Nurse: Liberace Gravely Ill On Day Signed Final Will
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ Liberace seemed childlike two weeks before he died and was so ill he could barely speak and couldn’t put on his glasses or read, let alone approve of changes in his will, said the nurse who cared for him.
The flamboyant entertainer, who died Feb. 5, 1987, of AIDS-related complications, was a gaunt man who used what little energy he had left to smile at friends when they came to see him, Norma Gerber testified Wednesday.
″It was just the disease, it knocked everything out of him,″ said the nurse, who began caring for Liberace 13 days before his death and the day he named attorney Joel Strote as his executor.
″We would have minature conversations but he could only speak in syllables,″ she said. ″The motor coordination was going so he’d have difficulty speaking.″
Her testimony contradicted that of Strote, who said the famed pianist sat at a table in his Palm Strings, Calif., home that day, talking with him and going over the estate papers before signing them.
Liberace’s sister, his former manager, two housekeepers and a long-time friend, have filed suit to remove Strote as executor with full control of the estimated $20 million estate.
″He’d say yes to anything to please (at that point),″ said Gerber. ″He just wanted to please anyone and be left alone.″
″He was so childlike he didn’t know what he was saying,″ she said in describing the entertainer’s dying days at his Palm Springs home.
According to provisions of the will made public Wednesday, three of the five received more in the death-bed will Strote drew up than in a will Liberace executed in 1982.
Under the revised will, Liberace gave $650,000 to his sister, Angie; $250,000 to his companion of seven years, Cary James; $60,000 to Seymour Heller, his manager for 37 years, and $5,000 to Dorothy McMahon, the housekeeper at his Palm Springs home.
He also left James two expensive cars and gave a house, furnishings and a car to the fifth plaintiff, Gladys Luckie, the housekeeper at his Las Vegas home.
James was not named in Liberace’s previous will and Angie Liberace was to receive $450,000 under the 1982 document. Ms. Luckie, who had been given the right to live in one of Liberace’s homes in the 1982 will, was given the house outright in the 1987 document.
Liberace also left $50,000 in trust to take care of his seven dogs, which he often referred to as his ″babies.″
Strote has said that he has received more than $400,000 in legal fees from the estate and the Liberace trust and is billing his services, including his time at the current trial, at $250 an hour.
In his fourth day of testimony Wednesday, Strote said $900,000 of the money owed the five plaintiffs had been set aside. Strote said he would seek to have the plaintiffs pay the extensive legal costs of the will litigation out of the $900,000 if the judge rules in his favor.
Strote defended the signing of the will and two trusts in the days before Liberace died, and a doctor who examine the entertainer was convinced Liberace was ″in good condition and could understand″ the documents, Strote said.
″I wanted to make sure he was physically able to go through the documents and understand them,″ Strote said.
Strote said Liberace signed the will and two trusts, but balked at a fourth document, a living will that would allow doctors to remove life support systems if they became necessary.
″He said ’I just can’t sign this,‴ Strote recalled.