The Barry Manilow International Fan Club: The Ten Year
For $7.00 I received my club kit from the headquarters
compound in Covina, California, all in one slick black folder with Barry
blazoned in red letters on the front. Swanky! I got "the official
biography" on professional stock paper, full of the usual he did
this, he did that. The last line of the bio read, "I am not just
a singer of notes, I am a singer of thoughts." Whatever, Barry. Just
gimme my own very official club card, my 8" by 11" black and
white photo of my idol as child, my very special certificate proclaiming
that I was "a member in good standing, entitled to all the privileges
and benefits provided by enrollment" and my welcome letter from the
"Executive Director", a woman named Kate Naughton who "founded"
the club back in 1975. Kate was chronically swamped. At the top of each
issue, she would write a rambling letter from which you could never grasp
much of a point except that she was always so swamped. "I’m
And nestled in the back of the glossy, black Barry folder,
Kate fearlessly led us to a catalogue of Manilow merchandise. I admit,
I coveted the merchandise. A primo difference between this club and other
fan clubs: there would be no bootleg swapping here. To these people, bootleging
was an ugly, underworld word. And to distract you, the BMIFC was only
too happy to provide endless amounts of logo-stamped products for fansters
to purchase, such as t-shirts ($12), posters ($6), plates, limited edition
for collectors only, individually numbered with a certificate of authenticity
($10), scarves, a Barry necklace (appropriate for any occasion), belt
buckles, medallions, and Barry needlepoint ($15).
The BMIFC newsmagazine was called The Barrygram and it
was very informative.
First Issue, 1979
What I learned:
Linda, Barry’s long-time, unmarried companion
(this will be important later on), just had a birthday party. Happy
‘Backstage’ will be a recurring feature
by David Taylor, a roadie with a pen.
Barry’s songs are requested on American Top 40’s
Long Distance Dedications a total of five times more than any other
Barry is also popular in England; as a result, the BMFC
has now been upgraded to BMIFC.
The Gold Album Circle makes its debut in this issue.
Devised as a scheme of recruitment, you’re supposed to talk three
unsuspecting persons into joining the BMIFC. As a reward, you get your
name mentioned in Barrygram. Yippee!
A "Q & A" section has been added. This
feature proves to be a sort of information dodge ball played between
the fans and the AnswerLords. For example: Q: "How it would be
possible to meet Barry backstage after a show." A: "You now
make that 12,387 who would like to meet Barry after the show."
Now that’s just what this circle of celebrity-obsession-sickness
needs, a smart-ass.
Pen pal addresses are provided so you can correspond
with others just like you.
This is the only official fan club connected to Barry
There are exactly 19 ways to be a Manilow maniac including
remembering "that he made it…and so can you".
Some legal hand slapping: apparently some members have
"expressed some concern about the misdoings of other [local] organizations".
So these be da rules: local BMIFC chapters are not allowed to sell Barry
merchandise or give out tour information (until it has been mentioned
by the BMIFC first).
Some good news! Barry will agree to participate if fans
organize a Manilow Mania day! Holy-Manilow! A Barry Manilow convention!
Think of it: special screenings, dinners, awards, pen pals united. They
will keep us posted.
Oh, by the way, we learn that pen pal addresses will
no longer be listed as unsuspecting fans were being bombarded with "junk
mail" for bootleg items.
Spring 1982, a letter from Linda and Barry.
He was sick. What he was sick with we are not to know, but thanks for
all the well wishes and by the way, can fans please send him pictures
from the last tour. He doesn’t have any.
This new color fanzine will now cost a cool 11 bucks.
Kate is digging herself out from under all the get-well
letters and Barry chores.
The Barry Manilow International Fan Club is considering
changing its name to the Barry Manilow International Friends Congress
but I think they should change it to The Barry Manilow International
Fan Dominion or BMIFD, pronounced Bemiffed.
