Our Lady of Solitude Church from “Behind the Candelabra”Jun 11th, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: TV Locations
Another Palm Springs’ Behind the Candelabra location that the Grim Cheaper and I stalked recently was Our Lady of Solitude Church, where the funeral for Liberace (Michael Douglas) was held in the recently-aired HBO biopic. This locale was especially interesting because in a case of art imitating life, it was where the flamboyant pianist’s actual 1987 memorial service took place. But more on that later.
In February 1926, Banning resident Father Philip LaVies began working on plans to found and build a Roman Catholic church in the Palm Springs area. The land for the parish was purchased from the Southern Pacific Railroad and temporary services were held there beginning in 1928. LaVies commissioned Albert Martin, the prolific architect who gave us St. Vincent de Paul Church (which I blogged about here), St. Monica Catholic Church (which I blogged about here), Los Angeles City Hall, and the Million Dollar Theatre, to design the site. The Spanish Revival-style structure was completed in 1930. A rectory was added to the property in 1964 and a parish center in 1974. Our Lady of Solitude, which was designated a Class One Historic Site on May 15, 1985, is currently one of the oldest churches still standing in Palm Springs
Our Lady of Solitude has had a few brushes with celebrity in its past. Apparently, President John F. Kennedy attended mass there whenever he was in town. And Jackie Coogan (who just so happens to be the grandfather of Keith Coogan, my girl Pinky Lovejoy’s fiancé) must have as well, because the GC spotted the placard pictured below posted on one of the church’s pews. So incredibly cool! It is also rumored that Liberace was an Our Lady of Solitude parishioner, although I am unsure if there is any validity to that.
Our Lady of Solitude church popped up only once in Behind the Candelabra, in the movie’s closing scene in which Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) attended the funeral of his estranged lover, Liberace (Michael Douglas).
In the scene, Scott parked in the lot located directly across the street from the church.
The actual interior of Our Lady of Solitude was also used in the filming.
As Scott watches the rather colorless ceremony, he starts to envision a funeral service that would be fitting of his flamboyant former lover. In his imagination, the church altar lifts away to reveal a lit stage . . .
. . . complete with Mr. Showmanship himself wearing a pink bedazzled suit and flying off into the great beyond.
Behind the Candelabra took a few liberties with the scene, though. The real story is as follows: Liberace passed away at The Cloisters, his Palm Springs home (which I blogged about here), at 2:05 p.m. on February 4th, 1987. According to a Daily News Wire Services article published a few days later, his body was removed from the house within hours and taken directly to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills. A memorial service was held the following day, Friday, February 6th, at Our Lady of Solitude church. It was not an actual funeral, as was portrayed in Behind the Candelabra, though, as the pianist’s body was not present.
There seems to be quite a bit of confusion online about the Our Lady of Solitude service and which celebrities attended it. According to Scott Thorson’s 1988 book, Behind the Candelabra, on which the movie was based, only two stars were present – actress Charlene Tilton, from the television series Dallas (who was one of Liberace’s Palm Springs neighbors), and, ironically enough, Michael Douglas’ father, Kirk. And while the fabulous Findadeath website states that Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, and Robert Goulet were also in attendance, the truth of the matter is that two different public services were held to honor the pianist. The first was the February 6th service at Our Lady of Solitude. A second memorial was then held (after Liberace had already been entombed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park on February 7th) at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Las Vegas on February 12th. That service was the one attended by Goulet, Reynolds, and O’Connor, as well as Rip Taylor and Sonny King.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!