Scott Thorson

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Scott Thorson
Born (1959-01-23) January 23, 1959 (age 56)
La Crosse, Wisconsin, United States
Partner(s) Liberace (1976–1986)

Scott Thorson (born January 23, 1959)[1] (later Jess Marlow) became famous for his relationship with and lawsuit against the late entertainer Liberace[2] and his testimony against gangster Eddie Nash.[3]

Relationship with Liberace[edit]

Thorson met Liberace in 1976, through his romantic friendship with dancer Bob Street who was a friend of Hollywood producer Ray Arnett who was staging Liberace's shows in Vegas. When Thorson was 18, Liberace hired him to act as his personal friend and companion, a position that allegedly included a five-year romantic relationship with lavish gifts, travel, and Liberace's promises that he would adopt and care for Thorson. He claimed that he had "more mink coats and diamonds than Elizabeth Taylor".[4] Other sources, such as Thorson's own book Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace, list Thorson's age at 18 when he met Liberace though Thorson has in recent years claimed he was "16" and Liberace was "48 years older" at the time of their first meeting.[5] Liberace also incorporated Thorson into his Las Vegas stage performances (e.g., Thorson drove Liberace's Rolls-Royce onstage,[2] and was a dancer[6]). According to Thorson, their committed relationship ended because of Liberace's promiscuous behavior and Thorson's drug addiction. Thorson also claimed that it was Liberace that originally started him on the drugs, but then when it got out of control, Liberace cut him off from all of his credit cards.[4] Thorson stated that following his plastic surgery, the surgeon provided for him a cocktail of highly addictive drugs that included cocaine, quaaludes, biphetamines, and Demerol.[7] Thorson stated that since he was so young at the time of meeting Liberace he would do anything he could to please him, including getting plastic surgery so that he could resemble him, but he felt that their relationship was one-sided; he called Liberace both generous and possessive.[4]

Lawsuit and Book Publishing[edit]

In 1982, Thorson filed a $113 million lawsuit against Liberace,[8] part of which was a palimony suit; this was the first same-sex palimony case filed in U.S. history.[4] Thorson decided to sue, because he claimed that Liberace threw him out on the streets with nothing.[4] In 1986, Thorson and Liberace agreed to settle out of court for $95,000.[4] Throughout their lawsuit, Scott stated that Liberace referred to him in the media as a disgruntled employee, a liar, a gold digger, and claimed that there was never a sexual relationship between them.[4] Despite these accusations, he visited and reconciled with Liberace shortly before the entertainer's death in 1987.[2] A year later, Thorson published a book about their relationship, Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace,[3] which was later adapted by Richard LaGravenese and Steven Soderbergh into the 2013 film Behind the Candelabra, in which Thorson was played by Matt Damon opposite Michael Douglas as Liberace.

After Liberace[edit]

In 1989, Thorson emerged as a pivotal witness in the prosecution of gangster Eddie Nash in the 1981 quadruple murders of the Wonderland Gang. For his testimony, he was placed in the federal witness protection program. In 1990, he was shot five times when drug dealers broke into his hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida.[3]

In 2000, Thorson was among several people featured in the British television documentary Liberace: Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful. In 2002, he was interviewed by Larry King on Larry King Live. In the midst of his relationship with Liberace, Thorson confirmed he chose to have plastic surgery to look more like Liberace at the pianist's suggestion. During the interview with King, Thorson revealed his chin implant had been removed earlier in 2002.[2]

In 2008, Thorson pleaded guilty to felony drug and burglary charges and was sentenced to four years in prison.[8]

Following his release, Thorson gave interviews about his relationship with Liberace, including with Howard Stern, in June 2013, in which he talked about former lovers and affairs he had when he lived with Liberace. Another interview was on Entertainment Tonight in May 2012,[9] where he stated that memories of his time with Liberace were still difficult for him.[10]

Previously diagnosed with hepatitis C, in the autumn of 2012 Thorson was diagnosed with stage II cancer.[2][11][12] Since his diagnosis, Thorson has made public pleas for money to continue his medical treatments. Recently, Thorson has been involved in writing a followup to Behind the Candelabra.[13]

