That time Little Richard & Liberace both appeared as guests on the same 1970s talk show

That time Little Richard & Liberace both appeared as guests on the same 1970s talk show

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Little Richard and Liberace on the Mike Douglas Show
Little Richard and Liberace on the Mike Douglas Show (Photo: YouTube)

An Instagram post that recently went viral shows two famous LGBTQ+ figures on the same chat show in 1970. At the time, both performers were in the closet, despite their flamboyant and outrageous stage personas.

The two individuals in question were Liberace and Little Richard.

Liberace was a guest co-host of The Mike Douglas Show for a week. During his stint with Douglas, rock’n’roller Little Richard was a guest.

The clip is fascinating now to see how gay men in the entertainment industry often hid in plain sight.

Watch below.

In the clip, Little Richard says he’d looked up to Liberace since he was a little kid. He was always particularly taken by his “beautiful” clothes.

Douglas compliments Little Richard, saying “Close up, you really are beautiful.” The comment moved some people online.

“54 years later everything about this still looks and feels ahead of its time and way more than the sum of its parts,” said one person. “Especially a straight male white host having a very flamboyant gay black male guest, and cutting him off to call him beautiful, with no comedy or overcompensation to it, just admiration.”

“It deeply touched me that Mike Douglas in all sincerity told little Richard he was really beautiful in person, said another. “I loved watching the Michael Douglas show when I was young… miss those days.”

However, others missed “those days” for other reasons. More than one commentator suggested it would be nice to return to entertainers like Liberace and Little Richard.

“These people existed but did their thing and NEVER tried to jam it down people’s throats for attention or wanted to go after children. Never,” whined one person.


Others correctly pointed out that both Liberace and Little Richard struggled with their sexuality, and that living life in the closet came with a heavy price.

Who were Little Richard and Liberace?

Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman) was born in December 1932 in Macon, Georgia. He hit the big time in the mid-1950s with hits such as “Tutti Frutti”. Raised in a religious family, he said his sexuality was something that led to his father kicking him out of his house when he was 15.

In 1982, Little Richard said on The David Letterman Show, “God gave me the victory. I’m not gay now, but, you know, I was gay all my life. I believe I was one of the first gay people to come out.” In 1984, talking to another journalist, he defined himself as “omnisexual”.

In 2017, Little Richard denounced homosexuality as “unnatural affection”. He claimed to no longer be gay because of his faith. He died in 2020, aged 87.

Liberace (Władziu Valentino Liberace) was born in May 1919 in West Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He rose to prominence in the late 1940s by taking his piano show around nightclubs across the US. His increasingly flamboyant outfits and camp stage persona saw his star rise further in the 1950s and 60s.

He never publicly admitted being gay. In fact, in 1959, he successfully sued a UK newspaper for suggesting he might be homosexual. He launched similar legal actions in the US.

Liberace was secretly diagnosed HIV positive in August 1985. He told only a handful of close friends and associates. He died February 4, 1987, at the age of 67, at his home in Palm Springs, California. His physician insisted he died of heart failure. However, a coroner’s report stated his death was due to AIDS complications.

The whole episode of The Mike Douglas Show with Liberace and Little Richard is on YouTube (see below). Little Richard appears at the 18-minute mark.

Besides talking about his outfit, Little Richard talks about his musical influences, paying to move his family from Georgia to California, and gives “beauty hints for the ladies.”


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