Frank Hardy Made My Photographs Two

Behind The Candelabra … Pensacola Style …

with 17 comments

Liberace with Girl_Retouched_SFW_14 June 13

I made a post a while back with a photo of Liberace that my father made back in the late 1950’s when he would travel to Pensacola to purchase antiques.   I said that I would tell a little story that my father used to tell about a conversation he had with Liberace on one of his trips to Pensacola, but I never got got around to sharing it with you.  He and Liberace were talking, waiting for Liberace’s luggage was  to be unloaded off the plane.  My father was telling him that he saw a pianist  playing at the Palmer House in Chicago back in the late 1930’s.  My father’s brother was getting married and they were having the wedding rehearsal dinner in a room at the Palmer House.  My dad was walking around looking at the hotel and could not get over how large the place is.  In fact it, it takes up a whole block in downtown Chicago on the lakefront.   Being from Pensacola, he had never seen anything like the Palmer House before and was surprised how many ballrooms the place had and they all seemed to have something going on in each of them.  In one of the ballrooms was a teenager from Wisconsin playing the piano and entertaining the crowd of several hundred people.  As he was telling Liberace this story, Liberace stopped my dad and told him that was most likely him  playing at the Palmer House.  Playing at the Palmer House in the late 1930’s was the first professional job that he ever had.  Liberace never won any musical competition to achieve  nation acclaim.  It was because of playing at the Palmer House that music company executives and other booking agents  got to see him … and the rest they say is history.   I do not know who his ” lady friend ” in the photo above is.  I had posted this photo on the first blog that I had and somebody had mentioned a name, but it was not a familiar name and I cannot remember the name that was mentioned.  Here is one of Lee by himself …

Liberace 4_4x5_SFW_6_15_13

Nice looking jacket, Lee.  I read a biography of Liberace years ago and he mentioned traveling to Pensacola to purchase antiques in the book.  He mentioned an antique business and it might have been one named “Bercaw’s”, but I cannot be sure and I have no idea where the book is now.  It was because of Ada Wilson that my father got involved … she had original LouisXV ( or whatever the number ) furniture and Liberace was a big fan of this French Provincial furniture.  I have seen some photos of Liberace sitting on these sofas with Mrs Wilson, but I cannot find any of the negatives.  I also do not know if Liberace ever came to Pensacola to play a concert and that is how he came to know these antique dealers.  Maybe some of you out there might know and would share it with us.  Finally, here is a photo of Lee’s  “assistant” …

Liberaces Friend_RTP_SFW_6_15_13

I guess that Lee always had a ” Scott Thorson ” with him back in the 1950’s.  Thanks for looking and if any of you remember meeting Liberace on one of his ” buying ” trips to Pensacola, please let us hear from you … Frank

Written by Frank Hardy

June 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm

17 Responses

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  1. Thank you for sharing! Ada Wilson is my great great grandma. My grandba is Buddy Wilson.

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    melinda695

    May 17, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    • Thanks for commenting … I never knew Buddy Wilson and I do not think that I have ever heard the name. I have some miscellaneous things, photos, etc that my father had accumulated about Mrs Wilson. I only knew Julia and I do not believe that I ever meet any of her family, but this was back in the 1960’s and I was young. You can contact me through my email … frankphardy@gmail.com … if you are interested. Thanks again and I would be interested in hearing from you. Keep in touch – Frank

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      Frank Hardy

      May 19, 2015 at 8:12 pm

  2. Frank,

    David Bercaw here. My parents owned Bercaw’s Antiques on Gregory Street. The shop and our home was combined. One night late around 1am the door bell rang and it was a city policeman that told my Father that they had someone that wanted to see the shop. It was Liberace who had just finished a concert in town.

    He came in and stayed till around 4-5am. He shopped and bought. Mother served brownies and coffee to the police escort. I had just started working for First Bank & Trust (April 1966) when the proof department called me to see a check my dad had deposited. It was the check Liberace had written that night. I remember the signature as it looked like a candelabra.

    Dad was the one that introduced Liberace to Ada Wilson who also lived on Gregory Street almost across from EJ Wilson Elementary. Dad also introduced Liberace to another antique dealer by the name of Charles Porras who lived on West Chase Street. Charles is a very dear friend and one of the “family”. Liberace bought more over the years. George his brother managed the Liberace’s antique shop in California.

    A side story is one early morning about 4-6 months after Liberace’s first visit the door bell rang and a very tall gentleman told my Dad that he had hear from a close friend that told him that Bercaw’s had some very good antiques. That man was Vincent Price who also had an antiques store close to Liberace’s in California. Liberace had sent him and he as well became a good customer of the shop.

