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I Was a Teenage Barry Manilow Fan, Part 2

by Mary Elizabeth Ladd

I.W.A.T.B.M.F Part 1

The Barry Manilow International Fan Club: The Ten Year Tour

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 so swamped."

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:

  1. Linda, Barry’s long-time, unmarried companion (this will be important later on), just had a birthday party. Happy Birthday, Linda!
  2. ‘Backstage’ will be a recurring feature by David Taylor, a roadie with a pen.
  3. Barry’s songs are requested on American Top 40’s Long Distance Dedications a total of five times more than any other artist.
  4. Barry is also popular in England; as a result, the BMFC has now been upgraded to BMIFC.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. Pen pal addresses are provided so you can correspond with others just like you.
  8. This is the only official fan club connected to Barry Manilow.
  9. There are exactly 19 ways to be a Manilow maniac including remembering "that he made it…and so can you".

Spring 1981

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. This new color fanzine will now cost a cool 11 bucks.
  2. Kate is digging herself out from under all the get-well letters and Barry chores.

Spring 1983

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Backstage meetings will now be arranged. You lucky #12,387!
  5. Kate is swamped.

Summer 1983

  1. BMIFC is now a glossy magazine.
  2. The Gold Album Circle is growing.
  3. The Convention was a success, thanks to the Convention Historian, Convention Security, the Master of Ceremonies and Barry Bingo.

Fall 1983

  1. More snide, patronizing answers to heart-felt questions about all things Barry.
  2. 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.

Winter 1983

  1. Whether or not Barry was ever on The Muppet Show seems to be of great controversy.
  2. 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.
  3. More information about the Convention: the Barry paintings, the Barry woodcraft, the Barry embroidery and the Barry sculpture.
  4. We learn that 1400 people showed up.

Spring 1984

  1. 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?
  2. Linda is described as a "very special friend".
  3. Q: "Is Barry available?" A: "For what?" I tell you, it’s ambiguous tomfoolery like this that sets homosexuality rumors afire. (see Boy George)
  4. 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?

Spring 1985

  1. Kate says, "I’m swamped."
  2. Letter from Barry in which he calls us "dear ones". Ick.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

Summer 1985

  1. Q: "exactly how many BMIFCers are there?" A: "A lot?"
  2. 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.

Fall 1985

  1. 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 fan.
  2. 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.

Spring 1986

  1. Kate can’t catch her breath
  2. Barry’s STATS: 15-inch collar, 35-inch sleeve, 40-inch chest, 6 feet tall. FYI

Summer 1986

  1. Kate uses the words: "Thank Goodness".
  2. 1,000 people are pre-registered for the Third BMIFC Convention in Washington D.C.

Spring 1987

  1. The Barrygram has been changed to The Magazine.
  2. 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.

Summer 1987

What I learned:


Fall 1987

  1. 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.
  2. BMIFC states that "Its arms are open to hug us all." This frightens me.

Fall 1988

  1. 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.
  2. Barry says "shit".
  3. 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 say).
  4. Barry has no middle name or "NMN", as he likes to say. (This will be important later).

Spring 1989

  1. Kate can’t catch her breath. She should really get that checked.
  2. We learned that according to a recent BMIFC survey:
    Less than 3% of BMIFCers belong to a local club.
  3. Concert promoters seem to ignore those pesky little special red certificates.

Fall 1989

  1. Membership in the BMIFC now costs a whopping $12.00.
  2. 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!)
  3. Yet another survey reveals:
    -Regarding merchandise, BMIFCers want more videos and XXL sweatshirt sizes.
    -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.
  4. In 1989 I let my membership expire. I received this "we’ve missed you" issue a few years later.

Spring 1991

What I learned:

  1. I don’t want to rejoin.
  2. The Magazine had been renamed The Magazine of Quality.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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."
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

So what the heck to I want from my web site or fan zine?


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