RENO — An ex-lover of Liberace who was the subject of an HBO film on the life of the pianist got a lecture Wednesday from a judge who said he was not impressed with his “so-called celebrity status” but again agreed to spare him from prison time after testing positive for methamphetamine in violation of his probation.
Scott Thorson, 54, acknowledged in Washoe District Court that he’s a drug addict and insisted he’s determined to get sober and avoid serving up to 20 years in prison for burglary and ID theft convictions.
He said his goal is to write another book on the heels of his “Behind the Candelabra,” which was used as the basis for the HBO film of the same name that’s nominated for 15 Emmy Awards.
“I’m just asking for another chance,” a tearful Thorson told the judge. “Getting sober is the most important thing to me. I’m up for 15 Emmys and that is important too. I’m becoming productive and feel good about myself.’
“I can’t help who I am. I’m in show business. I attract these cameras,” he said in reference to TV coverage in the courtroom. “I want to be sober.”
In July, Judge Patrick Flanagan sentenced Thorson to eight to 20 years and suspended the sentence on the condition he complete a drug court program.
Thorson was in compliance with the program for a month, passing all drug tests while staying with a support group in housing provided at a legal brothel in a neighboring county, his lawyer David Houston said. But as a result of a determination by probation officials that he must reside within Washoe County, Houston said Thorson was forced to move into a cheap downtown hotel in Reno where he relapsed.
“He was living in what I would refer to as a drug-infested area,” Houston said. “If you put enough stress on an individual and make things seem helpless you do get a certain result - in this case a relapse.”
The 15 Emmy nominations for the movie include lead actor bids for Michael Douglas, who played Liberace, and Matt Damon, who played Thorson.
Deputy District Attorney John Helzer said Thorson, whose real name is Jess Marlow, has been trying to capitalize on his fame since he told arresting officers he couldn’t afford the bad publicity of going to jail on charges of stealing a credit card from a motel next door to a Reno strip club last year.
“His perception of being a celebrity is his biggest wall. He’s not a celebrity. He’s a story. It’s one of accusation and manipulation and failure,” Helzer said. “He should go to prison.”
Flanagan rejected the prosecution’s motion to revoke probation and order Thorson to jail but said it would be his last chance.
“I’m not impressed - I don’t think anybody is - with this so-called celebrity status,” the judge said. “You’re just like any other addict who has committed a crime against a victim.”