Film Ignores Liberace’s Statutory Rapist Status

‘Behind the Candelabra’ glosses over child molestation.

Gay? Yes. Seductive and manipulative? Absolutely.  Narcissistic sex addict? You bet.  But a de facto child molester who had an affair with a minor? Nope, they left out that little detail about Liberace.  

“Behind the Candelabra,” the new HBO film about the famous gay pianist that made waves at Cannes this month, covered all the depressing details about ‘Lee’s’ turbulent homosexual affair with a man 47 years his junior, but conveniently forgot to mention that Scott Thorson, the younger half of the duo, was still a minor at only 16 years old when the two met,

The striking silence of the film regarding that nasty detail didn’t quite jive with how the real-life Thorson seemed to feel about Liberace. According to an interview, Thorson admitted that what Liberace did to him was, realistically, child molestation. 

“A lot of people would think of him as a child molester,” said Thorson, “He baited me with wealth and fame ... Today he would have been arrested for child endangerment." 

At nearly two hours long, the film gives plenty of attention to Liberace’s rhinestone-studded lifestyle and gay love scenes, yet there’s no mention of Thorson’s age until several years have passed and Thorson is already “over 18” – to clear up legal complications when Liberace wants to “adopt” him. 

HBO’s description of the film did admit the age gap, but didn’t mention that Scott was legally too young when their relationship began: “In summer 1977,” waxed the HBO synopsis, “handsome young stranger Scott Thorson walked into [Liberace’s] dressing room and, despite their age difference and seemingly different worlds, the two embarked on a secretive five-year love affair.” 

“Age difference” isn’t a big deal to HBO, apparently. If two people love each other, then little things like statutory rape clearly don’t matter, right? 

Of course, indulging in an all-too-detailed depiction of the gay affair but keeping quiet about Thorson’s minor status is only typical of how Hollywood reacts when their darlings have sex with underage companions, and it may just be business as usual. And if the person in question is gay, then he’s all the more likely to get a positive media reaction for being a statutory rapist. 

But, the show must go on, it seems – even if that means glossing over some of the details. After all, the film’s final sentimental homage to Liberace’s glitzy style wouldn’t be quite so sweet and sappy if we knew that Liberace was a child molester, would it?