Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Manilow Musings Q&A

Since, over the last few days, I've been asked questions (either directly or indirectly) about my blog and its contents, I thought it might be fitting to end 2011 with a little Q&A and put all of this to rest once and for all. The answers might not satisfy but they will be honest and truthful and perhaps explain why for the past 5 years I have spoken up even when I have been personally attacked.

When did all of "this" begin?
By "this" I don't mean the blog or loving Barry's music. It all began for me on the Barrynet when a group of fans began to monopolize the posts by talking over and over again about how "hot" Barry was, adding sexual innuendos and literally begging him to wear leather.

Why did this behavior bother me so much?
It bothered me because I felt the Barrynet was a public board that anyone could read and it was casting a negative light on Barry and his fans. It also bothered me because at the time we were trying to raise awareness for our fan club charity and for a scrapbook that we were making for a friend who had passed away and they monopolized the message board.

What happened when I spoke up against it?
I was attacked personally, in emails, and publicly on the message board. It was clear that if anyone spoke out against them, you would be attacked. I just couldn't tolerate that type of bullying and I began to speak out against it on the Barrynet and on my blog. And thus began the war between me and these group of fans.

What makes you so knowledgeable about the fan world (this one comes from Kay's comment)?
I think this was possibly derogatory but I'll answer it anyway. I never claimed to be the expert on the fan world, just the fan world I've witnessed. I've attended enough shows and been to Vegas often enough to witness this type of negative fan behavior over and over again: stalking, harassment, bullying, and spoken to enough Manilow employees and hotel staff to know what goes on before, during and after a show.

You don't call the things you say in your blog about fans bullying and hateful (another question courtesy of Kay)?
No. I don't. They are simply reports of this type of behavior and my opinion about how wrong it is. If you speak out against bullying does that make you a bully? The obvious answer is no. I guess you could see these posts as hateful, but I see them as exposes bringing the truth out into the open.

Do you have a problem with fans gathering at the front of the stage to visit (another question from Kay)?
No problem at all. But, when it's obvious they are "marking their territory" and glare at anyone who dares to encroach on it, I do.

Why can't I just be friends with these women?
Let's see. I have tried. Actually one of the group approached me two years ago and attempted to make peace. I agreed and made every attempt to call a truce. But, that was short lived when I posted something they disagreed with and assumed it was related to them. That's the problem with these fans--you can't cross them or disagree with anything they say or do. If you do, you incur their wrath.

Why can't you just live and let live?
Why can't they? I had every intention of "living and let living" when I came to the shows in Vegas but it was clear they did not. Besides I'm not the type of person that bows down to bullies and someone had to speak out against them. They will claim I do not know them so I can't say anything about them. But I do know how they treated me and have treated other fans. I have had my fill of it all and as Barry often says, "sometimes all it takes is one voice" to create change.

Why, after all this time, am I ending the posts?
It's time. After the last show in Vegas I realized that I no longer want to waste my time on these fans. They will never change because they have convinced themselves and others that their behavior is perfectly normal. (And pigs fly too!). I no longer care to have any connection with the Manilow fan world (other than the few close friends I have made). It's time to shut this door in my life and move on.

So...Happy New Year to my loyal readers and to those who visit here just to see what I'm saying about them (and their friends). I can't say it's been fun, but I can say it's been REAL and I have gained a good education about fandom and how it works. The psychology of it all is fascinating!

Goodbye 2011...Hello 2012 (free from Manilow fan drama)!
Texas Fan

Friday, December 30, 2011

What happens in Vegas...

...isn't going to stay in Vegas this time. Of course, what would you expect from Vegas and spending the weekend around Barry's fans? I have to say it's never surprising the amount of drama that seems to follow the fan world and you can always expect to witness human theater in its rarest form.

What is going to follow won't be pretty. It will make many fans unhappy and cause others to cheer. But it has to be said. So many fans hide in the shadows of the fans who act like they control the Manilow world, for fear of retribution. I never have been afraid of them and as I close out my Manilow posts, I will continue to tell it like it is. Bullies, as we discovered this weekend, do not like to be confronted.

It has always amazed me how these women act like the hotel where Barry is performing is "their domain". They don't like outsiders on their turf and they let it be known over and over again. They do it with vicious glares, hateful looks, constant staring and even physical violence. They scream obscenities across the casino and they puff up their chests like they are the "head chiefs in charge". It's a spectacle to watch and disturbing to experience first hand.

I specifically didn't post very much about my upcoming trip to avoid that very type of "welcome" but it was unavoidable. The group of them were headed toward the theater, undoubtedly to lurk outside the doors because they had heard Barry was rehearsing that day with the "undiscovered" talent who was going to be introduced at the show that night. The minute they saw me, the whispers, stares and I'm sure the gossip chain began. My daughter found it all rather amusing, as so many of our family members do. They can't understand why grown women act like teenagers. Quite frankly neither can I. But I walked past them not saying a word and determined to enjoy my weekend.

The next encounter came in the lobby of the theater the night of the last show. A group of fans started pointing at me, giving me snide looks, and saying things like, "how dare she show her face here; she's got some nerve; are you sure that's her?" I just smiled and shook my head and stood there waiting for my daughter.

Before the show, my daughter went down to the front to say hello to a friend of ours who was sitting up front on the side, and meet someone else sitting behind her. The entire time she was down there their prying eyes were burning a hole in her back. I was watching the entire thing from the upper rows of seats. She didn't say anything to them, however, and returned to her seat. (And before the blonde squad says, "see...she went up to the front to visit"'s not the same thing. She wasn't marking her territory; she was just saying hi to a friend.)

After the show, we made our way down front so we could take some pictures with our friends and have them snap a photo of us in front of the curtain. I was talking to my friend and my daughter caught one of them glaring at us from the corner of her eye. She turned around, looked her in the eye, and said, "What?" No response. She then said, "What do you want?" Again, no response. She then said her name and said, "What do you want?" Still no response. The only response we got is utter embarrassment for being called out and fear because she NEVER backs up her actions herself. At that point, I told my daughter to drop it and just let it go.