In February 2013, police investigating a lost wallet tracked the use of the victim's credit cards to a hotel in Reno, Nevada. Thorson was found to be using the credit cards, including renting a room at the Ponderosa Hotel in Reno, and was arrested. Thorson (who also uses the alias Jess Marlow, an alias he says occurred when he entered the protection program in the Nash case) was booked on a variety of charges, including burglary, and using a credit card without consent.[14] [15] He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years' probation.[16]

On January 23, 2014, Thorson was sentenced to 8 to 20 years in Nevada prison for failing court-ordered drug tests while on probation for burglary and identity theft convictions. Washoe District Judge Patrick Flanagan sentenced Scott Thorson after a string of bad drug tests, and due to his failure to show up at a court-ordered treatment facility for treatment. Thorson blamed his troubles on his revived celebrity status. Flanagan suspended Thorson's prison sentence in July 2013, and gave Thorson another chance in September 2013 to straighten out his life after he tested positive for methamphetamine. Thorson subsequently failed drug tests again - twice in October, and again on November 1, 2013. Thorson was arrested on November 19, 2013, after violating a court order to enter an inpatient treatment facility in Reno, Nevada two weeks earlier. Judge Flanagan told Thorson his so-called celebrity status missed the key point. "You're just like any other addict, who has committed a crime against a victim", noted judge Flanagan. [17]

Behind the Candelabra movie[edit]

An HBO original movie, Behind the Candelabra, based on Thorson's book Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace, aired on HBO on May 26, 2013.[18] The film features Matt Damon as Thorson and Michael Douglas as Liberace, and is the first movie on the Thorson–Liberace relationship and its aftermath since the Canada–US made-for-TV movie Liberace: Behind the Music (1988), where Thorson was portrayed by Michael Dolan.[19] Behind the Candelabra is directed by Steven Soderbergh from a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese, with music by Academy Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch.[20]


  1. ^ Behind the Candelabra — My Life with Liberace by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorliefson; pp. 47; Copyright 1988; E.P. Dutton Publishing; ISBN 0-525-24653-3
  2. ^ a b c d e "Interview with Scott Thorson (Transcript)". Larry King Live (CNN). Airdate 12 August 2002 - 21:00 ET. Retrieved 29 December 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ a b c Rodger Jacobs (2009-05-29). "Depression 2.0: Sunday in Kerouac Alley". PopMatters. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Oprah: Where Are They Now? -Interview with Scott Thorson [TV Series]. (2013). United States: OWN TV (Oprah Winfrey Network).
  5. ^ Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace: Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson, E.P. Dutton, New York, 1988
  6. ^ Metro Digest (16 March 1988). "Local News in Brief: Liberace Companion Held". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ David Segal (2013-05-10). "The Boy Toy’s Story". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b "Celebrity Alimony / Palimony". Celeb Legal Issues. 
  9. ^ "Liberace's Former Lover Details Secret Romance". Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  10. ^ "Press Express | Not Available". Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  11. ^ "Liberace's Ex-Lover Claims Gay Affair With Jackson". 2004-04-15. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ ETonline staff (2012-10-25). "EXCLUSIVE: Inside Scott Thorson's Cancer Battle". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved 2013-05-04. 
  14. ^ Segal, David (May 10, 2013). "The Boy Toy's Story". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Liberace's Alleged Ex-Lover in Washoe County Jail". My News 4. KRNV-DT. 2013-05-28. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  16. ^ "Liberace's Ex-Lover Scott Thorson Sentenced To 5 Years Probation After Using Stolen Credit Cards". Retrieved 2013-07-18. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Douglas, Damon starring in HBO's Liberace biopic". 2011-10-11. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  19. ^ Katsilometes, John. "Matt Damon looking forward to playing Liberace’s lover in upcoming biopic". Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  20. ^ "Director Steven Soderbergh on new Liberace film". 2009-11-20. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 

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