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

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