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.

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