Thursday, February 28, 2013

Barry used social media before it was called social media

Barry--a social media pioneer. I bet that's one title that would make heads turn (especially his). But you have to admit, this fan world grew and prospered because of their effective use of social media. If you think about it, it's more than just a little amazing.

First there was the telephone Hotline
Years ago, you called a number to find out the latest Manilow news and hear personal messages from Barry. That was before email, but it served the purpose of keeping the fans in touch with Barry's upcoming events, conventions and concerts.

...then the Barrynet
The Barrynet was my first venture into the Manilow fan world. Someone I met at my very first show at the Hilton told me about it. Until then, I had no idea it even existed. I jumped onto the message board and began interacting with other fans. From that communication I made friends all over the world and even met them in Las Vegas for some shows. Since then those friendships have grown beyond just the Manilow world. All because of a simple message board on the Barrynet. It was on the board that many of us got together and started a fan club "I Am Your Child BMFC"and a fan club website. I met so many great friends through this fan club.

...then the Hotline messages
When email became popular, fans were connected using email hotline messages. If you signed up for the emails or joined the fan club, these arrived in your inbox frequently to keep you posted on the goings on of Barry and his fan club.

...then there were blogs
Once blogs became popular, I met even more friends. I will never forget discovering Scooter's blog one day and all the information she provided about the early Manilow years. Then I started my own blog along with many others and my circle of friends (and enemies) began to widen. I kept my blog for years reporting about the shows, sharing memories and expressing my opinion (even though it wasn't popular with many of the fans).

...then there was MySpace
MySpace put me in touch with even more friends and allowed us to post messages to Barry on his page, even send private messages as well. The interaction became even more social, being able to post pictures and comments on other fan pages.

...then the Manilow Network
The Manilow Network was created and fans were given the opportunity to create their own pages, add friends, and communicate back and forth by leaving messages, posts and adding photographs to their profiles. This also became a great place to read show reviews and see photographs taken by fans during the show.

...and then there was Facebook and Twitter
Barry and his team finally dove in deep when creating a Twitter account and Facebook Fan page. This enabled them to connect with so many more fans by taking full advantage of social media. The notes from Barry on his page went a long way in connecting him back with his fan base as he used to be in the beginning. It was a safe way for him to communicate his thoughts and announce explanations for cancellations. As the page grows, more fans are connected and adding new friendships.

I'm grateful to Barry and his team's attempt to connect his fans with him and with one another. I have made lifelong friendships, met people I might never have met, and found strength from them during the most difficult times in my life.

Hat's off to a great social media pioneer,
Texas Fan

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Fanilow Fan Frenzy

I don't think I could add anything to this. Except to say this did not shock me in the least. Some things in the fan world never, ever change.

Those Fanilows sure are feisty!

Barry Manilow’s loyal fans were out in full force on a recent night at the restaurant TAO, where the legendary 69-year-old singer dined after performing nearby in “Manilow on Broadway.”

“Several groups of women were beside themselves trying to get to the table for photos and autographs,” a witness at the midtown hotspot told us. “TAO management had to keep fans at bay to allow the group a quiet meal.”

That said, a 15-year-old girl sitting near Brooklyn-born Manilow and his group managed to “slip by” management and ask Manilow for a photo, which he “gladly” posed for, the source said.

Just how many photos do you need?

Not surprised,
Texas Fan

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A fitting tribute

Garry Kief posted this on the alt-fan site:

"Fran's photographs were a reflection of the love and goodness that was in her heart. All of us at STILETTO would look forward to what she had to share with us and with friends around the world. Though she might be gone in body, her heart and soul live on in the photographs that brought us all such joy. Thank you to everyone who has honored her memory by your contribution to the Manilow Music Project. Someday, some kid, somewhere, will bring music to the world because of you...and because of Fran."

As I said earlier today; Fran had CLASS. That's something that is a rare commodity in the Manilow fan world these days. It's nice to know that we (her friends) aren't the only ones that recognized it. We should all take a page from her book.

Today there were posts on Barry's Facebook page about "saving the bamms for us when we come next week." Fran would have scoffed at that behavior. As I said, she was one classy lady.

The fan world will miss her and I will miss her wit, her wisdom and her candor.

Rest in peace Fran and know that you left a part of yourself with each of us.
Texas Fan

For those of you who wish to honor Fran by making a donation to the Manilow Music Project here is the direct link:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

So close and yet so far

Like many of you, this past weekend was spent remembering Fran Galiardo. This morning the words to that song came to mind, "so close and yet so far". That described my relationship with Fran. We were close through social media, yet we lived so very far apart and never got the chance to meet.