Why did I think it was important to tell this story? Because so many women in the past have come to me with similar stories of harassment. Stares, glares, hateful comments, and even physical shoves. They are too afraid (or what did they say, "classy") to speak up but they have no problem acting as a mob and making people feel threatened and intimidated. Speak out against any one of them and you incur their threats and their wrath. Disagree with them and you get the same. Speak up against fan club mistreatment and they pounce on you with all their fury.

They ALL justify their behavior as "sticking up for their friends" and "their love for Barry". But it is so much more than that. It's a gang mentality that shifts and shuffles them around, making other fans think they are "in charge". The grim reality is they are just fans and they will never get what they truly want.

When people won't listen to reason the only reasonable thing to do is walk away and leave them to the consequences of their own actions.

Walking away and NOT looking back,
Texas Fan

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Here's to Las Vegas...where does the time go?

I know that Barry's last show was gloom and doom to most of the fans, but I was just happy to be there. Since my seats were strategically located to view the entire theater and a great vantage point to take in the theatrics of the show, I was excited to see it from that perspective.

Before the show I had the privilege to meet Chris with Stiletto and it was an absolute pleasure. Chris is a bright and shining beacon in the Manilow management team and since I had known him from Twitter, I wanted to meet him in person. Genuine. Real. A cut above so many.

I have to say, it was so much fun viewing the show with my daughter. She brought a completely different perspective to the show and helped me to stay light-hearted throughout the evening. I wasn't feeling sad at all, like so many of the fans. I was just happy to have had the opportunity to participate in so many shows at the Hilton and the final show at the Paris.

I had hoped, however, for some once-in-a-lifetime songs: If I Should Love Again, The Best of Me, or anything from his earlier catalogue that was a fan favorite. But the show progressed as planned and it became clear that we would not get any little surprises. Perhaps it was Barry's way of staying positive and not focusing on the inevitable end. Whatever the reason, we didn't hear any gems that night, as most of you have already read in the reviews.

I thought it was a nice touch bringing his "family" out on stage for the final curtain call; especially the families who had added children during the last seven years. His return to the stage and singing "Where does the time go?" was sweet and poignant. But what really hit me was the last and final song: "Here's to Las Vegas". It brought back all the wonderful times at the Hilton when they played that song upon leaving the theater. I remember hearing it for the very first time after the first show I attended and it was only fitting for it to close out the Vegas run with it too. I wasn't sad, I was just grateful for the good times and thinking about all my friends who couldn't be there that night to share it with me.

After the show, my daughter and I made our way to the front of the theater for a photo of the two of us in front of the curtain backdrop. I can remember taking many photos at the Hilton with friends there as well. Now I have this one to add to my collection.

The years have passed quickly but the memories (both good and bad) will remain forever. Moving on for me means holding on to the "best of times" and letting go of "the worst of times". Somehow, in my own way, this last show was MY curtain call.

Looking forward to the final posts and putting all of this to rest,
Texas Fan

Upcoming posts:
December 30-What happens in Vegas...can't stay in Vegas
December 31-A Manilow Musing Q&A
January 1-It's ALL about the Music

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Making those Vegas memories

The last time I was in Vegas was for my daughter's wedding in 2009. Before that, it was to plan her wedding. We had both been in Vegas after her college graduation and for a few days in 2008 when I was there with some friends. This past trip, although fast, was one of the best and most memorable trips we have taken together.

Arriving early on Saturday, we hit the ground running with bloody marys and breakfast at our favorite Parisian spot, Mon Ami Gabi. At breakfast, we were surprised by our good friend, Debbie and had a very nice chat along with a quick picture. The rest of the day we spent wandering the strip sampling bloody marys as we walked, talked and shopped. We head back to the Paris hotel to meet Susan for a late lunch at the Sugar Factory. Unfortunately, we were spotted by the "blonde squad", as my daughter calls them, while walking through the lobby of the hotel. I had made it a point to keep this trip quiet to avoid just this type of confrontation, hateful stares and annoying gawking. Of course, if you are anywhere near the theater or the M Store you're bound to bump into them. I wish I had taken a photo of their faces when they spotted me. It was priceless. Meeting Susan for the first time, I don't think I've laughed so much in years. My only regret is that I didn't meet her sooner during my Manilow journey, because I know we would have had an absolute blast!

Rushing back to the room to change for the Manilow show, we met Debbie and Lori for drinks before making our way to the theater. We had tickets in the center section that were graciously given to us by Joanne, a dear British friend, and I was looking forward to seeing the Paris show for the very first time. Before the show, Susan and I posed for a quick picture before heading into the theater for the first time. The show was great as you read in my previous blog.

After the show we headed over to Mandalay Bay to see Michael Jacksons' Cirque de Soliel presentation to end our first day in Vegas. If you're a fan of his music, it is definitely worth seeing. As we were walking back to our hotel, my daughter pointed out that we had been up for almost 24 hours. Yikes! No wonder I was tired!

The goal for this trip was to sample some new restaurants. The next day we found a quaint little bistro type restaurant in Caesar's Palace called Pavard Patisserie & Bistro. The meal was superb and after momosos for the both of us, we headed out for some shopping, where we both purchased hats to wear for the day and discovered the BEST bloody marys at a stand in the middle of the forum shops. We then made our way over to the Wynn for some chocolate martinis, good conversation and a stop at the Joe Malone store where my daughter purchased both of us some fragrance as a reminder of our trip together.

Before the show, we headed over to the Palazzo and Sushi Samba based on my son's recommendation. It did not disappoint. We had a marvelous meal and more great conversation before making our way back to our hotel to dress for the evening. I was looking forward to the last show, expecting a once-in-a-lifetime performance. The show was great, but it was what happened after the show that made the night memorable (you'll have to wait for a future post to get all the deatails).

After the show we went to the piano bar at the Paris with Susan and Judy and had a great time singing along and watching the performance of some of the drunk attendees. You just never know what you'll see in Vegas! Some gambling and a late night dinner ended the evening and our last night in Las Vegas.

The next morning we made our way over to Aria for some sight seeing and breakfast. Then a final shopping trip at the forum shops to pick up a pair of boots for my daughter (her early Christmas present) and some last minute gambling before leaving for the airport.

