Cliburn became a worldwide celebrity way back in 1958 (55 years ago!) when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition.
Cliburn was taught the piano by his mother and spent most of his life living with her. He never publicly confirmed he was gay, but the Los Angeles Times obituary says:
After she died at 97 in 1994, he was sued for palimony by a longtime associate, Thomas E. Zaremba, but the suit was dismissed. For more than 20 years Cliburn lived with Thomas L. Smith, his friend and manager who survives him.And the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News says:
In Fort Worth, it was no secret among socialites that Van Cliburn enjoyed the company of younger men, who flocked to him at parties and other social events. But Van Cliburn never publicly discussed his sexuality and dismissed gossip that he was gay.
Van Cliburn never married and has no heirs.It's so interesting to me that these celebrities from previous decades who were household names in the United States are now widely being acknowledged as members of the LGBT community after their deaths. We will truly have made progress when we have more household names that are known to be openly gay when they are alive.