Interview by Jay Kent Hackleman
Liberace appeared on Hackleman’s radio show on KTRH in Houston in 1968. Hackleman’s granddaughter, Liss LaFleur, preserved her grandfather’s reel-to-reel tapes and we helped bring this interview to life.
The Animated Transcript
Jay Kent Hackleman was one of the first talk show radio hosts in Houston, TX beginning in the 1950s.
Now what is this, this garb?
Men’s clothes are becoming kind of mod, I suppose you might say. They’re becoming more colorful and more flamboyant, and the male peacock is beginning to show his true plumage.
This necklace arrangement that you have on here, this costume? What is that?
It’s called a bib. Takes the place of a tie.
It’s not the kind of bibs I remember. What is made… Is that gold?
It’s 18 karat gold and…
… Russian lapis lazuli.
That’s a beautiful thing.
You must realize that I once was poor myself. I worked to get where I am today and I’ve worked hard to spend $100,000 a year on my clothes and I’ve worked hard to earn $3 million a year. I deserve what I get because I worked for it. I was born and raised during Depression Years when we were on County relief and we all went out and we hustled. we worked. I worked in a restaurant, I washed dishes. My mother worked in a cookie factory. My father worked in a factory. So anyone that dares begrudge what I have today, just better get off their duff and do something about it to do something for themselves as well as their country. I feel that I have a perfect right to spend my money the way I damn please.
I don’t profess to be a healer, a minister, a priest. I feel as an entertainer I can do more good for the world than I would if I were a soapbox orator or a self-made politician. I was, some years ago, privileged to have an audience with Pope Pius XII and later with Cardinal Cushing, and both of these men likened my work, dealing with the public in all parts of the world, to the work that they were trying to do from the pulpit. So I feel that if entertainment is that important, the media, then it’s my duty, not only to mankind but to God, to fulfill the promise that I carry on this work. If someone, for instance, can forget their pains and their ills and their strife by watching any performer then I think this work is worthwhile, yes.
You have found a niche that you are perfectly comfortable with?
I’ve found my bag, yes.
If I were President.
Here we go. In the first place, you’d have campaign buttons with chandeliers, I mean candelabras on them.
No you wouldn’t.
I would spend the money that is spent on wars every 20 years and spend it on giving people work. Let them build roads, bridges, buildings, schools.
In a way though, you’re being contradictory, aren’t you? Because a few moments ago you were suggesting that people get up off their duffs and do these things themselves and pull it up by their bootstraps.
People who sit back and wait for somebody to take care of them are the people that I am speaking of. These are the people that if shown a way, can be useful to our society.
Well, Mr. President, what about those who are shown and don’t pay any attention?
Well, then, I guess they’re just basic criminal people that don’t belong in our society.
People in show business who are interested in politics, like Ronald Reagan, fare so well because they do know the magic of dealing with the public. This is something that can’t be taught in a book. If they can produce after they’ve won over the public. If you can live up to your ballyhoo, you’ve got it made.
You talk about politics, I wonder, have you really ever given it any thought, huh?
Seriously now? Representative or sheriff or something?
I don’t think I would be a good politician. I kid about it when I get a standing ovation. Sometimes I’ll say, “I may run for Governor,” but it’s strictly a joke.