I've been going to Vegas since 1995 and will continue to travel there. It's so much more to me than a place where Barry performs. I have the best memories there and I know I will make more in the future. There are great restaurants, tons of free entertainment, and some of the best shopping all in one place. It will be nice to go back and enjoy the city, visit with friends, and explore new hotels, restaurants and bars.

This trip will top my list of great memories, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the confrontations that FINALLY gave me clarity. You just never know what will happen in Vegas, but this won't and can't stay there.

Looking forward to closing the final chapter,
Texas Fan

Coming up:
December 29-Here's to Las Vegas--where did the time go?
Decemer 30-What happens in Vegas...can't stay in Vegas
December 31-A Manilow Musings Q&A
January 1-It's ALL about the Music

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oh how I love Paris!

It was a long time in coming, but I finally made it back to Vegas after a two year show hiatus thanks to my daughter and her insistence that we see Barry's show together one last time. Since I hadn't seen the show since it moved from the Hilton, I was looking forward to finally seeing it for myself and not just through the eyes of others. I had heard so much about it and about the theater itself that I was antsy with anticipation.My good Britfriend, Joanne, kindly offered to let me use her free tickets she won during the 15 Minutes promotion. We scored some seats in the center orchestra section about 10 rows from the stage, smack dab among all the fans. My daughter immediately noticed the fan conclave at the front of the auditorium and asked, "Are those women Barry's hostesses?" Of course, it was half sarcastic and I explained that the fans hang out at the front before the show. She said, "Why?". Oh the questions that "civilians" ask and the answers that fans come up with to justify odd behavior. (But that's for another blog).

The theater itself was gorgeous: the chandeliers, the red interior draped walls, the large stage. I loved the backdrop (curtain) with the french flair and was looking forward to the show. We settled in our seats and prepared to be amazed. Once the show started, I made a phone call to my Australian friend Kim so she could share in the excitement. I wonder how many phone calls were made that weekend to let other fans listen in to the show? Over the years, I've been a person on the other end of some of those calls, especially during conventions, hoping to hear a once-in-a-lifetime performance, as we were all hoping for that night.

Since there has already been some reviews about the show, I won't go into details. I will, however, tell you my first impression seeing the Paris show after two years and how I felt it compared to the show at the Hilton. The obvious difference was the size of the stage and the absence of the side stage seats. For Barry, less opportunity to be mauled by over zealous fans. For the fans, less opportunity for those special moments (putting on his coat, dancing with him, singing with him). I believe this non-fan interaction changed the show on some level, making it seem less personal and more Vegasy. Although, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, just a change.

There were however, some changes in the show format and staging that I absolutely loved. The first was the huge MANILOW as a backdrop, along with the art and photos that dropped down over the stage at various moments during the performance. It made the show classy and gave a production air to it that wasn't there at the Hilton. The photos dropped down and moved across the stage during key segments and added to each number's expressiveness.

There were some great changes to the well known segments of Bandstand, the piano duels during New York City Rhythm and the segment where Barry talks about his grandfather. I loved how they changed up the Bandstand number and included more dancing by the backup singers. I also thought that the dueling pianos segment was much more of an extravaganza the way they brought out more pianos on stage highlighting the pianists with different types of music. It was great how they started off segments with the sax player and the percussionists as well. But my favorite change was the segment including the story of Barry and his grandfather. Hearing baby Barry sing Nature Boy was a real treat and having Barry end the segment on the keyboard singing the same song was absolutely fabulous.

Although I was looking forward to hearing some 15 Minutes songs, we were treated to a Christmas segment which I thoroughly enjoyed and was so much fun. We were also treated to a new voice from what was heralded as a talent discovery from the video submissions on the Manilow Network. Although the lady was incredibly talented, I found out that she had been on stage before with David Foster and already performed in Las Vegas. It wasn't such a stretch because she seemed to OWN the stage.

The ending of the show was different, with Barry coming on stage for Copacabana in a tux while being raised up from below the stage. Cute, but I still liked the catwalk at the Hilton and the excitement that it seemed to bring to the audience.

Hands down, the best part of the show went on behind me and my daughter during the last few songs. There was an elderly gentleman with a walker sitting behind us and his wife was able to help him stand during the last few numbers. His eyes lit up as he waved his glow stick and sang along with the songs. His wife seemed ecstatic that he was able to participate in the final moments of the show and they were both grinning from ear to ear. I wondered what was his story? Why was he there? How long had he been a fan? And I couldn't help but wonder how much of the show he had missed because of everyone standing up in front of him for a good portion of the show when he wasn't physically able to stand to see.

All in all, I'm glad I got to see the Paris show before he ended his run there. It was a fun night with my daughter and a wonderful memory that I will treasure. It was also great being able to share it with my good friend, even if it was over the phone miles away.

Chalking up the memories,
Texas Fan

P.S. Come back for my last and FINAL Manilow blogs:
December 28-Making those Vegas memories
December 29-Here's to Las Vegas--where did the time go?
December 30-What happens in Vegas...can't stay in Vegas
December 31-It's ALL about the Music

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We Can't Smile Without You...

The last time I saw Jan Murtha was the day after my daughter's wedding in 2009. She was singing Can't Smile Without You with her friends Tammy, Debbie and Barry on the stage. I managed to snap a picture of that special moment between the three of them and Barry. After the show, Jan and Jeanine were having a drink outside Tempo and as usual, Jan was smiling ear to ear.

I can honestly say that every time I saw Jan, she was smiling. Because we had some of the same friends, I had the privilege of "hanging out" with her on occasion. She was smart, funny, witty and kind. In the Manilow world she was a real gem of a fan and a genuine friend. Her close friends are hurting today and we who knew them both, are hurting for them as well.

It's going to be hard to smile without Jan in our lives but the memories we all have with her should always bring smiles to our faces and joy to our hearts. This past weekend at the final shows made it even more clear that those moments in our lives shared with friends should be treasured and the memories we make will help soften the loss when they are gone.

Here's to Jan...for all the smiles, the good times, and the great memories. We WILL see you "somewhere down the road". To Jan's family...thank you for sharing her with all of us and for allowing us to be a part of her life. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you grieve. I hope you find comfort in all the kind words her Manilow friends have spoken and you know that she was an angel here on earth.