News of the Great Convention: for $75.00 you get your
"delegate information kit", badge, jersey, bumper sticker
and hat for use in a three-day junket which will include seminars on
how to run a local club. Twenty-five Delegates will also take part in
a "Delegate General Session" luncheon to discuss what we,
the little people, must not need to know.
More commandments for local fan clubs: thou must have
at least 25 members to exist, all 25 must belong to the "official"
BMIFC, and thou must publish a newsletter.
Backstage meetings will now be arranged. You lucky #12,387!
Kate is swamped.
BMIFC is now a glossy magazine.
The Gold Album Circle is growing.
The Convention was a success, thanks to the Convention
Historian, Convention Security, the Master of Ceremonies and Barry Bingo.
More snide, patronizing answers to heart-felt questions
about all things Barry.
Barrygram is purposefully ambiguous about the exact
number of members in the BMIFC. Well, we wouldn’t want that kind
of information to get into the wrong hands.
Whether or not Barry was ever on The Muppet Show seems
to be of great controversy.
To answer a fan’s Q&A about the proliferation
of Barry bios, a BMIFC officer replies only "that they are unauthorized
and loaded with incorrect information". Of course.
More information about the Convention: the Barry paintings,
the Barry woodcraft, the Barry embroidery and the Barry sculpture.
We learn that 1400 people showed up.
News about the community service activities of local
chapters. At least they’re good for something: volunteering. There
is a world outside Manilove. But do they do it for Barry or for the
needy? Do they even know?
Linda is described as a "very special friend".
Q: "Is Barry available?" A: "For what?"
I tell you, it’s ambiguous tomfoolery like this that sets homosexuality
rumors afire. (see Boy George)
We learn about the red certificate, a supposedly magical
document that will empower its holder with "special consideration"
for good seats at concerts. Remember Ticketron?
Kate says, "I’m swamped."
Letter from Barry in which he calls us "dear ones".
News regarding Convention #2 in Toronto! Events include
a costume party, the all day video screening, aerobics (no kidding),
local club recruiting, and "pen pal matching". Price tag this
year: a bargain at $45.00.
The BMIFC is Five Times larger than the second largest
fan club (Mickey Gilleys) and "Michael Jackson and Rick Springfield
don’t even come close." This five figure sounds suspiciously
similar to the number of times Barry was more likely to be long-distance
dedication. Is it me?
Q: "exactly how many BMIFCers are there?"
A: "A lot?"
Barry did not contribute to the making of the "USA
for Africa" record because "Unfortunately, somebody assumed
(incorrectly) that Barry was not available." Yeah, that’s
what we all say.
A letter from the South African fan club states "Just
because we’re non-political doesn’t mean we’re not
aware." I realize I have never actually seen a black Barry Manilow
I read the words "horse manure" and I realize
I’ve never seen a single bad word in any of these Barrygrams.
This sucks because we all know Barry curses like a sailor.
1,000 people are pre-registered for the Third BMIFC
Convention in Washington D.C.
The Barrygram has been changed to The Magazine.
D.C. Convention News: new events will include
a lip syncing concert and a secret Gold Album Circle event. How medieval!
And admission will be limited to the first 1500 folks so hurry and sign
up, only 500 spots left.
A short word on the conventions: First of all, I always
wanted to go, lured by the idea of cool conventions, big cult sized,
Barry Manilow think tanks. Hotel conference rooms normally set aside
for weddings, memorials or alcoholics now must make way for a swarm
of Barry’s fans.
On the other hand, it would take, I imagine, a great
deal of courage for Barry to walk into a room full of the maniacs-of-his-own-making,
while having absolutely nothing to prove. He can’t bomb in a
room like that. This must be a very scary thing for him. And then,
you have to wonder about these addicted BMIFCers, why their loved
ones back home have never tried an intervention.
THAT SAID, the only reason I did not go was because
I never had the prerequisite $65 dollars. But I often dreamed of making
the great pilgrimage to Manilow Mecca: The workshops! The nametags!
The debauchery! I still have half-a-mind to go.
