Why Barry Manilow is dead to me

This Thursday, I’m flying to Las Vegas. Naturally, I’ll be doing some singing while in town. My upcoming trip to Sin City will be my fifth time there; and as it approaches I’m reminded of some of the great times I’ve enjoyed in Las Vegas in the past. But I’m also reminded of a colossal disappointment that I suffered at the hands of Barry Manilow during a Vegas vacation in 2009. I’m going to reprint here, verbatim, the text of a heartfelt letter that I sent to Mr. Manilow (with a copy to his agent) in the aftermath of that incident; the letter speaks for itself regarding how Barry wronged me. Then I’ll share some parting thoughts.

Before I get to the letter, I also want to apologize to you, my readers, for the long interval between blog posts. In my previous article, I promised that the subject of my next posting would be my September 2010 trip to Easter Island. I’m still working on that essay; it’s a wide-ranging account of my experiences on the island also known as Rapa Nui, and it’s taken longer than anticipated to edit my recollections and photos into a coherent form that’s ready for publishing. (Also, in all candor, it can be tough sticking to a regular schedule when you’re writing for your own blog and don’t have an editor pushing you to meet deadlines.) However, I’ve reached the point where I no longer want my entire blog to be on hold just because of delays in completing one post. So while my Easter Island memoir will soon appear in this space, I’ll publish articles on other subjects in the interim — including some dispatches live from Las Vegas later this week! And now, without further delay, here’s the letter that explains my antipathy towards Barry Manilow.

Dear Mr. Manilow:

I am writing to express how upset I am about your last-minute cancellation of your Las Vegas concert on Friday, March, 20, 2009, which my friend David and I had tickets to attend. Enclosed is a copy of my ticket order confirmation.

I have considered myself an ardent fan of your music for nearly two decades, and several of your songs have long been featured in my karaoke singing repertoire (in fact, during my law school days, one time when I was planning a karaoke outing with my classmates, one of my friends prepared posters that said, “Barry wrote the songs, but Harvey sings them.”). I have attended four of your previous concerts (two in Radio City Music Hall; one in Madison Square Garden; and one in Camden, New Jersey), and I was excited about what was to be my first time seeing your show in Las Vegas. You are the consummate performer, and Vegas seems the perfect city to showcase your talents.

It must also be mentioned that although I was visiting Las Vegas for four nights, my friend David (who had accompanied me to one of your concerts in New York in 1997) was meeting up with me for just one night, for the primary purpose of joining me at your show. A resident of Salinas, California, David flew from San Jose to Las Vegas on Friday afternoon, March 20, and he had to fly back home the next morning because, with his wife out of town at a conference, there was no one else available to watch his children for the rest of the weekend. Even for me, the planned attendance at your concert was a significant reason for this visit to Sin City (when I made my first-ever visit to Las Vegas in November 2008, I neglected to check your performance schedule before I booked my nonrefundable airline tickets. You were not appearing at the Hilton on any of the evenings that I chose for that stay. I therefore made it a priority to return to Las Vegas, with dates for this second trip that were timed to overlap with your schedule).

On Friday evening, March 20, after losing some money at the blackjack tables at one of the hotels on the Strip, David and I caught a taxi to the Las Vegas Hilton, full of anticipation for a night of our favorite Manilow hits. Upon our arrival at the hotel, we headed for the box office to retrieve our tickets. That is when we received the shocking news that your show had been canceled. I (the person who had booked the tickets) had received no prior warning, by email, telephone, or text message, of the cancellation. Had such notice been provided, at least my friend and I could have avoided incurring our ultimately useless round-trip cab fare to the Hilton.

In addition, I have never received an adequate explanation of the reason for the cancellation. The hotel representative with whom I spoke indicated that you had made the decision to cancel on the basis of “production control difficulties.” I have no idea what such a vague phrase means, or how it justifies the inconvenience, expense, and disappointment that my friend and I suffered when your concert failed to proceed as scheduled.

The hotel representative did mention that patrons who held tickets for your canceled March 20 show could exchange their tickets for a chance to possibly see you on the following night, Saturday, March 21. However, she said only that you “might” be appearing on March 21, and could not confirm that the March 21 show would, in fact, occur. More importantly, I already had a ticket to see a different Las Vegas show on March 21; and my friend, who had been looking forward to joining me at your show on March 20, would not have been able to attend on March 21 due to his need to return to California earlier in the day.

Thus, I had no choice but to accept a refund for the price of the tickets to your show. The Hilton has assured me that such a refund is forthcoming; however, no one has offered to reimburse me for the cost of my transportation from the Las Vegas Strip to the Hilton, or to compensate my friend David for the several hundred dollars in airfare that he squandered in his ill-fated attempt to enjoy your concert. Moreover, my friend and I were deeply disappointed that we were deprived of the opportunity to see your show.

As mentioned above, I have long taken pride in being one of your biggest fans. But this incident has badly shaken my faith in you.