Rest in Peace Jan,
Texas Fan (aka Suzanne Shaffer)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas is just around the corner

I couldn't resist posting this--it's one of my favorite "fun" Barry Christmas songs.

Looking forward to MY early Christmas present,
Texas Fan

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Revolving Door

Manilow fans speak of the "revolving door" with fondness. It's that door at the Hilton (and now the Paris) that we enter every time we go to a Manilow show in Las Vegas. It's where "the door that we go out of is the door that we come in" and it's where we meet our friends and make those amazing Manilow memories.

For me, my Manilow memories happened at the Las Vegas Hilton. It's where I first saw Barry and where I met my very first Manilow friend. The Hilton is where those good times happened and as I think back, some places and events hang heavy on my mind and heart. It simply felt like home.

Ah Fortuna. I can still smell the coffee brewing and taste that delicious cappuccino that I treated myself to every time I went there. I remember sitting at the small tables watching the people go by, enter the revolving door and pass by on their way to the casino. It was the BEST place for human theater. I have the best memories of laughter at those tables.

The Hilton Theater
This is where the magic happened. It's where I had my first Manilow moment, met my first Manilow friend, and yelled and screamed when I heard, "right here, right now" before the show began. We hung out at the front of the stage before the show and waited until the last person left the theater after the show. We met our friends there, hugged, took pictures and even got some Manilow handshakes on occasion. The stage seats were where the most amazing moments happened; where the champagne flowed; and where we got "up close and personal" with the Shadowman himself.

The M Store
No trip to Vegas was complete without a visit to the M Store. We viewed (and purchased) all the new Manilow merchandise, watched the videos as they played, swooned over the gorgeous gargantuan photo of Barry on the wall, and stood around and chatted with the M Store staff.

The first time I went to Tempo was right after a fan convention. My friend Mandy and I were invited to join a couple after the show (he had left early and saved us seats) so that we could sit close to the "back" area and see Barry when he came in after the show. At the time, it seemed bizarre but going to Tempo after the shows became one of our routines. We christened the tassles with the tassle dance and were probably the first ones to come up with the idea of a dance floor before it ever appeared. I can taste the margaritas, champagne cocktails and bloody marys, along with that spicy snack mixture they always put on the tables. It was where we danced, and drank and acted generally silly, and it was where we were able to let go, forget our troubles and have some adult fun.

We nicknamed the band "the screamers" and had great fun there after Tempo closed down. Since we could never hear ourselves talk, we mostly laughed as the band got louder and the ancient guitar/keyboard player rocked the house. We named one of the guys "the Klingon" because he reminded us of the Klingons in Star Trek. It was the last stand before heading off to bed and often off to wander around the Hilton.

Paradise Cafe
The food there was average but it was where we ate while we were there. I think the Manilow fans felt some sort of obligation to eat there because of the name. I recall one late night meal (before they started closing at night) that we showed up and they were out of just about everything. We laughed when we asked for just about every item on the menu and the waiter said, "we're out of that." What 24 hour Vegas restaurant runs out of food?

Hilton Buffet
Breakfast wasn't breakfast unless you ate at the Hilton Buffet. Every fan ate there. Rumor had it that "Barry and his entourage" ate breakfast there, so that's where we went. I did see several of his band members and his backup singers there at times, but I never, ever saw Barry. I suspected that he had room service up in his Elvis penthouse apartment. We did, however, spend hours there talking and reminiscing about the previous nights shows, and looking forward to the shows ahead. It too was a great place for human theater.

The Hilton Staff
The people that worked there became our friends: Mattie, Larry, CJ, the Tempo dancers, the Shimmer screamers, the M store staff, the casino hosts. It was like a family and we treated them as such.

There have been some bittersweet memories there and when I go to Vegas next month, I'll walk through that revolving door again and have a cup of coffee at Fortuna and bask in the memories.

"I'll see you then when you and I have made it back from the people and the places we have been",
Texas Fan

Friday, November 11, 2011

On the Road with Manilow-Dallas

This was a special show because it was the first time that my daughter and I had been to see Barry together. We got great fan club seats on the floor on the 4th row right in dead center. It put us smack dab in the middle of the fans (which is where my daughter wanted to be) to experience the human theater. Turns out, the seats and the show did not disappoint.

A little too much wine at dinner, and we were ready to ROCK the house at the American Airlines arena! Since this was her first concert and the first time she has ever sat that close to the stage, she was pumped. She chatted with the ticket takers, those selling the programs; she commented on the "tacky" shirts they were selling (she was not a fan of the picture on the tour shirt--I have to agree with her on that one), and she laughed and joked with a middle aged gentleman selling beer. He asked her if she was a fan and she said, yes, but that I was the "real" fan and she fully expected me to act "crazy" during the concert. He pulled her aside and told her that she should enjoy it with me and that it was 90 minutes in my life of pure joy (he got that right) and she should be happy she got to see me experience it.

When we found our seats she started mingling with the fans all around us. She wanted to know how many shows they had seen, had they been to Vegas, how long they had been fans. Then she started asking them about the Barrynet and if they were familiar with the "leather gang". She told them all it was better than a soap opera (again, she was right). I was cracking up. It was one of those priceless monumental memories that I will never forget.

The music began and then the infamous "right here, right now" started. It was amazing watching the show through my daughter's expressions and excitement. When he walked out on stage I, of course, became ecstatic. She started laughing and smiling and gave me a huge hug. He began with his usual It's a Miracle medley. I never get tired of hearing him sing those songs. And it was great for my daughter because she knew every one of them and was enjoying it immensely.

Hearing The Old Songs in its entirety was special and as always the full version of Could It Be Magic with the orchestra and the light show that goes along with it makes it even more magical. There were so many great moments in the show, but for me there were several that stood out and made this show unforgettable. The next moment was his powerful rendition of Weekend in New England. I have never seen him sing that song with so much emotion. His arms were actually up in the air in between notes and he lifted off the piano seat. At the end of the song he was so overcome with emotion that he sat there for a few seconds with his head in his hands, then he stood up, yanked off his tie and threw it across the piano. He crawled so deep into that song that his heart came out on to his sleeve. This was definitely the highlight of the evening.

