo shirt, red bow tie and brown plaid suit.

Untangling a bit of Liberace lore, Arnett explained that the flamboyant pianist bought the house in the late '60s and lived in it for about 10 years until he moved to Las Vegas. There were more houses in Palm Springs and Lake Tahoe, but Liberace always maintained a local residence, the last one a penthouse above an office building he owned at Beverly Boulevard and Gardner Street.

But this abode had a special place in Liberace's heart. "It was really the first big house he had in L.A. and he saw the possibilities in it," Arnett said.

"The same possibilities that are putting Peter to bed," injected Stan Ziegler, president of GLASS and a friend of Peter Maurice, the new owner. What Ziegler meant was, Maurice has a lot of decor to dump.

"I'm going to delete the aqua bar, the banana room, all the wallpaper except in the red room, and when I have the money together I'll probably demo the pool and make a really true lap pool," said Maurice, a 35-year-old realtor with an entertainment-industry clientele.

"I'll probably leave the piano bar and the two cabanas with piano themes. I wanted a house I could renovate with some history and good bones."

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