October 26, 2015 - 10:40 am
Editor’s Note: This is part of an occasional series about the restoration and preservation of Liberace’s former mansion at 4982 Shirley St.
Liberace was a world-renowned pianist and showman known for his flair and opulent lifestyle. His over-the-top opulence was certainly evident within his 14,393-square-foot Las Vegas residence that he created in the mid-1970s by combining two homes into one at 4982 Shirley St. His part-time residence was by far the largest home on the block and probably the fanciest with chandeliers, mirrored walls, artwork, pianos and celebrity visitors.
After Wladziu Valentino Liberace’s 1987 death, the mansion slowly lost its luster as its ownership changed a few times. It eventually fell into disrepair and foreclosure.
U.K. businessman and longtime Liberace fan Martyn Ravenhill bought it in August 2013 for $500,000 with intent to return it to its former glory. The restoration and preservation project uncovered a couple of unexpected things — most notably two sinkholes under its master suite wing, and repairing the foundation so the mansion wouldn’t collapse proved extensive. Thus far, he has spent three times the purchase price in its restoration.
With the new owner’s hard work, Liberace’s spirit of grandeur and eclectic style have returned to Shirley Street. Maybe the piano virtuoso’s spirit has returned, too. Ravenhill sometimes feels it and, local psychic Mystic Mona (Mona Van Joseph) sensed a special something while visiting the mansion earlier this month, too.
Spirit of the showman?
“Yes, there is a presence here, and there’s no getting away from it. It is not spooky, it’s not scary. People, when they walk in, feel his energy inside this house. There is an electricity, an excitement. There’s a magic in the air,” Ravenhill said.
The “magic in the air” feeling is easy to understand with the mansion’s upscale, glamorous design. After all, there are several sparkling chandeliers and a grand staircase from Paris. Mirrored walls and bars feature etchings similar in style to that of English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and also sport musical notes and the resemblance of Liberace. Eight marble pillars were imported from Athens, Greece, and there is a mural on the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of the master suite and a ceiling mural depicting Liberace and cherubs looking down upon the master bath’s marble tub with golden swan fixtures. … Eclectic. Opulent. A showstopper. Just like Liberace himself.
However, when Ravenhill first walked in the house while it was in foreclosure, he did not feel that sense of electricity.
“I found this kind of call for help. There was like how could this be? How and why? What did he do wrong to deserve this, this neglect? That’s what I felt. So I bought the house out of a sense of excitement, and history, but I just didn’t understand the why. … Why was this house just left for someone from overseas to come and buy it, pick up the pieces … and put it back together?” Ravenhill said.
Nowadays, Ravenhill said the lights will sometimes flicker though the house has been totally rewired. The new owner said he has heard a “shush” sound while alone. And then there’s the sound of music.
“Sometimes you’ll wake up at night you’ll hear a tinkling of piano, and you wonder if it is real or your imagination. Then you see your dogs sitting up in their cages, too,” Ravenhill said.
(Note: He said no one is playing the piano.)
Mystic Mona and tarot cards
Mystic Mona — a local psychic who has appeared on local radio and television shows — visited the home to help gauge its energy. One of her first responses: “There is such an amazing energy here, and for me to walk in and get goosebumps, and I am not a medium. It is awesome.”
While Ravenhill showed Mystic Mona around, they discussed Mr. Showmanship, his panache, flamboyant costumes, the “king of bling.” During the tour, Mystic Mona shared a few ideas like creating a Liberace restaurant (Liberace used to own the now-closed Tivoli Gardens, which was near the now-closed Liberace Museum on Tropicana Avenue), a classy nightclub like the Copacabana, or a Liberace evening at a local restaurant.
“There is something so amazing about the energy. The home is so amazing, so fascinating and so authentic,” Mystic Mona said.
She said: “I get the sense that you are embraced here. I get the sense that the energies here embrace what you have done and they embrace you.”
After the tour they sat down for a tarot card reading in the grand living room. Ravenhill began by drawing five cards and leaving them face down. Soon a card fell from the table.
“This card that flipped over says that you need to be serious about your own happiness. If it makes you happy, do it, which I think would be Liberace’s words,” Mystic Mona said.
The reading progressed, with Mystic Mona offering many insights.
“You have to trust what you are doing is exactly the right thing … It is called the ‘master’ — you are doing exactly the right thing. It has to be your vision though. Don’t let someone else talk you into doing something that does not feel good in your spirit,” she said. “It is saying that you are not only honoring the master of this house, you are also honoring your own abilities at the same time. By acting as a catalyst for Liberace, you are actually securing his memory.
“This will be a rest-of-your-life project. You already know that though. The other thing I see is that it will generate an income here. The more creative you are, the more income you will make. It is not just making an income, but is creating a legacy.”
She also offered insights regarding aligning yourself with authentic people, staying away from naysayers, business and personal relationships, planning an event for Liberace family members and friends, and that June 2016 would be a good launch date for a new project.
When Ravenhill asked about the possible impact that the home will have on Liberace’s name, Mystic Mona responded: “It already has. You already have the momentum of his energy behind you. If you can get in the quiet mode, you can get the inspiration from Liberace himself. And you are already getting it. There was a reason why you were here on that day and got the mansion the way you did.”
Mystic Mona was correct in that Ravenhill has plans for the mansion’s future.
“I, myself, don’t have a foundation, and it is not a business. It is my residence. My plan is to make this house a showcase, keep my private quarters private, and we will see what the city grants me permission to do,” Ravenhill said, adding that tourist buses drive by regularly.
“I don’t want people just traipsing through here, but we’ve got a ballroom in the back that is suitable for groups, and it is different than what the Strip has to offer. … It could be of interest to someone who wants to do something a little different. I’ve already had calls on that, and I don’t mind hosting now and then. I really want to keep the Liberace name around.”
The mansion is not open to the public but at times hosts private events. A private art show of a Mexican artist is planned in November and an invitation-only event for Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (which has a site across the street from the mansion).
Also, Ravenhill is seeking a historical designation from Nevada.
Efforts to restore and preserve the mansion continue. The next major project will be in the second-floor Moroccan Room, where Liberace once entertained guests. Its roof needs to be replaced, and its tilting fireplace mantel needs to be repositioned.
Ravenhill continues to look for Liberace memorabilia to display within the mansion, explaining that many of Liberace’s items were auctioned off after his death.
As for Mystic Mona’s suggestions for the future, only time will tell if they come to fruition at the Liberace Mansion.
For additional information, visit the Liberace Mansion Facebook page.