When I was a kid in the 70’s, Barry Manilow was totally my jam. He was the first artist I truly loved; I collected his record albums (real vinyl ones, kids!) and played them so much I’m surprised the needle didn’t wear the grooves down. Is that even possible? Never mind. I was a Child Fanilow.
Exhibit A: When I was 7 or 8 I was taking ballet classes every week. One week, my ballet teacher announced that we had an upcoming Parents’ Night and we were each tasked with picking a song–any song of our choosing!–and choreographing a routine for that special evening. I chose Barry Manilow’s “Mandy,” and although I had two weeks to come up with something spectacular to show off to a studio full of parents, my procrastination tendencies kicked in and I didn’t actually plan one step in advance, choosing instead to “wing it,” a technique I have carried with me, with both great and disastrous results, to the present day.
Parents’ Night arrived and my teacher introduced me, slightly snickering that I chose Mr. Manilow’s classic hit rather than something more traditional (I mean ANYONE can dance to “Swan Lake.”). I sashayed and grand jetéd my way through those three minutes of Barry’s sweet, needy pleading as if my life depended on it. I’m certain if YouTube had existed back then I would have gone viral for both my confidence and my nerve. Oh, and also for the horrid routine. I had a ball though, and I think that’s all that matters when you’re talking about a young girl who has no chance of or desire for becoming a famous ballerina.
Exhibit B: While Charles Schultz’s Snoopy first convinced me that I needed a beagle in my life at some point, Barry’s beagle, Bagel, was the confirmation I needed. Bagel was on the back of some of his album covers and I thought that was absolutely fantastic.
Exhibit C: When I was ten our family moved to Texas and, before my sister and I got out there and made new friends, one of our favorite pastimes was dancing in our new and spacious living room, miming lyrics like crazy. Since I had more Barry Manilow albums than any other artist, I still make the same motions at age 50 as I did back then. For example, “Jump Shout Boogie:”
“Jump!” (jump) “Shout!” (megaphone hands to the mouth) “Knock yourself out!” (pretend to conk self on head, fall to floor) “A boogie-woogie beat is what I’m talkin’ about!” (quickly get back to standing, dance like crazy)
See? Fanilow. Anyway, as it tends to happen with many people, I got interested in other genres and other artists as I grew up. I never turned my back on Barry but the special place I saved for him was in my heart and mostly in the back of my mind unless one of his songs came on in a hotel lobby somewhere.
Fast forward to last fall, when my friends Ann and Wendi told me they wanted to do a girls’ weekend for my fiftieth birthday. We were having a hard time figuring out where to go and what to do, and then one day Ann emailed us about Barry Manilow’s Las Vegas concert dates. Wendi is the biggest Fanilow I know so she was instantly a “hell yeah!”, and as for me, I was struck with the feeling that celebrating my birthday with two great friends and an artist who was such a big part of my younger years was the only option, and a perfect one at that.
We texted excitedly about the upcoming concert since we made our decision on that fine fall day, and at one point I said, “We should get some bedazzled shirts.”
(Full disclosure: I say that to all of my friends, all the time, for every special occasion.)
Wendi replied, “Only if they say “ManiHO.”
Our weekend finally came last month. Excitement was in the air at the Westgate, and as we got settled into our balcony seats we broke the complimentary glow sticks loose and checked out the 3D glasses that were also provided. Wendi gave Ann and me helpful insider information like, “He’ll let us know when to use the glowsticks!” and, well, I don’t remember what else. It’s been two weeks and I can’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday. Suffice it to say that she was the best Maniho concert guide Ann and I could have asked for.
When Barry stepped out onto the stage, I lost my breath for a minute. I kept turning to Ann and Wendi and saying, “I JUST CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE HERE!” It was truly the thrill of a lifetime. And guess what? He sounded amazing. We were giddy and singing along and dancing in our seats and waving our glow sticks (Ann wins for creative glow stick choreography) and it was just the best time. Could it be magic? YES, it was. Several times I caught Wendi’s eye and we both mimed some of the lyrics at each other. I got intense warm and fuzzies but don’t tell her because she’d probably find that weird. Or maybe not. She’s a Fanilow, afterall.
Barry had a bunch of jacket changes throughout the show and that was incredibly exciting because the sequins and sparkly stuff are a fun sight for someone who constantly talks about bedazzled t-shirts. He told stories and had some super corny jokes that just simply worked. I was actively dreading the end of the concert because I wanted it–and my euphoria–to last forever and ever.
When it was time for the finale, a bridge/stage extender that I hadn’t noticed previously in its storage area near the ceiling started coming down. I remember looking at Ann and shrieking at the top of my lungs, “WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW????!!!!” I may have blacked out from hysteria at the idea that Mr. Manilow would be getting even closer to us. And if THAT wasn’t enough, as he started climbing the stairs he said/sang, “I see you baby…” and just when I was thinking, “OH NO YOU ARE NOT GOING TO FINISH THAT GROOVE ARMADA LYRIC, BARRY MANILOW…”
“…shakin’ that ass!”
And then I died. The end.
Just kidding. I stayed alive to see the finale of finales, “Copacabana.” I can’t even put into words how much I loved it.
I just can’t say enough about what a great show it was, and how I had no idea that show was missing in my life until that night, and how I would see him again tomorrow and the next day and the next day if I could. This instantly jumped towards the top of my “Most Fun Concert Experiences” list, thanks to an incredibly entertaining, sentimental, and fun show and also thanks to Ann and Wendi who were the best Maniho dates a girl could ever have. #Manihoes4Ever
Born again Fanilow? That’s me. Can’t stop/won’t stop.