He then began to play All the Time and this song always gets to me. When he sings this song, it seems like he's actually acknowledging how much he felt that way and how he knows there are so many of us out there that feel the same.

When he began Brooklyn Blues I was hoping that Brian Culbertson would join him on stage. Since I had the privilege of seeing Dave Koz play that song with him in NYC there was nothing that compared to it until that night. Brian on his trombone and his saxophone player blew me away when they joined Barry on stage for that song. The amount of talent up on that stage experiencing the jazz of it all made me realize that music truly is one of the few things in our lives that can move us to tears and give us such joy.

When Can’t Smile Without You started my daughter started to tear up. She actually had to leave the arena because the song reminded her of her grandfather who had recently passed away. Someone once said that is a sad song and that night, it was sad for her. I didn’t know how sad until we talked about it later on the way home. You just never know which song is going to move you and why.

The show ended too soon with the encore of Old Friends (who's like us..damn few) and Forever and a Day (didn't we show them, weren't they blown away) and I never get tired of seeing him sing those two songs live and experiencing the true gratitude and emotion he has about his fans. The expressions on his face during both those songs say it all and when you are lucky enough to be a part of it, it just doesn't get any better than that.

So it was a night to remember. A mother/daughter moment. A Manilow moment. Some great memories captured on film. And then the Shadowman was gone. As Barry says, "what a life!"

Basking in the memories of Dallas,

Texas Fan

Coming soon--The Revolving Door

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On the Road with Manilow-Philadelphia

When Barry decided to take his show on the road to Philadelphia the "three Musketeers" just couldn't pass up the chance to meet for the weekend. I'm not sure when we dubbed ourselves the "three Musketeers" but I think it might have been at Tempo one night.

After wrestling with the dreaded ticket purchasing system run by Stiletto, we were able to secure great seats in the center on the floor close to the stage. Musketeer 1 and me made plans to fly into Musketeer 3's home airport in Baltimore on Friday night before the show. Musketeer 3's husband, the biggest Barry Manilow fan in America was happy to put up with our foolishness for the weekend.

We were like three excited little girls in the airport that night. The biggest Barry Manilow fan in America was laughing at the three of us in the car on the way to their house from the airport. Of course, he had to put on "Sexyback" on the drive so we could "dance" while we were driving. (A song they used to play in Tempo for the "Tempo dancers"). I I'm sure that the cars next to us thought we were crazy! But first, a stop off at the convenience store where Musketeer 3 bought us both "Three Musketeer" bars in honor of the occasion (which I kept the wrapping and have it safely tucked away with my Manilow memorabilia).

We spent the evening watching Manilow DVD's and looking forward to the show in Philadelphia. The next day we all went out to breakfast and to the Baltimore Harbor for a little sightseeing. Musketeer 3 and the biggest Barry Manilow fan in America were the perfect hosts and tour guides.

It was finally time to pile in the SUV and head out on our road trip to Philadelphia for the concert. We listened to the music in the car and looked forward in anticipation to getting our grubby little hands on the 70's CD at the concert. After a quick dinner stop and so excited we could hardly eat, we arrived at the arena and saw MANILOW on the marquee out front. Making a quick stop at the merchandise booth, we were ecstatic to find the CD was indeed on sale.

Our seats were perfect and Brian Culbertson was the opening act. That guy can really jam. The music got everyone pumped up for the show with an Earth, Wind and Fire song. We were singing and "dancin' in the aisles" before Barry even came out.

We were so close, I got some great pictures that to this day bring back some of the best memories of that show. He used the catwalk to choose a dance partner and come out past the stage and sing a few songs during the show. I can't remember the song set or much about the show, but I do remember the ending. It was the first time I had ever heard him sing "Old Friends" and "Forever and a Day" live. I swear you could have heard a pin drop in that huge arena. It was awe inspiring.

After the show, the "three musketeers" headed to Atlantic City to spend the night. We popped the new CD in and started listening to it. I have to say, at first listen, I didn't like it very much. But after listening to it a few more times over the weekend, it quickly became one of my favorites of the decade CD's.

The next day in Atlantic City we walked the boardwalk, got some corn dogs and took some pictures next to Barry's handprints in the wall at Resorts International. It was a day I will always cherish because of the great conversations in the car to drop off Musketeer 2 at the airport, and afterwards with me and Musketeer 3 on the way home to Baltimore. We talked about the new album, what the songs meant, and what Barry's music meant to all of us. It was such a time a naivety and shear excitement over the music.

Musketeer 3 and I had sushi together that night and went home afterwards to watch the QVC special and yell at the moderator. Every time QVC has Barry on with that same moderator it reminds me of that first time we watched it and how frustrated we were that she would not stop talking. The next day I was dropped off at the airport for my flight home.

These two women will always be forever planted in my Manilow memory banks.

To the "Three Musketeers",
Texas Fan

Next up: On the Road with Manilow-Dallas

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On the road with Manilow-New York City

What's better than seeing Barry LIVE at Madison Square Garden?New York...the Garden...and Manilow. What could be better? It was another of those "on the road" with Manilow experiences that I will never forget.

I took the train from Boston to New York into Penn Station. I love taking the train because it's something we can't do in Texas. Everyone in our state has a vehicle (aka truck) and are not the least bit interested in mass transportation. Trains are soothing forms of transportation to me and I always enjoy riding and watching the beautiful New England scenery along the way.

I was meeting Mandy in New York (she was flying in) later that day, so I decided to walk from the train station to our hotel on Broadway, navigating the melting ice and snow with a rolling suitcase. It was one of those quaint older hotels that had been renovated. The lobby was small but the rooms were huge and we had an amazing view of the city. We just happen to score this deal on a discount hotel site a few weeks before.

When Mandy arrived, we took a stroll to Madison Square Garden to look for Manilow signage. To our surprise, we couldn't find any, but we did come upon something even more special. It was a painting of words on the brick wall inside the entrance to the Garden that said, "The Best Seat in the House" We both looked at each other in amazement--how perfect was that? Of course, we had to snap a picture to commemorate it!

