Meet a few of Barry Manilow's most dedicated friends
When Barry Manilow returned to the storied Paradise Road hotel renamed Westgate Las Vegas (née The International and, later, The Hilton) in 2014, his career received one of its many 21st century boosts. A talk show punchline after his string of Top 40 hits ended in the ’70s, Manilow’s performances at his latest Westgate residency, Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home, lend serious credence to the moniker his devoted fans bestow him with. To the Fanilows, the Brooklyn Boy—whose career started as a boy when his grandfather paid for a session in a coin-operated recording booth—is nothing less than The Showman of a Generation.
Although the Las Vegas Chapter of the Barry Manilow International Fan Club ($9.99, “good for 365 days from the day you purchase your membership”) calls itself “The Fanilows” on its splash page, many Manilow superfans consider it a pejorative. “It was originally a derogatory term that was coined by the writers for the show Will & Grace,” says Deanna Bell of North Carolina. “When it was first born, all the fans, along with Barry, hated the name. As years have passed, some have warmed to it but I still don’t care for it. I would rather be called a ‘friend’ of Barry’s, as he has often called his fans.”
It’s safest to defer to the point of view of the Friends of Barry, as they are a force to be reckoned with. Every Manilow show becomes electrified by the energy of his devout congregation, who follow their idol like Deadheads used to follow Jerry Garcia. “I’m a strong, devoted fan of Barry Manilow,” says Dan Lornitis of Chicago. Lornitis, who has seen The Showman of a Generation more than 60 times, doesn’t like the term “Fanilow” either. “I do support him 110 percent, that’s for sure. … my mother and aunt really pulled me into it as a young kid.”
Many Friends of Barry became converted from the get-go when “Mandy” put Manilow at the top of the pop charts in 1974. “I’m 50 now but was fortunate enough to see Barry in concert at the Westside Tennis Club in Queens NY in 1978,” recalls Carole Parlante of Ossining, N.Y. “I was only 10 years old but when Barry sang ‘Mandy’ I was a fan for life.”
Parlante says she’s attended more than 175 concerts and has seen Manilow perform in the U.K. “Everything about him has made me a forever fan. Barry is known as a super mega sex god by his fans.”
Forever fans such as Bell, Lornitis, Parlente and Bev Edelstein of St. Louis are the first to rise to their feet, cheer the loudest and dance most ecstatically during “Copacabana” when Manilow sings to them like an angel from above thanks to a mezzanine catwalk that stretches over the audience. “I have seen him well over 100 times in Las Vegas and every other city from New York to Los Angeles,” says Edelstein.”
“Each time I see the show, I walk away with such an amazing respect for Barry’s performance,” says Eloise Sasala of Columbus, Ohio. She says her concert tally is well into the triple digits. “Barry always walks on the stage in full throttle and that energy seems to radiate through the audience. Watching Barry perform his classic hits like ‘Even Now,’ ‘Weekend in New England’ and ‘I Write The Songs,’ are always highlights for me.”
Veronica Thom is a self-described “late Manilow bloomer.” She says she loved “Mandy” and “Copacabana” (“just like everybody else”) and listened to his love ballads to get through breakups, but saw her first concert in 2015 thanks to a Groupon opportunity in her hometown of Boston. Thom has now attended nearly 30 concerts. “I sang along to all his songs, danced in the aisle, waved my arms, just having an unbelievable time. I left the concert that night shouting, ‘Best concert ever! What a Showman! What have I been missing?!’”
Jennifer Miller’s mother first took her to see Manilow in Philadelphia when she was 4. “I walked away from that concert with a T-shirt and a future that I would have never dreamed,” says Miller, who named her now 10-year-old daughter Mandy.
Thirty-six years later she made a bucket list with one entry: meet Barry Manilow. Three years ago she arranged for a Platinum Experience package, got a hug backstage from the Greatest Showman, and was invited onstage from her front-row seat to dance with him. “It’s been an amazing future full of invites to special events and meeting amazing people who are now lifetime friends,” says Miller. “Even the guys in the band now wave to me from the stage!”
Friends of Barry often wind up befriending each other. Most of the forever fans quoted for this story formed real-life bonds at shows, met for subsequent concerts, and have many megabytes of images portraying them together in various combinations. It’s their thing, a Cosa Fanilowstra, and once they’re in they’re in permanently. Once Friends of Barry have experienced the Fanilife, they can’t leave it behind.
“My fandom has enhanced my life,” says Maria Mikol of Middle Village, N.Y. “It has shaped who I am. All these years, all the shows, the friends, the love. It is all because of Barry. I am forever grateful for all the gifts he has given me. If only he knew.”
Westgate Las Vegas, 7 p.m. Feb. 21-23, $43.33-$216.91 plus tax and fee. 800.222.5361