The first time I saw Fran was at a Philadelphia concert years ago. Although I didn't know it at the time, I was sitting just a few seats to her right. When Barry picked someone to dance with, he chose Fran. Not knowing her, I snapped this picture. It wasn't until just recently that we realized we were both there and the picture of the dance girl was her. You can imagine her excitement since she didn't know there were any photographs out there taken by others. I happily emailed her a copy.

Then she shared some of her own pictures of that moment with me. I like to think of her that way--happy and smiling.

That's the thing with the Manilow world--many of us are close (we know about each other's families, their struggles, and we pray for them), but yet so far. We never get the chance to meet in person, but it doesn't mean we don't consider them friends. Friendships were formed because of Barry but they grew because we opened our lives and shared them with others.

I hope we all take a moment and tell those friends how much they mean to us. I wish I had told Fran, because now I can only tell others. She made me smile every single time I talked to her. We shared a baseball rivalry, we both adored our children, and of course, we loved Barry's music. 

I hope one day to meet those who are "so close and yet so far"...but until then I want you to know that YOU have changed my life in more ways than I can even enumerate.

Love across the miles,
Texas Fan

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Why I'm a Manilow Fan

I wrote this post back in July of 2011. Sadly I never got to meet Fran in person. She passed away this past week. But although we only communicated through social media and email we shared many laughs, baseball stories, Manilow stories and I was with her during her son's college process. She was a proud mother, a loving wife and an amazing friend. I pray that God will give her family comfort during this time and that we all never miss another opportunity to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us. 

I've been involved in the Manilow fan world in depth since 2006. My first encounter with fandom came at my first show in Las Vegas on my birthday 5 years ago. It was a positive experience. So much so, that I'm still close with that fan today (even though she's my daughter's age). Since that first encounter, I've had many other ones. Some good, some not so good, and some absolutely horrible. I've made some good friends, made some enemies, had enemies turn into friends, and choose to ignore the rest. I've been disillusioned and discouraged by fan behavior in the past and vented here on my blog numerous times.

Every now and then, after being away from the fan world, it happens. My faith in the "nice" factor is restored and I realize that not all fans are jealous, petty and vindictive. Tonight was one of those nights. Two fans (whom I've never met in person, by the way) took time out of their festivities tonight in Vegas to meet my daughter who was there for the weekend. She has heard me talk so much about the fan world, and one of these ladies actually took time out of her busy life to mail my daughter's wedding cake top to her two years ago (again, without us ever having met).

Barry has said often that his fans are unique. I've said that the friendships I've made over the last five years are priceless. But tonight, I also learned that there really is something special and unique about Manilow fans. When you meet these type of fans, it makes you proud to say that Barry actually brought us together.

Thanks Fran and Susan for welcoming Jillian into your world tonight. I hope some day to meet you in person, but for now, I treasure your friendship.

Tipping my hat to Barry (for bringing us all together),
Texas Fan

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

And then there was Harmony!

Since I've been trying to be a good girl and walk every day, I've found that listening to musicals makes the time go by and distracts me from the boring task. A few days ago I listened to a recording that was made for the cast (the one at the LaJolla) and there are so many songs we haven't heard yet. Every single song seems to lead to the next and so clearly tells the story without a single word of dialogue.

I've always believed that the songs we have heard so often--Every Single Day and Stars in the Night were masterpieces of music meshing so well with the lyrics. But listening to the entire musical score just makes me want to see it on the stage even more.

There is this one song in particular that I absolutely love--it's fun and very poignant. The doctor in the group is telling his parents that he's not happy and wants to spend his life singing. His parents, of course, were not overjoyed about his decision. They came up with every excuse in the book for him NOT to do it. But at the end of the song, he asks them, "Don't you want me to be happy?" His parents couldn't fight that question. And at the end of the song, you felt both the parents and the singer's angst over the decision. He wanted to do it, but he knew it would disappoint them. They wanted him to be happy but they were afraid it would be throwing away his education and his future earning potential.

It's songs like these that make me want to shout from the rooftops that this play MUST be seen. The emotions in the lyrics and music and the story of men who found their passion and determined to pursue it, no matter the cost, make it timely and inspirational.