After dinner we got to the venue early to do some merchandise shopping and find our seats which unfortunately, were not on the floor. We had once again made a last minute decision to attend so were forced to take seats in the stands off to the side of the stage. Of course, we could see the "celebrity arrivals" from a distance and watched the fans as they circled the wagons to grab a picture or a handshake.

As a sidenote: It's always been interesting to me how people are so fascinated with celebrities. When you think about it, they are just people like you and me. Would I want an autograph? Probably not. Would I even approach them for one? Absolutely not. Would I ask for a picture with them? Not really. I've been around quite a few in my lifetime and I've never intruded on their personal space. I have never even approached Barry, his band, or his backup singers for a picture although I have had plenty of opportunities.

When the show began, the sound was completely off. We were having a hard time hearing Barry and the background music was overpowering. We wondered if it was the huge venue and the fact that it required different acoustics than the Hilton theater. But after about 10 minutes, they fixed the problem and we were enjoying the show.

About halfway through, Barry starting talking about his friend Dave Koz's new album and the song he sang on it. It wasn't long before we were treated to his beautiful saxophone and Barry singing Moon River along with him. We were ecstatic to be able to see the two of them together, especially after watching the Farewell DVD and Dave's wonderful Brooklyn Blues rendition. After Moon River, we were treated to the same song that night. Hearing Dave Koz live and seeing how much fun he and Barry had together on the stage was the highlight of this trip for me.

After the show we walked around for a bit and grabbed some coffee and dessert. The next day, Mandy headed for the airport and I for the train back to Boston. But the memories of the show were still fresh in our minds and the memories of sharing this once in a lifetime experience would be with us forever.

See you on the road again Philadelphia!
Texas Fan

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the road with Manilow-Atlantic City

My Vegas memories aren't the only Manilow memories I have. Some of the best Manilow memories happened when I traveled to meet friends and see his show. Over the last five years I've been fortunate to travel to Atlantic City, New York, Philadelphia and Dallas to see the magic of Manilow.

My Atlantic City adventure
I flew into Philadelphia the day before and stayed at a hotel near the airport. I was planning to meet Mandy for dinner the next night in Atlantic City before the show. I took the train from Philadelphia to Atlantic City and walked from the train station to my hotel. Not knowing the area, I made a reservation at a small Best Western hotel one street over from the boardwalk. When I walked up to register, I noticed the bars on the door and the buzzer to buzz in. I knew this was a very bad hotel choice, but at this point I was stuck.

Later that day, Mandy called and said her husband's plane needed repairs and she was hoping she would make the concert, but not dinner. I wandered around the boardwalk for a few hours, taking photos of the marq
uees and watching all the Manilow fans as they walked around. They had opened a merchandise store in the venue so I snagged a copy of Greatest Songs of the Sixties since it wasn't yet released.

Mandy showed up a few minutes before the show
started. Her seat was on the floor and mine was up in the rafters because I had made a last-minute decision to go. I will never forget seeing him roll out onto that stage in a wheelchair after his hip surgery and the girls dressed in nurses uniforms and him singing, "You wouldn't believe where I've been..." while everyone in the place was standing. Of course, the wheelchair was a joke and he sang "It's a miracle.." and hopped right up and started running around on the stage. It was a great night and he ended it with One Voice in an absolute silent arena, a song I had never heard live.

Mandy left for the airport right after the show and texted me a picture of a small jet. When I asked her whose jet it was, she said "Barry's". Her husband had been at the airport waiting for her and chatting with his pilot and they told him Mandy could hang out until Barry arrived from the venue. You can imagine how excited she was that night and I got to share that with her via text messages and pictures.

Back at the hotel later that night was not a positive experience. The couple in the room next to me was having a domestic dispute. After about an hour, the police came to break it up and I decided to spend the night in the casinos where I felt much safer. I checked out the next morning and took the train back to Philadelphia to catch another train to Boston to spend time with my daughter.

On the train to Boston I cracked open my new CD and fell in love with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Cherish/Wendy" became my new favorite Manilow songs. I will never forget that 6 hours train ride and enjoying the new CD all the way to Boston.

Every time I listen to that CD I remember that show and those great memories. It was a once in a lifetime show--and a once in a lifetime memory.

Up next--New York and Madison Square Garden,
Texas Fan

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You've Got a Friend

Talk to any Manilow fan and they will tell you one of the best things about being a fan of Barry's music is meeting other fans. I was incredibly fascinated at my very first Manilow concert with the fans and how they all seemed to know one another. They truly are like a family. And just like any family, new members are added, old members are lost, and family members often quarrel. But when it's all said and done, this family has one thing in common--they love the music of Manilow.

My family started off rather small with a young lady named Mandy. You can read about our story in a previous blog. Mandy was, and still is, near and dear to my heart. On one of our first trips together, she handed me her iPod and introduced me to Sandra. That song, to this day, gives me goosebumps. She just got me and at the time; I needed someone to "get me." She also introduced me to the Barrynet and thus began my adventure in fandom.

Allayne and I first met on the Barrynet right before Barry had his hip surgery. She was a new fan from Canada, being won over by Barry's recent appearance on Larry King Live. She had one album--Greatest Songs of the Fifties; and as Mandy introduced me to the complete collection, I did the same for Allayne. We worked on a scrapbook together for Barry and gathered over 50 fans together to participate. It was an amazing collaboration of fans--something we were proud to work on together. We then started a Canadian Fan Club-I Am Your Child-Manilow Canada and collected money for charity, being recognized for our contributions. I flew to Canada to spend a week with her and hit some piano bars together. It was an amazing week of fun, food, and friendship.

Debbie joined our fan club and we began chatting online. We talked about the music and our love for Las Vegas. She and her husband Rob went there quite often. We met for the first time at the Hilton swimming pool. We were talking on the phone, unbeknownst to her that I was already in Vegas. It was a great surprise and we talked for awhile before heading back inside. It was there that I met her husband Rob and they invited me to join them for dinner. We ate and talked about his music, Vegas and the upcoming shows. So began our many trips to Barry's shows together. Good fun, good times, and tons of "human theater" at Fortuna. When Barry played Philadelphia, I flew to Baltimore for the concert and she and Rob were the perfect hosts. Rob always makes me laugh because he's "the biggest Barry Manilow fan in America" with the picture and the shirt to prove it!

