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  • Ronald Reagan Presidential LibraryRonald Reagan Presidential Library Hollywood, California
    The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs, in Simi Valley, California, is located just outside of Hollywood, and is the presidential library and internment of Ronal Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States, and is the biggest of the federally funded presidential libraries. The building of the library and center started in 1988, and was dedicated in 1991, becoming the first occasion when five Presidents came together in the same spot to honor the former president; Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. Their wives were also in attendance; Rosalynn Carter, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Lady Bird Johnson. This library would be the biggest until the William J. Clinton Presidential Library was built in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2004. The center is about 153,000 square feet, but in 2005, the 90,000 square foot Air Force One pavilion was constructed on this site, which meant that it was once more, the biggest library and center for any President; although there are more materials in the Clinton Library. Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt's library had been constructed with private donations, this one also was, amounting to $60 million. Some of the biggest donors included; Rupert Murdoch, Walter Annenberg, Richard Sills, Lew Wasserman, John P. McGovern, Joe Albritton and Lodwrick Cook. In 2007, the library had over 300,000 visitors, which made it the second most visited presidential library, after the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, which had welcomed 440,301 visitors in 2006, but was lower than it was when it became the most visited. The library contains more than 1.6 million photographs, 50 million pages of presidential documents, tens of thousands of feet of audio and video tapes, and half a million feet of motion picture film. It also contains the personal papers collections of Reagan's presidential items and this includes his eight years as the governor of California. It has constantly changing temporary exhibits, as well as the one permanent that showcases Reagan's life. This display starts with his childhood in Dixon, Illinois and continues through his career as a film actor, military service, marriage to Nancy Davis Reagan and his political career. Inside the "Citizen Governor" gallery, it shows footage of Reagan's 1964 "A Time for Choosing" speech, as well as exhibits from his tenure as governor. It contains the 1965 Mustang that Ronnie used for his first gubernatorial campaign and the desk that he had as governor. His presidential campaigns from 1980 and 1984 are also shown, plus his inauguration suit and table from the White House Situation Room. There is news footage of his 1981 assassination attempt on his life and info on the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI- called "Star Wars"). There is a full scale Oval Office in the library, just as there is for the other presidential libraries, and other areas of the exhibit look at Reagan's ranch, Camp David, living in the White House and First Lady Nancy Reagan. One of the latest temporary exhibits went from November 2007 to November 2008, and titled "Nancy Reagan: A First Lady's Style," that showcased more than 80 designer dresses that were the First Lady's. The magnificent hilltop landscape gives marvelous views of the surrounding area, with a re-created part of the White House lawn, and just like the other presidential libraries, a piece of the Berlin Wall. A Tomcat F-14 is sitting on the lawn and adds a strange flavor to the grounds.  In November of 2007, the library archives officials reported that about 80,000 artifacts were missing, either stolen or lost inside the huge museum complex, perhaps due to poor record-keeping. Something about a "near-universal" security breakdown had occurred and was blamed as well, which had left the items open to theft. Numerous presidential libraries have said that they are understaffed and underfunded, which could have been part of the reason also. The National Archives labeled the library as containing the most serious problems with its inventory of records, and during an audit, US archivist Allen Weinstein said the library's bad inventory software was the culprit. Frederick J. Ryan Jr., president of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation's board of directors stated that these allegation reflects poorly on the National Archives. Anyway, the library accepts the criticism of the audits and has started a huge inventory program that is going to take many years to complete, and Ryan stated the Nancy was disappointed and surprised after he told her.

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  • Liberace HomeLiberace Home Hollywood, California
    Wladziu Valentino Liberace was better known as just his last, Liberace, and was one of the most famous entertainer and pianists in the world during his lifetime and during the 1950s through the 1970s he was the highest paid entertainer in the world. And remember, during that period another famous artist named Elvis Presley was alive, but this piano player made more than the "King". Liberace studied at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, after growing up in the state. Liberace, known more as Lee to his friends , and Walter to his friends, was born in West Allis, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, to Frances Zuchowska, a Pole and Salvatore "Sam" Liberace, an Italian immigrant from Formia, Italy. He had a twin that would pass on at birth and Lee was born with a caul, which meant in his family, as many countries, that he would be a genius and have an excellent future. Lee's father was a musician that played the French horn in movies and bands, but was forced to work as a laborer or factor worker. His father did encourage music appreciation in his family, although his mother wasn't musical, and considered that music and record players were one luxury that the family couldn't possibly afford at the time. This always seemed to lead to family squabbles, but Lee's father had such a love and respect for music that he was determined to give his legacy to the world, hoping his family would become musicians devoted to the advancement of that art. Lee would begin playing piano at the young age of four, and his father would take the family to concerts to expose them to music, but he also was a hard taskmaster demanding high standards for his children in their practice and performance. Lee's phenomenal talent became quite evident very early and he was memorizing intricate pieces by the age of seven and began studying the technique of a famous Polish pianist Ignaz Paderewski, who would become a family friend. He had an opportunity to meet the incredible Paderewski at the age of eight, backstage at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, stating, "I was intoxicated by the joy I got from the great virtuoso's playing. My dreams were filled with fantasies of following his footsteps...inspired and fired with ambition, I began to practice with a fervor that made my previous interest in the piano look like neglect." And this admiration and discourse at the age of eight? It is no wonder that Liberace became the "virtuoso" of his age. When the great depression came, it hit the family very hard monetarily, and Lee, now a younger teen developed a speech impediment that only seemed to acerbate the taunts of neighboring children that mocked and made fun of his preference for piano and cooking, not bothering with sports. He began to focus intensely on his piano playing and soon bloomed under the instruction of music teacher Florence Kelly, who would guide his music growth for the next ten years. He would gain more experience by playing the popular music in theaters, clubs, dances, the local radio and weddings. In 1934, he played jazz with a group from school, called the Mixers and then other groups later on. He played in cabarets and strip clubs, and though his parents didn't approve of this atmosphere, he was making a good living during that terrible depression. He soon took the stage name of Walter Busterkeys, and showed a remarkable interest in design, draftsmanship, painting and a meticulous dresser and fashion aficionado. He had figured out how to turn his quirky eccentricities into more applauding and attention getting attributes and began to be more popular at school, although it was mostly by being an object of comic relief. Then, in 1937, he was praised for his showmanship and flair while performing in a classic music production, and in 1939, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, he played his first requested encore, "Three Little Fishes" played in the style of various classical composers. By the time he was 20, he was playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, performing Liszt's Second Piano Concerto, with Hans Lange as the conductor and got outstanding reviews, and began touring in the Midwest. In the early 1940s, he started moving away from the straight classical performances and changed his act into one that featured the songs of the pop music entwined with the classics. Liberace continued to increase in skill and exposure, becoming a favorite with people of all ages and walks of life. He was one of the most entertaining entertainers in the world, not only because of his piano skills, but also because of his extraordinary showmanship. He dressed in the most outlandish costumes of any performer, and still people came to see him. By 1955, he was making $50,000 a week in Las Vegas and another cool million from public appearances and millions more from his television shows. In his Hollywood home, there are seven dining rooms. His is a story that will one day be on television or DVDs if it isn't already and whatever people think of him personally, he will always be one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century.

January 11, 2011