“Władziu Valentino Liberace (May 16, 1919 – February 4, 1987) was an American pianist, singer and actor. A child prodigy born in Wisconsin to parents of Italian and Polish origin, Liberace enjoyed a career spanning four decades of concerts, recordings, television, motion pictures, and endorsements. At the height of his fame, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Liberace was the highest-paid entertainer in the world, with established concert residencies in Las Vegas, and an international touring schedule. Liberace embraced a lifestyle of flamboyant excess both on and off stage, acquiring the nickname “Mr. Showmanship”.
Władziu Valentino Liberace (known as “Lee” to his friends and “Walter” to family) was born in West Allis, Wisconsin, on May 16, 1919. His father, Salvatore (“Sam”) Liberace (December 9, 1885 – April 1, 1977), was an immigrant from Formia in the Lazio region of central Italy. His mother, Frances Zuchowska (August 31, 1892 – November 1, 1980), was Polish. Liberace had an identical twin who died at birth. He had three surviving siblings: a brother George (who was a violinist), a sister Angelina, and younger brother Rudy (Rudolph Valentino Liberace, named after the actor due to his mother’s interest in show business).
Liberace created a publicity machine which helped to make him a star. Despite his success in the supper-club circuit, where he was often an intermission act, his ambition was to reach larger audiences as a headliner and a television, movie, and recording star. Liberace began to expand his act and made it more extravagant, with more costumes and a larger supporting cast. His large-scale Las Vegas act became his hallmark, expanding his fan base, and making him wealthy.
Liberace once stated, “I don’t give concerts, I put on a show.”
The critics had a field day with his gimmicky act, his showy but careful piano playing, his non-stop promotions, and his gaudy display of success, but he remained largely unaffected, as preserved by the famous quotation, first recorded in a letter to a critic, “Thank you for your very amusing review. After reading it, in fact, my brother George and I laughed all the way to the bank.” He used a similar response to subsequent poor reviews, famously modifying it to “I cried all the way to the bank.” In an appearance on The Tonight Show some years later, Liberace reran the anecdote to Johnny Carson, and finished it by saying, “I don’t cry all the way to the bank any more – I bought the bank!” “.
Pascal Tréguer writes at wordhistories.net:
“The phrase to laugh—also to cry—all the way to the bank means to relish—also (ironically) to deplore—the fact that one is making money, especially undeservedly or at the expense of others.
This phrase is first recorded in Peter: A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero (Charles Scribner’s Sons – New York, 1908), set in New York City’s financial world, by the American author, artist and engineer Francis Hopkinson Smith (1838-1915):
…Then Breen & Co. began to hoist her up—five points—ten points—twenty points. At the end of the week they had, without knowing it, bought every share of Mason’s stock.” Here Garry roared, as did the others within hearing. “And they’ve got it yet. Next day the bottom dropped out. Some of them heard Mason laugh all the way to the bank. He’s cleaned up half a million and gone back home—‘so afraid his mother would spank him for being out late o’ nights without his nurse.’”
The earliest occurrence of the phrase that I have found is from the gossip column On Broadway, by the American journalist Walter Winchell (a.k.a. “Man About Town” – 1897-1972), published in many American newspapers in September 1946—for example on Monday 2nd in the Newark Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey):
Eddie Walker perhaps is the wealthiest fight manager in the game . . . The other night when his man Belloise lost, Eddie had the miseries . . . He felt so terrible, he cried all the way to the bank!…
…Władziu Valentino Liberace’s brother, the American musician and television performer George Liberace (1911-83), is said to have also used the phrase to reply to critics. For example, the following is from The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) of Saturday 27th March 1954:
George Liberace, a chubby-cheeked, mustached violinist-maracas player, conducted his orchestra with smiling aplomb in concert Friday night at Municipal Auditorium before a huge and exceedingly demonstrative audience.
The first pianist made comment about certain critical reviews the group has received and confided, with a smile, that “George read the articles and cried all the way to the bank.”
And, in Liberace Enthralls Picture-Taking Fans, published in The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) of Friday 7th May 1954, Riley Murray wrote this about a concert given the previous day by Władziu Valentino Liberace:
Liberace first introduced his musician associates, including his brother, George.
He launched into an attack on Free Press columnist John Crosby, who had criticized his pianistic efforts.
He repeated his crack that when his brother read Crosby’s insults, he “cried all the way to the bank.” “.