I met Lori in the M Store at the Hilton one afternoon quite by accident. She was there with one of the members of our fan club and we just hit it off. This trip would begin our Barry friendship that would bring us both to each other's homes, a road trip across the country, early morning prayer sessions and some of the best few hours of coffee in the mornings in the room at the Hilton. It became a tradition every trip and when I smell coffee, I remember those wonderful times when it was just the two of us talking about life, the music and our friendship. We have danced (using that term lightly) at Tempo, listened to the "screamers" at Shimmer and had early morning breakfasts in the Paradise Cafe. We have dreamed together, laughed together, cried together, texted countless times, and had our ups and downs. But no Manilow memory would be complete without her. She is, and always will be, tied to my memories of the best times of my life.

Kim and I met on
the Barrynet. She lives in Australia and we began chatting online. This was before Skype, or texting, and before live chatting. We both loved our kids and of course, Barry's music. We talked about our goals, our dreams, and hoped one day to meet in Las Vegas. After countless months of planning, Kim made it happen and there was nothing that was going to keep me from being there. We spent a fabulous week of shopping, sightseeing, shows, nights in Tempo and late night dinners. I wouldn't trade that time for anything and feel blessed that Kim flew all that way across the globe to meet me (and Barry, of course!).

Joanne is my "fabulous" UK friend. I was there the night she had her dance with Barry and snapped a photo. She was also a member of our fan club and met up with me to give me a donation for our charity. She is such a classy lady with the most inspiring spirit and I spent a week the next year in Vegas with her when I was planning my daughter's wedding. We had breakfasts together and spent hours talking about the music and the fans. She was there to help me de-stress that week and for that, she will always be at the top of my list. One day I would love to fly to the UK for some shows with her and who knows, it might just happen!

YBA began blogging about Barry and she and I were kindred spirits. We both loved blogging and she was using Barry's music to get through a difficult time in her life. She was cautious about fan clubs, having a previously negative experience with another musician's fans; but she slowly but surely warmed up to me. We met in Vegas to celebrate her 40th birthday and attend Barry's shows that weekend. YBA is more fun than a barrel of monkeys and she knows the nuances of Barry's music better than any critic I've ever read.We've had some awesome texting seasons all hours of the night when she was up with her little ones. I love her blog, I love her and getting to share in some very special family moments with her has been a blessing.

Tammy and I met through email because we were both involved in Barry's Prayer Circle. She loves God, loves shoes and loves Barry--probably in that order. She has prayed for me more times than I can count and always, without fail, makes me smile. Her positive outlook and joy in the Lord have uplifted me when I felt down and given me hope when I felt frightened and alone. Her smile lights up a room and being at a show with her is so much fun because of her energy and exuberance. Tammy was a Godsend and getting to know her has been a marvelous perk of being a Manilow fan.

Susan and I have never met but hopefully will one day. She is my newest fan friendship, meeting on the Manilow Network and enhancing the friendship through AFAN and on Twitter. She has the biggest heart and will do just about anything for anyone if asked. I've written about her previously, but I didn't want to neglect her here. She loves her grown children as much as I do mine; we have that in common. My daughter has already met her and I'm looking forward to meeting her soon and cultivating this new friendship.

As you can see, these women (and man) are like family to me. When I need a friend, they are there. It's not just about the shows, or Barry, or even the music. It's about the connection we made because of the music, but the lives that we share because of the connection. When the Manilow fans talk about their friendships, I'm sure they all have just as many stories. This post is for the friends you have made throughout the years and the memories that you share with them. It may have started with the music, but it will always, for me, be about the friends attached to my memories. Barry may have brought us together, but it was only the beginning.

Thank God that I have these friends for now and for the future,
Texas Fan

P.S. If you have some great friend stories, leave a comment and share them with all of us. We would love to read about them.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Manilow Memories

Lately, some have accused me of NOT being sentimental about Barry leaving Vegas. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m incredibly sentimental, but in a good way. I’m sentimental about the memories that I have created while I was able to attend Barry’s shows. I’m sentimental about the friends I have made (the ones I have met, and the ones I have yet to meet). I’m sentimental about the way Barry’s music always makes me feel. Even though I’m realistic that the time has come to move on, I’m still sentimental.

I spent the last few hours doing some fall cleaning; weeding out some clothes in my closet and taking stock of what no longer fits (thankfully because they were too big) while watching Music and Passion. Watching this video and going through my “Manilow outfits” served to cause those memories to come flooding back. And when that happens, I have to share them. It’s cathartic to write them all down and what better place to do it than on this blog that I started December 17, 2006 with a post about Studio Musician.

I can’t believe it’s almost been five years since I started writing down my Manilow Musings about Barry, his music, my trips to Vegas and his fans. It’s been quite a journey that started with excitement about rediscovering his music, getting heavily entrenched in the fan world (with all its good and bad), and making almost monthly treks to Vegas (only because my son worked for Continental at the time = free airfare!). As this time comes to end, it seemed only fitting to reflect on what was “the best of times” and share some of my favorite Manilow memories.

I’ll be posting them over the next few days, but here’s a preview:
  • You’ve Got a Friend
  • On the road with Manilow
  • What happens in Vegas…
  • The revolving door
  • It’s all about the fans
  • It’s all about the music

It’s been fun sharing my moments, my thoughts and my memories with you over the last five years. I hope you enjoy my trip down memory lane.

Until next time,

Texas Fan

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The end of an era

The sad news hit the airwaves last night on The Insider: Barry is leaving Las Vegas after seven years. It's going to seem strange going to Vegas and not seeing a sign, a bus graphic, or the huge banner at the airport with his smiling face on it. But life does indeed go on, even for Barry. I imagine he's ready to move on, just like most of us are as well.

It is sad on some level when the curtain comes down on some amazing shows and some amazing times. If you're as blessed as I was, you have many wonderful memories and some friendships that will indeed continue after he walks off the stage on December 11th for the last time. I'm sure tears will flow (probably not just the fans) and it will be bittersweet for all.

