Popular South African pianist, producer, author and cocktail connoisseur Rocco de Villiers is currently presenting his new show Liberocco, a tribute to one of the most flamboyant entertainers ever – Liberace, at Montecasino in Joburg. Intrigued to find out more about the man behind the bling, Mambaonline posed a few questions to the charismatic performer.
Where do you live?
Johannesburg! I love Johannesburg, like I do New York; urban places where anything and everything is available 24 hours a day. Johannesburg is especially very exciting right now – with developments in the centre of the city. That’s what a real city should be like.
Why Liberace as the inspiration for your new show?
Twenty years ago I was in the army and in that same year Liberace died in Las Vegas. I spent my days thinking of ways to carve out a career as a pianist in South Africa, but I realised I did not fit any of the typical categories of “the piano player”. And Liberace gave me an idea… an “avenue” to imagine that there might be a place for me in entertainment. And, of course doing Liberocco is also a fabulous excuse to wear a fine white fur coat – fake – made by Simon Rademan.
Do you have a lot of bling in your own life?
Are champagne and caviar bling? Then yes. Otherwise I don’t do the ‘bling thing’. Believe me, in this show there is enough to bling me up forever. I like plain things. Well not ‘plain plain’. But I’ll never go out with a fur coat or diamonds.
Are you a diva?
Well, when it comes to my work I know what I want. I surround myself with a team and an assistant who I trust and trained. But I don’t like the diva thing. I only do the applause thing… Don’t we all? But when Rocco gets upset he gets very upset. And then I can become a divo!
We read that you were mixing drinks for the family from a young age? Uhh… how young was that exactly, and was it legal?
Rocco de Villiers was a legend in his own lounge at the age of four! I started making brandy and coke for my parents at the braai and then later my mom would ask me to play piano for the guests in our lounge. I ultimately combined the two. It’s very much what I do now. The only difference is now I get paid. But illegal it probably was.
Where you one of those sad little boys forced to play the piano when growing up?
The contrary, in fact. I made the decision to play. The piano was always locked because “Rocco will fiddle with his sticky hands and tomorrow we have to clean with Handy Andy!” One day my parents were out and I asked our gardener to break the lock of the piano. And so it started. My parents never asked me to practise and never forced me to perform. And my teachers never hit me over the knuckles!
It seems like you work way too hard. What do you do to relax and chill out?
I go to the Kruger Park, New York, The Cutty Sark in Scottburgh on the South Coast – a wonderfully retro hotel – or stay at home. Being on stage you very seldom see your house.
You’re looking rather buff in your publicity pics. We like very much. Do you work out a lot?
I have a personal trainer, Marthinus, who I work out with three to four times a week. He gives me those shakes to drink, asks me what I had to eat the previous night – especially when I’ve been to a cocktail party and when I’m on tour – and then we work out like dogs… with a little bit of gossip!
Speaking of looking buff… Would you ever do a nude photo shoot?
Of course. People are precious about their bodies. I’ll do a nude shoot if it suits the project… And if I can choose the pictures being published!
Performing on stage or sex?
Sex and a stage performance are very much the same. Both need skill and start off with an overwhelming feeling of anticipation. And then the act consisting of three parts: the beginning, middle and end. And in both the end is what very often hooks one. If you like the applause you’ll want to do it again tomorrow night… or in an hour…
Do you have a boyfriend or can we try our luck?
I have a partner. We have been together for 11 years.
What’s the best and worst part of being on the road?
The best is that when I do a long tour I imagine I am in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Also, I get to see people and places that are amazing. And the tannies on the platteland feed me boerekos. I love it! The worst part is that I miss my house and my dog, Bollie. And drinks at The Westcliff. Every time I travel in our country it confirms that I do not want to live anywhere else in the world.
Do you only make cocktails or can you also cook?
I am a fabulous cook, but I hate it because it is so boring. But I do make a mean curry.
What do you drive? Status symbol or a practical machine?
I’ve always believed that when it comes to cars, washing machines and toasters the answer is German luxury. But I feel a new phase coming on where I will swap German luxury for a bakkie or a 4X4. Bakkies have more space to pack books, cds and my assistant. And they are higher, which is a benefit at traffic lights if you need to see what’s in the next car’s driver’s seat.
Do you have any groupies?
Since I started my blog and my website I have several fans sending mails, ideas and pictures to me. Very often more info that I need, but they do support me. And that is important. It is quite nice when bloggers or fans from the web come to a show and introduce themselves.
Do you listen to everyday pop music or only hoity-toity classical stuff?
I am a Madonna and Kylie addict. And Christina Aquilera! If I listen to Classical music it is Bach Bach Bach! I like music with a tune, like Donna Summer or ABBA. And my favourite voice is that of George Michael.
What would you put into a Mambaonline cocktail?
Champagne, vodka and berry sorbet in a liquidiser, poured into champagne flutes. Unbelievable! Sublime! And I will call it Pink Mamba!
Liberocco is on at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino, in Johannesburg until September 2 after which it will play a season in Cape Town at the Roxy Theatre, Grand West Casino, from September 13 to October 13. Rocco de Villiers will also be performing the show in Sasolburg, Port Elizabeth, Jeffreys Bay, Mossel Bay and East London.