Thursday, October 6, 2011

BTTF# 10: The Piano Shaped Pool in Sherman Oaks by the Great Liberace



SFValleyblog Liberace Postcard #1
Welcome aboard the Delorean! Marty McFly here to take you on a journey to the hip and affluent community of Sherman Oaks. The Delorean has the required plutonium plus some random garbage in the Mr. Fusion reactor ready for this trip. The time circuits are set to sometime in the 50's (actual date unknown) and the flux capacitor is.........fluxxing. The engine is running (not stalled this time) so we need to hurry. Hang on, as the ride can be a little bumpy as we travel back in time to 15405 Valley Vista Blvd Sherman Oaks CA 91403. This address was the location for one of Liberace's (real name is Wladziu Valentino Liberace) home with the famous piano shaped pool.


From the L.A. Public Library Photo collection:
Photograph caption dated June 9, 1954 reads, "Pianist Liberace stands on the 'keys' of his piano shaped swimming pool at his Sherman Oaks home. He loves pianos. Has 'em all sizes around his home and yard, just as a token of appreciation. The instrument is giving him an estimated earning of one million dollars this year." 
Courtesy of L.A. Public Library Photo Collection: Hollywood Citizen News/Valley Times Collection 
The blog, IAMNOTASTALKER, provided a great post on the Liberace home that bears repeating here:
Liberace himself designed the L-shaped house, which, of course, was decorated with a piano motif throughout, in 1953 and he and his mother, Francis, moved in that very same year.  As his fame grew, fans would reportedly hop the fence into his backyard to catch a glimpse of the entertainer at home and the property was eventually deemed far too accessible for a man who was, at the time, the highest-paid entertainer in the entire world.  Liberace moved out of the 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom, 3,907-square foot home sometime in or around 1958 and migrated to the Palm Springs area, while Francis stayed behind.  
Back in 1957, an unfortunate event occurred at this location as described in an LA Times article published on July 19, Mother of Liberace Beaten By Two Men. This tragic event demonstrates that violence existed towards celebrities back then. As you can tell by the postcard images below, the house was easily accessible from the street which is odd that Liberace with the magnitude of his fame would live in such an unprotected environment. (Also, when you think about it, this home looks rather simple, small, and bland for Liberace's stature). Granted this was back in the 50's and there wasnt TMZ and other paparazzi  invading every celebrity to make a quick buck, still celebrities needed security or face a potential attack. On a somewhat unrelated note, on the day of the attack, Liberace gave a deposition in a $25 million dollar libel lawsuit against Confidential magazine for a recent cover article suggesting that Liberace was gay. Rumors floated that the attacks were conducted because of the lawsuit although this was never proven and the offenders were never found. So maybe the Valley isnt that bad after all when someone blatantly attacks another celebrity.

Other random Valley history, Liberace's brothers, George and Rudy, lived in Encino and Van Nuys respectively. I guess the Liberace family had a special connection with the Valley. I wonder where they lived exactly. Anyone have clues?

Below are my Liberace postcard collections showing slight variations over the years. Dont know the exact date of each postcard picture taken. 
SFValleyblog Liberace Postcard #2
SFValleyblog Liberace Postcard #3

SFValleyblog Liberace Postcard #4
SFValleyblog Liberace Postcard #5
 
 Liberace eventually sold this location in less than a year because of the incident with his mother in 1958 to seek safer grounds. The home was purchased by another actor, Spencer Carlyle for $80,000. 
Courtesy Liberace Deserves A Stamp Blog
One last thing, below is a picture of Liberace decorating his home for the Christmas holidays which was known to cause traffic jams and upset his neighbors.
Courtesy Bob's Liberace.com
So lets hop back into the Delorean and go Back To The Future to the present. Whats really surprising here is that the home remains almost identical as when Liberace built it more than 50 years ago including the piano shaped pool as you can see in the images below. A running theme of the BTTF series has been the demolition of once great former sites turned into shopping malls, apartment buildings, or empty land sitting vacant. So this comes with great relief to know that the former home of Liberace with the infamous piano shaped pool still exists more than 50 years since its inception.

One other thing to note about this property is its location. Its on the corner of Valley Vista Blvd and Sherman Oaks Ave which is not too far from Sepulveda Blvd, Ventura Blvd, and the 405 Freeway. So its location is rather odd for a celebrity because its very near to a major intersection of the Valley and also the busiest freeway in the nation (however the freeway was built in 1964 after Liberace built his home so I am sure he wouldnt have moved there if the freeway existed back then). As a matter of fact, for those that travel North on Sepulveda coming from the Westside to reach Ventura can take a shortcut through Fiume Walk onto Sherman Oaks, and then onto Sherman Oaks circle (another unique location where 6 homes border each other in a roundabout) to reach Ventura Blvd. I have taken this route many times and must admit that I never realized that Liberace's home was a part of that shortcut (see picture below). 

Also another random tidbit, Ryan Stiles of Whose Line Is It Anyway's Fame? used to be a former owner of this property which he purchased in 1997 for $525,000 and then selling for double his initial purchase price on March 2004 for  $1,210,000.





You can view other sites of historical significance documented in the Back To The Future Series.

Sources:


Encino Patch, Liberace's Onetime Home a Local Landmark by Hal Lifson on August 18, 2011

Los Angeles Times, Mother of Liberace Beaten by Two Men on July 19, 1957

Los Angeles Times, Lee to Sue Scandal Mag  for $20 Million on May 8, 1957

A Little About Ryan by 6'6" Pile of Stile!!  (Ryan Stiles)

Bob's Liberace (for Christmas photo)


Blockshopper - Property Records - 15404 Valley Vista Boulevard

Wikimapia - Liberace Former Home

Wikipedia - Liberace

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