In light of what has occurred, I request two things: First, I would be most appreciative if you could tell me what happened that led you to cancel your March 20 concert on such short notice. Second, I would be grateful if you could find a way to, in some manner, make up to my friend and me the disappointment that we experienced, and the out-of-pocket costs that we incurred, beyond the refunded ticket prices, due to the cancellation.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

So that was the letter that I sent to Barry and his agent. And I never heard back from either of the epistle’s recipients — not even so much as a form letter thanking me for my interest in Barry’s music. Moreover, Barry’s blog failed to even acknowledge the last-minute cancellation of his concert, let alone provide an explanation. (At the time, the website contained a “latest news” ticker. Under the heading for March 20, 2009 — the date of the canceled concert — Barry stated that he was planning to appear at his fan club’s upcoming convention, but made no mention of the cancellation.) It was Barry’s failure to take ownership of what had occurred that ultimately turned me off. Oh, and by the way, the occurrence discussed herein was not the only time that Barry canceled one of this shows at the last minute with no explanation given to his fans. Take a look at the first two reviews listed here.

As alluded to in my letter, during the early years of my karaoke career, Barry Manilow was my muse. My very first signature song was his “Copacabana”; and several other hits of his, such as “I Write The Songs” and “Mandy,” were also in heavy rotation in the H-Bomb canon in that era. One time when I was in law school, I rented a videotape of one of Barry’s concerts so that I could watch his stage moves and try to emulate some of them when I performed the same songs. (Yes, it was a VHS videotape; technology was very primitive in those days.) I even memorized a few lines of uplifting monologue that he spoke between songs at one point on that tape: “Growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, I learned one thing. You can give in, and you can give out. But never give up!” For a while after that, when singing one of Barry’s songs at karaoke, I would periodically utter those words myself while waiting for the song to begin — even though I’d never been in Brooklyn in my life, let alone come of age on that borough’s streets. That’s an indication of just how much Barry influenced me.

But in the wake of Barry-gate, I lost interest in his music and rarely felt the urge to perform any of his material. It’s not so much that I hold a grudge; I recognize that grudges can be destructive. But it hasn’t been easy to get over the searing pain that I felt when Barry let me down. I do acknowledge that it’s possible to separate the artist from his artistic output, and to appreciate one while loathing the other; for example, many people enjoy the operas and other masterworks of Richard Wagner despite the fact that Wagner was an anti-Semite who inspired Hitler. The ability to compartmentalize in that manner is the only reason that I still perform the occasional Manilow song. I have to admit, the guy who writes the songs wrote (and recorded) some pretty good ones.

And that’s the thing about karaoke: the songs of Mr. Manilow, like the thousands of other song choices available at most karaoke venues, don’t belong exclusively to the star who originally recorded them. I can take a song like “Copa” or “Mandy” and make it my own.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll ever pay to see Barry in concert again. 🙂

See you in Vegas!

Categories: North America, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Why Barry Manilow is dead to me

  1. wzb

    you seriously need to get a life. cancellations happen. you need to understand that. why would you even write a silly letter like that? Manilow owes you nothing except a refund for the ticket…which you got. get over it.


    • @wzb: I knew it was only a matter of time until Barry’s PR flacks came out to defend him! Oh, and the 1990s called; they want you to return their witty “Get a life” insult. 😀

      P.S. Thanks for visiting H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke! Y’all come back now, you hear?


  2. WCBFF

    @wzb: I have to say I commend him for writing the letter. He had nothing to lose by doing so. On the contrary, something was gained from his letter, unlike your silly little comment. Just sayin’


    • @WCBFF: Thanks! And perhaps even more is to be gained by publicly calling out Barry for his conduct, now that I have a blog. 🙂 (and as the link in my article makes clear, I’m certainly not the only fan who reacted the way that I did when he pulled this kind of stuff) But if cowardly people like wzb want to diss me from behind the anonymity of their keyboards . . . well, if that helps them overcome their fragile self-esteem, they can go ahead. 🙂


  3. Becca

    Yeah!!! H-Bomb has a great writing style! 😀

    While I don’t think he should have necessarily compensated your flights or anything (emergencies DO happen), I agree that he should have given some sort of reason to his disappointed fans.

    In any case, YAY…i read a blog post relatively timely! 😀


    • @Becca: There is no evidence that what happened was an emergency. But of course, we don’t know one way or the other, because Barry never felt the need to explain himself to any of his fans. Anyway, it was his failure to respond in any way to my letter — and not simply the lack of compensation — that caused me to relinquish my previous status as a “fanilow.”


