Stop the presses, ladies and gentlemen, because I have breaking news: Music legend Barry Manilow—Brooklyn contemporary and friend of Barbra Streisand, accompanist to Bette Midler when she performed her seminal nightclub act at the famous (and infamous) Continental Baths, composer of some of the most loved (and hated) music of the 20th century, including “Copacabana (At the Copa),” a pop song about the origin story of a senile showgirl who has always sounded like a character played by a late career Bette Davis in one of her less lavishly budgeted films—has finally, formally, confirmed to the public that he is, in fact, a homosexual. That’s right. You heard me. Barry Manilow has come out at last. His reason for waiting so long, despite having reportedly been in a relationship since 1978 with his manager Garry Kief, whom he married in California shortly after the Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land in 2014? “I thought I would be disappointing [my fans] if they knew I was gay,” he said in a cover story for People magazine.
Perhaps that’s true, if some of those fans were the people who still think the central tragedy of the life of Liberace was that after his relationship with figure skater Sonia Henie fizzled out, he never found the right girl. Some of those women may still be in nursing homes somewhere, staring listlessly at their pudding and frantically whispering to their grandchildren that the nurses are torturing them when they’re asleep. I hope this announcement doesn’t rock their worlds too much. But as for other prototypical Manilow fans, well, let’s just say that the world has changed since The Man Who Writes the Songs first burst on the scene in the mid-’70s with his emblematic theme “Mandy,” which funnier comedians than me (I’ll just give him a shout out, his name is Guy Branum and he’s hilarious and has a new TV show coming out) have now mused on Twitter might have actually been referring to Mandy Patinkin.
Things that might once have seemed shocking are now shockingly, even disappointingly, matter-of-fact. Take for instance the case of my friend Michael, who, with what I imagine was an air of weighty and trepidations solemnity, came out to his then 90-year-old grandma over lunch near her home in Scarsdale one afternoon. Her response to hearing her grandson was gay? “Do you want some of my chicken?” These bubbes aren’t your bubbes’ bubbes anymore. They watch Ellen and think Neil Patrick Harris is adorable and don’t care who you marry, as long as he or she is a doctor. Some progress cannot be stopped.
Anyway, mazel tov to Barry for being loud and proud and living his truth. He’s a good boy and everybody loves him just the same. Now I’ll be spending the next four days trying to get “Mandy” out of my head.