In front of Liberace
Saturday, November 09, 2013
A factoid I knew as a kid but never thought much of is that Liberace came to Australia, 'discovered' the talents of a local kid, and took him to America.
I remember this factoid being reiterated during a music lesson. By an old man who used to teach English.
Let me back up a bit: Mr Barrington was an old codger who could have been a granddad. But he had a teenage kid. He spoke like an old man - not a cranky old man, more a Sandy Stone type. He had a tendency refer to students as 'young rabbits' - as in, 'settle down, you young rabbit!' Or maybe he didn't - maybe that was an 'elementary, my dear Watson' line attributed to him in impressions. He'd also hand out Butter Menthols to keep kids on side, apparently. But he had a teenage kid, to which, whenever someone brought it up in conversation, I'd have to exclaim with a Harry H. Corbett impression nobody could possibly get (Steptoe & Son hadn't been on telly for a long time, nor was it currently available on video, and DVDs had yet to be invented), "you dirty old man!"
One day our music teacher was away, and Mr Barrington supervised our elective music lesson. We were supposed to be composing some piece of music or other in a specific keyâ¦ and he insisted that if we couldn't hear it in our heads, we weren't real musicians. We got into a discussion about favourite musicians, and Mr Barrington brought up the young singer who had been taken to America by Liberace.
I must have known this already, because Mr Barrington couldn't remember the singer's name, but I could: it was Jamie Redfern, a 14-year-old with the voice of an adult opera singer, and an original member of Young Talent Time's Young Talent Team.
I hadn't thought about it again.
Not even when I went and watched Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra.
The film is based on the memoirs of Scott Thorson, a young man who became Liberace's paid companion at age 16. Surely Jamie Redfern must have become 'of interest' to Aussie journos when Behind the Candelabra was released.
But I didn't think about it, hadn't remembered Jamie Redfern.
Until the other day, wandering through Epping, when I came upon a St Vinnie's a block away from Station and succumbed to that constant urge to browse through old vinyl in charity shops.
And I saw a copy of a Jamie Redfern album with Liberace on the cover with him. Of course, the cover image is at the top of this blog post, but I've included the hastily snapped, out-of-focus image of it here too.
Worth noting: Liberace doesn't seem to perform on the album - his only appearance is in the publicity photo appearing on the cover.
Turns out Jamie Redfern was briefly of interest to Aussie journos this year, on account of the Liberace biopic. He says nothing untoward happened, apparently.
A more in-depth interview with Jamie Redfern was conducted as part of a profile on the ABC show George Negus Tonight, back in 2003.
Oh, and speaking of 'elementary, my dear Watson' moments - I was disappointed that Liberace never got to say, 'I wish my brother George was here' in Behind the Candelabra.