Before shooting started on “Behind the Candelabra,” director Steven Soderbergh’s biopic about Liberace and his lover Scott Thorson, producers of the film placed a call to Rob Norris, owner of the Piano Mill, a piano restoration company in Rockland.
They were looking for the Baldwin SD-10 concert grand adorned with rhinestones that was known to be Liberace’s favorite piano.
“I’m the indefinite custodian of it,” Norris told us Monday. “A few years ago, my Baldwin rep called me and said they needed a home for it, so I have it.”
That’s right, the spectacularly bejeweled piano that Liberace traveled the world with is — or was — ensconced at the Piano Mill. Over the weekend, the ornate instrument was loaded onto a truck and taken to New York, where it’s been temporarily installed in the lobby of the Time Warner Center (right) to promote Soderbergh’s movie.
Starring Michael Douglas as the flamboyant piano man and Matt Damon as his young lover, “Behind the Candelabra” premieres Sunday on HBO.
Producers had wanted to use the 9-foot-long concert grand during filming in Las Vegas, but the cost to ship it — and the three burly dudes needed to lift it — was considered too high. Instead, Soderbergh used Liberace’s other concert grand piano adorned with rhinestones, the one that was on display at the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas. (It’s now closed.)
“It takes a lot to move a piano like that,” said Norris, who estimates its weight at more than 1,100 pounds. “You kind of have to baby-sit it.”
Of the 100 or so pianos currently stored or serviced at Norris’s place, not one has the pedigree of Liberace’s piano. But he does have Arthur Fiedler’s old practice piano, which had been mothballed in the basement of Symphony Hall.
“He used it to warm up with,” he told us. “It’s in pretty rough shape.”
Although Liberace’s piano is on loan at the moment, Amanda Carr, director of operations at the Piano Mill, said it will return to Rockland in about 10 days, and the public is welcome to come check it out and even to play it.
“We didn’t realize what a big draw it would be,” she said. “We don’t have it roped off like at a museum. We’ve let students do recitals on it. It’s an instrument and instruments need to be played.”