I got to see Barry Manilow live in his "final" tour because I clean toilets at an AIDS hospice. Someone donated free tickets to the volunteers.
And being a glutton for punishment I couldn't let the night stand on its own as a reminder of how much time has passed since my teens, "Mandy" and discovering that Mr. Manilow "writes the songs that make the whole world sing." No, I had to enhance the experience by inviting my 23-year-old colleague to join me.
So I didn't just walk down memory lane with the songster, smiling mistily at thoughts of when I heard this song first, who I was kissing when that one came on the radio, wondering why I never learned to dance the way they did on American Bandstand. Instead I began to hear and see through the eyes of my "have-very-little-clue-who-this-guy-is" friend. I watched the elderly crowd gingerly make their way down to the floor in attire ranging from disco-dented-sequined T-shirts, killer heels with boas, an "I-don't-care-if-I-have-a-bulging-midsection-prom dress," and several "does-this-make-my-hips-look-big?" pullovers.
We placed bets on how many husbands were there strictly on condition that they would benefit in the bedroom if they complied. We marveled at modern science and its ability to stretch a woman's face beyond its capacity creating an almost post-human permanent expression of marvel. And we enjoyed the view of the many, many attractive men with incredible fashion sense who came with companions equally attractive and equally male. Ahh, the injustice of it all!
I tried to convey the complexity of all that is Manilow to my own companion . . . his journey from commercial jingle writer to Bette's accompanist to disco delights to balladeer, but she wasn't buying it. I think she may have grasped the grandness that is he, when they showed a clip from a "Midnight Special" appearance when "Mandy" first came out and then he rose like the phoenix from the stage playing the same song plus 30 years. But otherwise, she tended to cringe alot . . . especially when Barry danced. I took to covering her eyes in order to avoid the retching sounds. And, frankly, it gave me something to do in order to avoid the sight myself. Let's just say it wasn't pretty.
I'm all for celebrations of long-term careers. I'd go again if any of the other radio giants of my teens come this way and someone offers me free seats. But I have to admit, my added years added less than romantic interpretations to his so-familiar lyrics. I couldn't decide if this was a better soundtrack for a menopause medication or a Viagra commercial . . .
When will our eyes meet
When can I touch you
When will this strong yearning end
And when Will I hold you again
I feel the change comin' --
I feel the wind blow
I feel brave and daring!
I feel my blood flow
Still "somewhere in the night" I found the courage to rise, "make it through the rain", toss away my "Brooklyn blues" and like those "stompin' at the Savoy," take a "daybreak" and swing to "Copa." "Even now" I can't smile without thinking about it.