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    David Bercaw

    February 19, 2014 at 7:29 am

    • Those are great stories, David. That is what I hoped for when I started this blog years ago. I was fairly young being around Mrs. Wilson, but I remember her being very nice and was always pleasant to be with. When the old Christ Church down at Seville Square used to be a museum, there was a wall-sized mural on the west wall depicting the history of Pensacola that Mrs. Wilson had painted. When she was painting this mural, she invited me down to help her paint some of the ” bay water ” in the mural. I always remembered doing that and how excited I was to be involved with a ” real ” painting. I have no idea whatever happened to the mural when they converted the church back into a church and have often wondered where it is. Thanks for commenting and please check back … I post sporadically, it really boils down to when I have something worked-up and I think people are interested in…Frank

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      Frank Hardy

      February 19, 2014 at 8:35 am

      • Ms. Wilson was also a dear friend of my family and I use to drop by her house on the way home from EJ Wilson. She had turned her house into a Museum and charged admission. Back then we walked home but these days it would be unheard of. She also painted a great amount of Geronimo and as kids we were told by her that she actually met him when she was a little girl and when she went to shake his hand he crushed hers and broke the bones. Little did we know that the issue with her hands was old age and rheumatoid arthritis‎!! Sounded like a great story to us kids then as we believed it all and we were in awe.

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        David Bercaw

        February 19, 2014 at 8:52 am

      • Thanks for that information … I have several copy negatives of Mrs. Wilson’s paintings of Geronimo and some other people. Plus I do have several paintings that she had done of some flowers. I have some news clippings that my father had saved on Mrs. Wilson that I have thought about scanning and posting that I might do in the future. I have had several comments about her through the years, but I cannot remember what they were off the top of my head. Thanks for commenting again … Frank

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        Frank Hardy

        February 19, 2014 at 9:40 am

      • I had replied on another blog but then found this one. My memory of her is almost in perfect sinc with David Bercaw’s!

        Like Frank, I only knew of Ada Birch Wilson living on Gregory St. Her house was very crowded with antiques. I met her when I was about 12 years old when we attended the Hammond Organ Society meetings at Reynolds Music House. She was in her 90’s as I recall. She could play the difficult song “Nola” even though she had bad arthritis in her fingers. She also told me she had met Geronimo as a child when he was at Fort Pickens. She remembered him squeezing her hand so hard when she shook it that it hurt her. That is where the postcard painting came from. I had asked her about him when I saw a large painting of him at her place. I thought I had one of the postcards but can’t find it. Could someone send a photo of one and one of Mrs. Wilson?
        Thanks.
        John Ellis

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        John Ellis

        April 4, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      • Please read what I commented on your first comment … Frank

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        Frank Hardy

        April 5, 2015 at 9:51 am

  3. Frank,
    Mahlon Newkirk. He (Liberace) used to stay and visit with my father Harry E, all the tine . 1950’s, 60’s early seventies. Even sent a Christmas gift every year. He played at the Municipal Auditorium when my dad helped co-found the first Pensacola Orchestra with my mother Nancy.
    Love the pics

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    Mahlon Newkirk

    August 24, 2013 at 10:51 am

    • The only time I ever sang was when Mrs. Nancy Newkirk played the piano and we read out of a song book!

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      Bill

      August 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      • Thanks for sharing that with us, Bill … Keep in touch … Frank

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        Frank Hardy

        September 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

  4. Liberace performed at the Pensacola Auditorium at the foot of Palafox St. in 1966 and 1967; I attended both shows. He was truly a showman and put on terrific shows. Mr. and Mrs. Wicke, that managed the auditorium, for many years had great entertainment. Liberace had his favorite antique stores around the west side of town along Garden St.

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    J. Randall

    June 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    • Thanks for the comment. Some people had made comments about him playing here, but was never specific about the dates. If anyone in the Pensacola area has one of the program’s from a Liberace show, I would like to see it and I would come to you or meet you somewhere in Pensacola. Thanks for the info and please check back … Frank

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      Frank Hardy

      June 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

  5. Yes, Liberace did perform in Pensacola in the building (can’t remember what they called it) at the end of the pier on P’cola Bay. I went with my boyfriend and his mother in the 50’s and have the program with his picture on the front. It was put on by Ben White, president of White’s Furniture Company. The program said he preferred the Baldwin piano and also performing was “new singing discovery” Janet Medlin.

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    bonnie918@aol.com

    June 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    • Maybe that lady exiting the plane with Liberace is Janet Medlin? I will have to Google the name and see if a photo pops up. The building most likely would have been the Municipal Auditorium at the foot of Palalfox Street. It held most of the concerts, dances and shows for the 1950’s through the 1970’s, until the Pensacola Civic Center was built. If you ever run across the program, take a photo and post it … I would like to see it. Thanks for the information … now if we can only figure out who the guy entering the plane is. Please check back … Frank

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      Frank Hardy

      June 16, 2013 at 9:29 am

  6. He did play here, it was in the 60’s I believe. No idea the date, I didn’t go, (too young) but I remember a relative went to see him and they bought a program booklet souvenir, it had a gold cover and was shaped like a grand piano. Full of pictures of him. I wish I had it. should be worth something.

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    Bill

    June 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    • Thanks, that is interesting … Frank

      Like

      Frank Hardy

      June 16, 2013 at 9:20 am


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