Archive for the ‘Barry Manilow’ Category

POP CULTURE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2011

December 28, 2011

Here’s my annual list of what excited and entertained me in the world of show biz this year:

10. What was my most exciting surprise star sighting of 2011? Was it running into Mark Pellegrino in the hallway of the Convention Center at the San Diego Comic Con and asking him to sign my “Lost” DVD (if I had known then how much I would enjoy his work on “The Closer” this year, I would have embarrassed him with praise!)? Was it standing in the buffet line at the after-screening party for “Take Me Home Tonight” and slowly realizing that the guy in front of me in line was Zac Efron (hey, he had a buzzcut, so he wasn’t that recognizable)? No, the most exciting surprise sighting was exploring the huge ballrooms at the Rio in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker, walking along aisle after aisle and not spotting anyone famous, only to stop at a table and realize I was staring at Phil Hellmuth, the bad boy of poker! I didn’t see any tantrums though, as Phil seemed to be in a good mood, talking and laughing with his fellow players. Must have been the lack of TV cameras…

9. I have long wished that Barry Manilow would put out one more great album with the kind of varied music of his classic seventies albums. I had to wait through five straight CD’s of covers, but on his latest album, “15 Minutes,” Barry did just that, and included a soaring ballad that belongs with his best called “Bring On Tomorrow.” And let’s give an honorable mention to Richard Marx, who also released some great new songs on his “Stories To Tell” album, “When You Loved Me” and “Loved.”

8. This year I was hired to write a TV show, “The Greatest Duets: It Takes Two,” for PBS. The show was hosted by Kenny Loggins and I got to have lunch with Kenny, an artist whose music I have enjoyed for years.

7. Another artist whose work I have enjoyed for years is that of my friend Ernie Halter. It was great fun this year watching as Ernie added to his fanbase, thanks to Justin Bieber! First Justin covered Ernie’s song, “Come Home To Me,” at a concert and then he attended one of Ernie’s shows and sang it with him. And thanks to the spotlight Justin gave Ernie, Ernie gained a lot of new fans, including just under half a million followers on Twitter. Pay it forward, indeed!

6. I was very happy to see USA bring one of my favorite authors’ books to TV with the movie, “John Sandford’s Certain Prey.” More please!

5. While I always enjoy attending the finale of “American Idol” each year, this year had special significance, even though no one knew it at the time. It was the final performance by saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who was featured on Lady Gaga’s “The Edge Of Glory.” I listen constantly to my Springsteen CD’s and Clarence was a huge part of making Bruce’s music come alive. RIP, Big Man!

4. Another one of my musical heroes is Elton John. While I have never interviewed him, I did get a chance this year to ask him a question at a press conference promoting a film he produced, “Gnomeo And Juliet.” And I was rewarded with a long thoughtful answer about Elton’s influences and his constant search for great new music.

3. Another big Comic-Con highlight came at a panel hosted by Entertainment Weekly’s “Lost” writers Dan Snierson and Jeff Jensen. They were interrupted by a guy in a stormtrooper’s uniform, who was revealed to be “Lost” producer Carlton Cuse, who was soon joined by the second half of the Darlton team, Damon Lindelof. Between a long Q&A and the reveal of a hilarious “lost” “Lost” scene, it was a grand goodbye to a great show.

2. While I may never see another show I love as much as “Lost,” I have to give props to all the great series on FX I discovered this year. First I got into the second season of “Justified,” which was full of great acting and engrossing plots. Then a few months later while on vacation, I was up late and saw a few episodes of “Louie” and instantly loved the show’s surrealistic brand of comedy and drama. Truly amazing. And just a few months ago, I saw “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” for the first time and thanks to reruns on FX, Comedy Central and syndication, I’m already caught up with every episode. “Seinfeld” but with even worst people? I love it! Now if FX would only greenlight “Powers”…

1. I took my annual trip to Las Vegas to work on the Academy Of Country Music Awards as well as the special “Girls Night Out” and was wowed by Carrie Underwood’s one-two punch. First she did a surprise duet with Steven Tyler at the ACMA’s on “Walk This Way” that was the highlight of the show and then turned around and topped that performance the next night with her stunning rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” I also have a few more personal highlights from working on the shows, including meeting the great John Fogerty (okay, he just thanked me when I got him some water, but still!) and getting to speak to another of my favorites, the shockingly tall Vince Gill, when I happened upon him sitting outside the rehearsal room. Do I now have some Vince Gill autographed CD’s? Of course!

MY LIFE AS A FANILOW

February 8, 2008

I’ve been a fan of Barry Manilow ever since I first heard “Mandy” on the radio back in 1974. But what really cemented my love for Barry as a performer was seeing him that year on the PBS show, “Soundstage,” which was his TV debut. It was my first glimpse into his humor and showmanship, and with the release of his great second album, “Trying To Get The Feeling,” I truly became a fan for life.

During Barry’s tour to promote “This One’s For You,” I got my first chance to see him live at a concert in Reading, PA. A few minutes into the show, annoying feedback came roaring out of the speakers. Manilow immediately began a comical strip tease to amuse the audience. The audio problem was soon fixed, and I believe it led Barry and his band to put on an extra special show, which would become the first of six Manilow concerts I would attend over the years.

After I moved to Los Angeles and started working at dick clark productions, I had a chance to work as a production assistant on Barry’s TV movie, “Copacabana,” but only for one day. I didn’t get near Manilow that day, although I did have a chance to talk to co-star Estelle Getty for a while.

Over the next few years, I saw Barry in concert twice more at the Universal Amphitheater, once on New Year’s Eve and again during a great show where he projected his various album covers on a screen and brought audience members up to use a remote to stop on an album. Whatever album it was, Barry would do a selection of songs from it. We were lucky enough that one of the albums was “Barry Manilow Live” and Barry played the great but rarely heard “Studio Musician.”

A few years later, I finally got my chance to talk to Barry when he did a roundtable interview with a number of journalists to promote his “Here At The Mayflower” album. Naturally I took along a pile of items to get autographed after the interview. First I passed Barry a copy of his autobiography, “Sweet Life.” While he signed it, he said, “I hope I don’t see this on E-Bay.” But when I next gave him a concert program from 1978, he knew I was a real fan.

When Barry settled in at the Las Vegas Hilton for his “Music And Passion” shows, I knew I would have to go. I went on my birthday three years ago and got a chance to go backstage after the show. It was a small meet and greet, just four people in all alone with Barry in the green room. Barry told us how happy he was to be playing in Vegas, because it meant he could fly home to Palm Springs every night and be in bed in time to catch “The Tonight Show.”

One of the guys at the meet and greet was a performer in “We Will Rock You,” the Queen show at Paris Las Vegas, so talk turned to the chances of success for the various Broadway transplants opening on the Strip. Soon our time with Barry was over, and I paid for not carrying a camera, missing my chance to get a photo with Barry.

I saw “Music And Passion” again for my birthday last year. The friend I took was a hard rock fan, yet Barry won her over. She really enjoyed herself and admitted he was a great performer.

Now Barry is playing Staples Center here in L.A. on Valentine’s Day. I’ll be missing this one, but if you have a chance to go, I highly recommend it.