What I won't miss? The crazy fans. The ones who harass and bully other fans at the show. The ones who hide behind others with their backbiting and vengeful attitudes. The ones who say they have lives but in the very effort to explain those lives make it clear that they are still wrapped up in the fan world.

I think, once December 11th comes along, I'll shut the door to this blog and close that chapter in my life. It's been a wild ride, but it's time to focus on other things. Until then, I'll be speaking for the unspoken majority who have been pushed, shoved, yelled at, and bullied for the last seven years. I imagine, like me, they are ready to make a quiet exit.

And as YBA said a few years ago, "you begin again."
Texas Fan

Just keep preaching to the choir

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Looks like this answers everyone's questions

This was lifted from what I assume was the alt-fan site since that's where Garry likes to post. Then it was posted on Barry's Facebook page:

"I don't think anyone is angry at Vegas.....we started with a one year deal at the Hilton and ended up staying in town for seven. Everyone has a had a blast and its a great city to work/live/play/and eat. But seven years also means we havent been able to do a lot of the other things we would like to do....some of which will be announced in the next few weeks...and some of which have had to be postponed because of constant Vegas conflicts. Fortunately....the offers from around the world.....including Vegas...have arrived in droves. Sorting through them all has been a blast. And for the record....the MMP was started before Vegas and has raised more money outside of Vegas. The M&P broadcast happened because of Lauara Savini at PBS and Mark Grove & Troy Queen at STILETTO Television. And lastly....I think everyone has forgotten that Barry was on a soldout arena tour in the Fall....on the heels of a Top 3 album....before we decided to consider an offer from the Hilton. I'd love to say that the Hilton but Barry on top....but I think the Hilton Executives would argue just the opposite.
Hope that helps clarify things...
All best...

I guess if you read between the lines and add the tweet from Rob Shuter, he's leaving Vegas. Personally, I think it's time; although selfishly I wish I could make it back just one more time for old times sake.

Perhaps it's not just time for Barry to move on. Perhaps it's time for ALL of us to move on with our lives.
Texas Fan

Monday, October 10, 2011

Turn out the lights, the party's over

There has been a great deal of talk lately about the impending end to Barry's Vegas appearances. Since I haven't been there after he left the Hilton, I can't speak for his run at the Paris. But I can say that those Hilton years hold some very special, unique memories. It's those memories and the friendships that were made there that cause me to look back on those years with great fondness and sometimes pain. A recent death in the fan world has caused me to do a little retrospective thinking.

I remember my first show at the Hilton and how I arrived there alone, excited about my stage seats and not knowing what to expect. As I was seated on the second row, a young girl named Mandy asked me if I was alone. She was also alone and had an empty chair next to her on the front row of the Dew Drop Inn side of the stage. I moved up to sit next to her and we chatted for a bit. It was only the second time I had seen Barry, the first time was from quite a distance. Imagine my surprise when he walked over to me and asked me to help him with his jacket. It was one of those once in a lifetime moments, and even though the moment came and went so quickly, it was exciting to be thrust into the limelight even for a few minutes.

Mandy and I exchanged numbers and emails and became good friends. Over the years, we went to many shows together and still, to this day, keep in touch with one another. She was my first fan friend, but there would be many others.

I met Karen the night that Mandy had her dance with Barry. She and her husband David were sitting next to us on the stage. They joined us for a drink afterwards and we were both impressed about how much David loved Karen and how much they both enjoyed listening and enjoying Barry's music. We kept in touch, although we were never able to make it to Vegas again at the same time. One day, I got a phone call from Karen but it wasn't Karen. It was her husband David telling me that Karen had passed away suddenly. My heart broke. It was one of those defining moments in fandom when even though we only met once, I felt such a strong loss.

My fan friendships have become just as important to me as the ones in my day to day life. I have shared grief with them, invited them to my daughter's wedding, and met friends from England and Australia in Vegas. We have laughed together, cheered together, cried together, danced together and even prayed together.

All of this to say that I have missed my Vegas days the last few years. I miss getting together with friends, staying up late talking, getting up early having coffee, and being crazy for just a few days and nights while destressing. But most of all, I miss the magic that I felt when I was there and the joy that came knowing I could come back again.

For me, it was over two years ago, but the finality of it now, just makes me glad that I had those few years when walking through those doors at the Hilton gave me great joy.

The party may be over, but the friendships will last a lifetime,
Texas Fan

P.S.For those who knew Carol, I know your pain is unbearable. It may be dark right now, but her light will always be there in your heart and in your memories. May she rest in peace and may you find comfort in knowing that you were blessed to have her in your life.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Am I mean or am I just a beacon of truth

As one of my friends put it on a Facebook post, "you've had quite a week". It didn't surprise me that I caught tons of flack for my last post. I have come to expect it in the Manilow world. Descenting opinions are always looked upon with hateful vengeance and passive/aggressive behavior. I would much rather they just leave a negative comment than go around Facebook and Twitter posting veiled statements about how mean I am and how it's not nice to attack people. At least I could confront them one on one instead of hearing from friends that "so and so is not happy with you" or "so and so is really upset with your post".

Here's my advice: start your own blog. Convince me I'm wrong. Leave a comment and let's debate the topic. I'm open to discussion.

The problem is, I know that won't happen. Because as I said on a Facebook post, "No matter how hard you try to make people see the light, they just won't get it until it suddenly becomes dark.
" I don't care so much that they are upset with me. I have grown some thick skin being a part of this crazy Manilow fandom. I learned a long time ago that my opinion is my opinion and if I feel like it's important to write about it, I will.

If you are so convinced I am wrong, then why spend so much of your time defending your position? I don't waste my time arguing with anyone who isn't open to a different opinion and you shouldn't waste your time combating mine.

Here's some more advice. If you don't like what I have to say, don't read it. Don't waste your time here or anywhere else reading anything I say. If you believe I'm mean, or hateful, or cruel, then don't bother with me. Trust me, I won't lose any sleep over not convincing you otherwise.

And when the darkness falls and you finally see the light, I'll still be here speaking the truth and willing to become friends.

Delete the bookmark. Don't come here anymore. Don't read my tweets or Facebook posts. You'll be happier. I won't notice. And you can go on living in your own little dream world of unreality.

See you when the light comes on,
Texas Fan
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