[Identity] The King of Bling?

Liberace makes his hip-hop comeback

Aaron Thompson

Liberace, famed icon of the piano and a centerpiece of old-Vegas kitsch, was a man of many talents and many shoes. But who would have thought that Mr. Showmanship would have his finger on the pulse of fashion more than 20 years after his death?

Starting this month, the Las Vegas-based Liberace Foundation will introduce a brand of Liberace-themed sneakers.

Liberace Kicks, made by Pittsburgh-based designer-shoe company Khashi Kicks, are an attempt to re-create Liberace’s brand and identity for a new generation of potential fans, according to Foundation Executive Director Darrin Hollinsworth.

“The natural audience is aging ... so we’ve had to get creative,” Hollinsworth says.

Getting creative means making the famous entertainer more of an idol to the hip-hop community.

How? By rebranding him as the original “King of Bling.”

Well-known for his over-the-top outfits—capes with rhinestones, diamonds and feathers—Liberace was indeed a master of excess well before blingdom. Hollinsworth says this makes him the original king of bling—and, he says, the hip-hop community seems to agree. Jay-Z and Kanye West, Hollinsworth says, are among those whose style is influenced by the absurd glitz of Liberace. In fact, such excess is intertwined with hip-hop culture—and that’s what Hollinsworth hopes to capitalize on.

The foundation brings in around $2 million a year from donations and merchandise sales to support the museum, which is filled with Liberace’s original bling: pianos, cars, costumes and jewelry that endeared Liberace to tacky white people everywhere.

The shoes start at $99 and can be bought locally at the Liberace Museum, 1775 Tropicana Ave. Proceeds go to the museum.

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