The boy toy’s story

Scott Thorson finds life after Liberace stranger and more unbelievable than before

Written by New York Times | Published: May 19, 2013 3:01:38 am

Scott Thorson finds life after Liberace stranger and more unbelievable than before

Soon after moving into Liberace’s gaudy Las Vegas mansion in 1977,Scott Thorson,then a teenage hunk in the foster care system,learned that the jewel-smitten showman could love just as extravagantly as he decorated. Touring the premises before their relationship began,Liberace pointed out some decorative highlights,which included 17 pianos,a casino,and a quarry’s worth of marble. On the ceiling was a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel with Liberace’s face painted among the cherubs.

When the pair became a couple,Liberace,who was 40 years older,was just as excessive. He couldn’t bear to let Thorson out of his sight.

Liberace even wanted Thorson nearby when he worked. So for years,Thorson would don a chauffeur’s costume covered in rhinestones and drive “Mr Showmanship” on stage in a bejeweled Rolls-Royce.

If you missed this routine,which ran for years at the Las Vegas Hilton,you can catch a re-enactment in an HBO movie,Behind the Candelabra,which is based on Thorson’s autobiography of the same name.

One person who might miss the movie’s debut is Scott Thorson. He is an inmate at the Washoe County jail,Nevada,and while the place has its share of amenities,HBO isn’t one of them.

Thorson,now 54,has been held here since February,when he was charged with burglary and identity theft,after buying about $1,300 worth of computer merchandise using a credit card and licence that weren’t his.

It’s hard to connect this worn and anxious man to the beefcake grinning in photographs in the late 1970s. The reason he looks different: The chin implant is gone. Thorson had it removed in an attempt to reverse one of the creepier episodes in the history of plastic surgery. Early in their relationship,Liberace plucked an oil painting of himself and asked a visiting doctor to reshape Thorson’s face to look like Liberace’s as a young man. With sex and fatherhood disturbingly twined,Thorson wound up with a new chin,a nose job and enhanced cheekbones.

But it all ended abruptly in 1982. That year,Liberace had members of his retinue forcibly eject Thorson from his penthouse. There was a deathbed reconciliation before Liberace died of a disease caused by AIDS in 1987. And that is where the book version of Behind the Candelabra ends. But Thorson’s life went on,and as he explained,many of the events that followed are as strange as the ones that came before.

What’s indisputable is that Scott Thorson is no longer named Scott Thorson. He is now known as Jess Marlow,a change Thorson says occurred when he entered the federal witness protection programme as the star witness in the 1989 prosecution of an infamous Los Angeles character named Eddie Nash.

Nash shows up in the book and movie as Mr Y.,described as a drug dealer who made headlines for allegedly ordering the so-called Wonderland murders,a quadruple homicide that took place two days after Nash’s home was robbed of money and drugs in 1981.

It’s an intriguing narrative plot point—man forced to get a new face is later forced to take on a new identity. Thorson eventually landed at a Christian-based homeless shelter in Florida,called the Haven of Rest.

At the Haven of Rest,Thorson found religion. While he was recovering,a life-changing event occurred: a woman from Maine named Georgianna Morrill

came to visit. She found Thorson through a friend and soon after the two met,she invited him to live with her in a tiny two-storey red house in Maine.

Thorson accepted. He stayed for the next 12 years. It was the second time that he found refuge in someone else’s life,but Maine was a long way from Vegas,and Morrill was no Liberace.

Thorson then moved to Palm Springs,where he would be arrested a handful of times for stealing groceries and drug possession,among many other charges.

“There’s always been a love-hate relationship,” Thorson said when asked to describe his feelings about Liberace today.

DAVID SEGAL

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