Palimony Suit Against Liberace Settled
Flamboyant entertainer Liberace has settled a homosexual palimony lawsuit filed by his former live-in chauffeur and travel secretary for $95,000, according to court documents obtained Monday.
The confidential settlement order, approved earlier this month by Superior Court Judge Earl F. Riley, calls for former Las Vegas dancer Scott Thorson to drop his claims against Liberace for assault and battery and rescission of an earlier settlement agreement under which he had already obtained $75,000.
Thorson, 27, claimed in his 1982 lawsuit that Liberace had pledged when Thorson moved in as his full-time travel secretary, chauffeur, animal trainer and lover that he would be paid $70,000 a year for life, up to $30,000 a year for pet care and would be entitled to the use of one of the pianist’s luxury homes in Palm Springs or Beverly Hills for the rest of his life.
Thorson said he had forgone his own career and had at Liberace’s request undergone facial surgery “to more closely conform his facial features to those of Liberace,” expecting to spend the rest of his life with the entertainer and be buried beside him in the Liberace family plot.
Liberace has consistently denied there was ever any such agreement, and a Superior Court judge in 1984 rejected the breach-of-contract “palimony” claims, ruling that even had such an agreement existed, it would have been illegal because it would have constituted a contract for sexual services.
The issues still remaining for trial were:
- Thorson’s allegations that Liberace’s agents assaulted him and sprayed Mace at him when the pianist ordered him evicted from his Beverly Hills penthouse in March, 1982.
- Claims for loss of his career and personal property left behind.
- Allegations that the earlier settlement he had reached with Liberace was invalid because he was under “significant economic distress” and being threatened by Liberace’s associates.
Liberace said in court papers that he asked Thorson to move after Thorson threatened his life. Thorson’s alleged cocaine habit had caused him to become “irrational and unpredictable,” and Liberace said he wanted him to seek medical help.
The entertainer’s attorneys contended that the original settlement, for $75,000 in cash, two dogs, a 1960 Rolls-Royce and two other automobiles, prevented Thorson from making any further claims. The current lawsuit, they said, was “nothing more than a malicious attempt to extort more money from Liberace.”
The case had been scheduled to go to trial in May. The terms of the settlement were ordered kept confidential, but Judge Riley’s order, a copy of which was reviewed by The Times, states that the case “is settled as to the complaint only in the amount of $95,000 in exchange for dismissal” of the suit.
A cross-complaint filed by a private investigator, Tracy Schnelker, who assisted in the eviction, is still pending. Thorson’s former attorney, H. David Schmerin, was also a defendant in the suit.
Liberace’s attorney, Toni Rae Bruno, said she would have no comment. “The fact of the settlement and any and all terms are facts which the court has ordered not to be disclosed at all,” she said. Thorson’s present attorney, Ernst Lepchutz, could not be reached for comment.