It's my prayer (and has been for many years) that we will see Harmony very soon. And when we do, it's going to be a huge hit, on the level of Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera. Until then we wait (not patiently but with anticipation!)

And then there was Harmony!
Texas Fan

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How much would you pay for a handshake?

With Barry in New York and ticket prices at an all-time high, I've been pondering this question.

I know how much I paid ($250 more than once) and at that time it seemed sane and logical. I rationalized spending that kind of money as "my due" after raising my children and taking care of my father and great aunt for so many years. When I think back on that time I wonder if the expense was truly worth the cost. If you can put a price on a handshake or a glance from a celebrity who is merely an entertainer/actor, that's a high price to pay for a few seconds of contact. But then again, some would argue that those few seconds give them great joy.

Does the joy last? On the contrary, many fans experience what they call PMD (post Manilow depression) after attending the show. The thrill is over, the music has ended, and you go home. But that's not where it ends. It's an addiction for some; they go back time and time again to get their fix. 

Don't get me wrong. The money I spent during those few years of Vegas shows provided me with some amazing entertainment and some long lasting friendships. You can't devalue that aspect of the expense. Granted I wasn't there every single night and when I was there, I didn't see every show from the front row or the stage. I got a few handshakes and one encounter putting on Barry's jacket. I got to witness and photograph dances with close friends and watch the joy they had while doing it. Was it exciting at the time? Sure. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. But the thrill never lasted and it certainly didn't provide me with permanent joy or happiness.

So much is a handshake worth? Or a glance or a smile? Or a dance? Or a photograph?

Is it worth compromising time with your family or sacrificing the relationship within a marriage? Is it worth spending your retirement and closing out your 401k to pay for the shows and the trips? Is it worth accumulating mounds of credit card debt? Is it worth losing all sense of reality and living in a fantasy world?

Would I pay $250 (or even $700) for another front row seat? Absolutely not. It's the same show, the same songs, and the same jokes. I can experience that from the $20 seats. It's also worth mentioning that the longer he stayed in Vegas and performed across the country, the contact he once had with the audience has diminished. The stages got higher and the on-stage seating disappeared. The dances and other interaction stopped. There is no longer an opportunity to sing on stage with him, dance or interact one-on-one. Many have speculated about the cause of these changes: did the frenzied fan behavior cause him to draw back? Only he knows. A once accessible entertainer has become a celebrity on stage.

Some might say I'm jealous of those who continue to go. Not at all. I am blessed beyond belief and I value those real relationships with my family and friends. Call me a cynic, but I've heard so many stories and witnessed personally the destruction of lives because of an obsession with a man who sings on a stage and knows how to entertain and move his audience with his music.  That music does create a common bond with other fans that often blossoms into friendships. But for me, that's where it ends. 

Sadly, that's not where it ends for those who have paid a very steep price for their fandom. 

Finding joy with family and friends,
Texas Fan

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'm Back!

It's been over a year since I last posted on this blog. Much has happened in my life to push out the Manilow world altogether, but that doesn't mean I don't reminisce often about the good times and great friends I made during those years.

One of those friends told me the other day that she missed my blog (this one's for you!) and I have to say that I miss writing it. Even though I'm not involved in any of the craziness in the fan world any more, I follow the news about Barry and I enjoy reading about his success. That doesn't mean I'm ready to jump in with both feet, but there are things I would like to comment on periodically and this is the best place to do it. My blog. My opinion. My thoughts.

I've been listening to some of my Manilow favs as I attempt to exercise every day and those songs bring floods of memories back, some good and some not so good. But as we all know, with time, the bad ones fade and the good ones tend to take over. I'm happy to say that I can look back on that time in my life now and smile. I made some incredible friends, had some wonderful times, and always loved the music.

Will I be going to New York or any other venue to see him? No. I've closed that chapter. I have a grandson to focus my travel time on and a family that has become more important to me than they ever were before. So I'll be traveling back and forth to my daughter's home and spending my vacation time and my money on my sweet little guy. My priorities have definitely changed.

Will I ever see my old friends and meet some new ones that I've only known online? I certainly hope so. I found out in 2012 who my friends were and I was surprised at the ones who hung in there and rose to the surface when I needed them the most. The friends embody the good Manilow memories.

Will I go to the opening of Harmony if it makes it to the stage? That's a resounding YES! The songs from that musical are some of the most inspiring music and lyrics I have ever heard. I will move heaven and earth to get there if the rumors are true.

Until the next time (and/or the music moves me),
Texas Fan
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