The Boy Toy’s Story, Part Three

I had forgotten that Jess has a Liberace tattoo! What a hot mess. Pssst, the house in Vegas Scott once owned on Larramore St. (now,40 yrs later…). He defaulted, and I believe Liberace took over the mortgage and later willed it to his beloved, longtime housekeeper, Miss Gladys Luckie.


“I said to him, ‘I’m looking for a diamond ring and one that you paid for yourself,’ ” she said, laughing. “He got pretty mad that I didn’t want it.”

She speaks with a note of nostalgia about those strife-ridden years. It’s a note you won’t hear when you discuss the subject with Mr. Thorson.

“Horrible!” he said of his Maine phase. “It was so boring. I hated the weather. Five feet of snow. It was too quiet. I had to get the hell out of there.”

NOTE: The Haven of Rest men’s shelter in Tallahassee, where Scott stayed before his Pentecostal phase…

Mr. Thorson moved to Palm Springs, where he would be arrested a handful of times for stealing groceries and drug possession, among many other charges. Early in this era, he met Tony Pelicone.

“I recently learned that he came by our house to meet someone I was dating,” Mr. Pelicone said. “Later his house burned and nobody was there to pick him up. So I did, thinking he’d stay for a few days. That turned into 10 years.”

Initially, Mr. Pelicone was thrilled to meet Liberace’s ex, and he introduced Mr. Thorson to his mother and stepfather, Oliver Mading. Mr. Mading, a businessman with a background in packaged foods, says he negotiated the “Behind the Candelabra” movie deal with the producer Jerry Weintraub, while Mr. Thorson was in prison on drug charges. After his release, Mr. Thorson spent his cut of the movie earnings — just under $100,000 — in about two months, mostly on cars and jewelry.

“We always knew Jess without money,” Mr. Mading said. “Not that $100,000 is King Midas’ trove, but Jess burned through it like a complete idiot.”

Mr. Thorson says he’s now penniless because of outlays for cancer treatment. The truth is almost beside the point. An assortment of siblings and half-siblings want nothing to do with him, Mr. Mading says. His only real assets today are the intangibles that Liberace bequeathed him, most notably, a peculiar place in showbiz history as the kid that Liberace once adored and tried to remake in his image.

“There’s always been a love-hate relationship,” Mr. Thorson said when asked to describe his feelings about Liberace today. “At that time, I was so honored to be in his presence. And I didn’t want to go back to my lifestyle in the foster homes, which was pure hell.”

Their years together scarred him, he says, and partially explain the troubles that followed. But those years were also the happiest of his life. So though he removed the chin implant, he also had a tribute to Liberace tattooed on his forearm. He rolls up the sleeve of a gray thermal undershirt to reveal an inky cluster of curlicued letters and symbols. In the middle is Liberace’s name, surrounded by floating musical notes, plus the years that Liberace lived and a yellow rose.

“His favorite flower,” Mr. Thorson said matter-of-factly, rolling his sleeve back down.