What I learned:
Something went wrong at the D.C. convention. The BMIFC
people never really say what it was. They only allude to "what
went wrong" and "who over-reacted" and "voicing
problems" and "creative solutions" and "special
interests" and that "love gets tested from time to time"
all with a veil of secrecy reminiscent of politically oppressed countries.
BMIFC states that "Its arms are open to hug us
all." This frightens me.
I learned a lot in this issue. I met some of the Barry
Manilow crew and saw pictures of them "working" and "eating":
therefore, this is my favorite issue.
Barry says "shit".
For a measly $99.00, you can buy a lifetime subscription
to the BMIFC. A good deal unless someone invents something nutty like
THE INTERNET where information will become cheap, cheap, cheap! Don’t
ever buy lifetime subscriptions to "shit" (as Barry would
Barry has no middle name or "NMN", as he likes
to say. (This will be important later).
Kate can’t catch her breath. She should really
get that checked.
We learned that according to a recent BMIFC survey:
Less than 3% of BMIFCers belong to a local club.
Concert promoters seem to ignore those pesky little
special red certificates.
Membership in the BMIFC now costs a whopping $12.00.
Barry’s favorite gifts are letters that say ‘I
made this sweater for you but I gave it to charity’ or ‘I
was thinking of you when I built this thermonuclear device but I sent
it to Ted Nugent instead.’ (That would make me very happy, too!)
Yet another survey reveals:
-Regarding merchandise, BMIFCers want more videos and XXL sweatshirt
-No one in the BMIFC uses American Express.
-Favorite magazine: People.
-Favorite shows: LA Law; Eastenders in UK.
-Only 26% of all BMIFCers pick "If I Should Love Again," my
favorite Barry Manilow album, as their favorite album. Do I have anything
in common with these people?
-97% of BMIFCers are female.
In 1989 I let my membership expire. I received this
"we’ve missed you" issue a few years later.
What I learned:
I don’t want to rejoin.
The Magazine had been renamed The Magazine
In addition to The Gold Album, a brand new circle, The
Platinum Album Circle, will be created for those members who manage
to sign up TEN new members. Members of this Circle would receive a front
row ticket to a Barry Manilow concert.
I am now certain I do not want to be responsible for
enlarging the cult of Manilow or for furthering the agenda of this very
creepy, quasi-religious club.
The name of the Q&A has been changed to Inquiring
Minds but the same annoying, stern and obscure answers abound. Q: In
a previous Q&A, Linda is described as "Barry’s long-time
companion" but that in a recent newsstand magazine, he was listed
as being "available". What's the truth? Inquiring Minds want
to know. A: "Both."
Since there is no new Barry Manilow album currently
available in stores, we are given "suggestions" as to what
other albums would be acceptable to purchase.
We are shown a picture of some thin Barry Manilow fans
and therefore, we have learned that they do exist.
And that was the last I heard from the BMIFC. And as for Barry, eventually
I grew tired of the formula. I grew tired of love songs, in general. Manilow
music in the late 80s developed not only a predictability but a dispassion
that one can only attribute to boredom with his own Schtick. His performances
now reek of a slick awkwardness instead of the raw vulnerability that
hooked me years ago. I miss that vintage geek.
And about the issue of his dubious heterosexuality? Popular
opinion is that he is gay, "longtime companion" notwithstanding.
Do I think Barry Manilow is gay? Well, far be it from me to try to "out"
anybody (see A Frog’s Story).
Regardless, I now needed to move on, to explore more experienced-looking
faces, a different type altogether, new sounds on the radio and a new
phase in my life: specifically, lust. Perfect pitch just didn’t
thrill me like it used to.
Nonetheless, I didn’t dump all my Manilow records
into the discount bin. I kept everything. Once in a blue moon, the album
"If I Should Love Again" clears up a nasty migraine headache.
I also pull out the old Manilow records just to piss anti-Barry people
off. I take particular enjoyment annoying my two older brothers this way.