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Behind the prison bars: The Scott Thorson story

Liberace’s former lover Scott Thorson gave an interview to The New York Times from inside the Washoe County Jail after being charged with burglary and identity theft. Thorson bought $1,300 worth of computer equipment and cellphones with a credit card and licence that weren’t his. His bail is set at $15,000, which he should be able to pay with the $100,000 he got for the rights to HBO’s upcoming Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, based on Thorson’s autobiography of the same name, but he has already spent his earnings on cars and jewellery, naturally.

Thorson is an intriguing and disturbed man who has been in and out of prison since his relationship with Liberace unceremoniously ended in 1982. He’s no longer the teenaged stud who Liberace saved from abuse in the foster-care system, due to his cocaine, crack and meth addictions, and stage 3 colon cancer. Also responsible for the change in Thorson is the removal of the chin implant Liberace insisted he get when he was only 17 years old. According to Thorson, Liberace wanted a boy-toy and a son and hired a plastic surgeon to mould Thorson’s face into Liberace’s own image as a young man with enhanced cheek bones, a nose job and a chin implant. “I was 17 years old,” Thorson said of why he went along with the surgeries. “Liberace had taken me out of a situation with a father who was very abusive, a mother who was mentally ill. I did everything I possibly could to please this man."

Since entering the witness protection program in 1989 after testifying against a drug lord, Eddie Nash, Thorson has gone by the name Jess Marlow. It’s yet another twist in the opulent and tragic story of his life, which has seen him in and out of prison and battling addictions he claims started when Liberace introduced him to the “Hollywood diet” of pills and cocaine to help him stay thin. 

Thorson has pleaded guilty to the latest charges of burglary and identity theft and has asked to be sent to a rehabilitation centre. Although Washoe County Jail has a television, it does not have HBO, so he will not be watching Behind the Candelabra. And he’s bitter about it.

“All these people are getting rich from my story,” he said, “and here I sit.”