Behind the Candelabra
Liberace comes back to life with the help of Howard Cummings
The Cloisters Front Gate “Unfortunately, the house was under such restoration that it was not usable, so I had to find a house that was similar in age. We used a sort of 1920s-style Spanish style house that was very Palm Springs called The Cloisters.”
You may not know his name, but you have seen his work in Rent, Magic Mike, The Usual Suspects, and Secret Window. Production Designer Howard Cummings brings his stellar expertise and impeccable style to his latest effort — Steven Soderbergh’s film, Behind the Candelabra.
The biopic tells the story of Liberace’s tumultuous relationship with partner Scott Thorson. It spans the late-1970s into 1986, when the entertainer was at the height of his popularity, then concludes with his death.
For Cummings, who also lives in Palm Springs, the chance to step into the shoes of one of this town’s most beloved citizens was a welcome challenge.
“It was a dream project for a production designer because Liberace was such an excessive, extravagant guy. His motto was ‘Too much of a good thing is wonderful!’” Cummings says.
Replicating many of Liberace’s possessions proved easy for Cummings. Locals in the area furnished him with many of the film’s props.
“When we got to Palm Springs, they had an open casting call,” Cummings says. “The casting director called me and said, ‘I’ve got all these people telling me they have stuff from the Liberace estate.’ I said, ‘Give me their numbers.’ It was great. People were really jazzed about the project.”
One such piece that was used in the film helped create the look of Liberace’s primary estate in Palm Springs.
“People called me up and said ‘We have the gates to the original Liberace estate. Do you want to use them?’ I asked, ‘Well, where are they’ They said, ‘In our backyard,’” he recalls with a chuckle.
Cummings picked up the original pieces from the present owners — who fortunately lived two blocks from where they were shooting.
Bask in the extravagance of Cummings’ work in Behind the Candelabra when it airs on HBO May 26.
Celebrity Home Tours
Drop in on several of the locations from Behind the Candelabra, including Liberace’s house or other famous homes when you book your next celebrity tour with our favorite providers:
Five Star Adventure Tours
292 S. Indian Canyon Dr., Palm Springs.800-951-9495;
The Best of the Best Tours
15831 La Vida Dr., Palm Springs. 760-320-1365;
Palm Springs Modern Tours
BTWest Palm Springs Celebrity Tours
67555 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Ste. C-111
Cathedral City. 760-770-2700;