  4. Michelle

    It’s not common practice by any venue that I know of to personally contact ticket holders of a cancellation when it occurs within hours of show time,
    And, as vague as you seem to think the explanation was, it’s all that’s necessary. There were production problems that would have made it impossible to give any kind of a quality performance that evening, Period. Whether it was computer/equipment failure, instrument failure or illness of one or more band members or singers or Mr. Manilow himself is really beside the point.
    I’m sorry you and your friend were disappointed, but to lay the blame of something that was beyond anyone’s control at the time at Mr. Manilow’s feet and then to imply, in any manner, that he should reimburse your travel expenses is ludicrous.
    I’ve been in that position myself… disappointed by several cancelled Manilow performances (with no explanation at all at the time) at the Hilton in Reno, NV back in ’89, I had purchased tickets for each night of the entire run. But I understood that 1) Shit happens, and 2) It just is what it is and isn’t anyone’s fault. I didn’t suggest I deserved anything more than the return of ticket prices and I didn’t stop being a fan of his music because of it either. The thought just never once entered my mind,
    I did find out later, though, that the reason for the cancellation was because his run at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway had been extended.
    And, I don’t know if you intended it, I can’t imagine why you would… but you’re letter comes off rather self-centered. As though you and your friend were the only two people disappointed and inconvenienced by that cancellation.


  5. Shows get cancelled. It sucks, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But it is rude and arrogant for the performer and venue to not at least say why. A real reason, not a vague statement that doesn’t mean anything.

    For an example of the right way, last year, my wife and I went to see Asia at a local club. We got there to find the show rescheduled to next month. When we asked why, the venue said that the lead singer was sick and that the rescheduled date was the earliest possibility that wouldn’t mess up the rest of the tour. Later that evening, I saw a similar statement on the band’s web site.

    All it takes is a simple statement (assuming it’s true, of course) to change an angry fan to a sympathetic one. It’s really sad that Mr. Manilow and/or his representatives can’t figure this out.


    • @David C.: Thanks; unlike Michelle (whose objectivity can be called into question, given that her current Facebook profile photo is an image of Barry’s face), you get it. Had Barry bothered to respond to my letter, or had he even just acknowledged the cancellation to his fans in general by making a statement on his blog and providing a reason for the cancellation, the blog post that you just commented on would never have been written . . .


      • Michelle

        Nice of you to drop by my Facebook profile and notice my profile photo.
        I never said that because of my experiences with missed concert disappointment that, like you, I stopped being a fan of Mr. Manilow’s music. I never even implied it. In fact, I clearly stated to the contrary.
        That doesn’t mean my objectivity should be called into question (I never said the man was a saint, after all… and I never would), nor does it make my comment any more or less valid than a comment from anyone else.


  6. @Michelle: I appreciate that you think you are being objective; but human nature being what it is, it’s only to be expected that someone whose ardor for Mr. Manilow is as intense as yours (and your current profile pic is only one example of that ardor that can be glimpsed when perusing your FB profile — not that there’s anything wrong with being a “Fanilow”) would be predisposed to view things in a light favorable to Barry. That would certainly be consistent with your original comment, when you assumed without evidence that, on the night when the Las Vegas concert in question was canceled, “[t]here were production problems that would have made it impossible to give any kind of a quality performance that evening, Period.” What’s more, you didn’t address the point, also made in some of the other comments above, that what made the situation truly egregious was Barry’s follow-up (or lack thereof) — his failure to take ownership of what had happened. Of course, Barry’s similar response in the aftermath of some more recently canceled appearances led to the negative TripAdvisor reivews by some other fans that I linked to in my article above.


    • Michelle

      I personally despise the term “Fanilow”, so please don’t identify me with that label.
      I am a person who appreciates Mr. Manilow’s music and his philanthropic endeavors. However, I do not worship “St. Barry of Brooklyn” at the “Church of Manilow”, though I have run into a few folks over the years who apparently do.
      You think you deserved a detailed explanation, a personal apology and a return of all monetary losses from Mr. Manilow and I disagree with you. I would disagree with you if this had been about an artist I can’t stand (though it’s more than likely I would never have seen this blog post were that the case). Assuming your post were exactly the same with the exception of the artist’s name, that is.
      I didn’t comment about the reviews you linked as I knew no details whatsoever of the cancellation(s) in question.
      As for the even more recent cancellations (due to post-surgical healing issues) by Mr. Manilow, I expressed a good deal of dissatisfaction that his management would schedule him for any performances prior to a surgery they knew about in advance and that he went along with them. They never should have booked him for any shows before he was fully recovered and he never should have agreed to them doing so. He was clearly, equally in the wrong on that point.
      Look… it’s clear you and I are at an impasse. Let’s just agree to disagree and leave it at that.


      • @Michelle: Just a couple of points: First, you also don’t know any details of the cancellation the night I was in attendance; so you probably should have refrained from giving Barry the benefit of the doubt on that one, just as you declined to address the incidents reported on TripAdvisor.

        You have also mischaracterized my position. As I stated above, this would have all gone away if Barry just would have provided an acknowledgment — and, yes, a reason for the last-minute pullout — either to me personally (as it would have been nice for at least one of his agents to respond to a heartfelt letter from a fan) or to his fans in general. He wouldn’t have had to give me everything I was asking for. As an attorney, I will typically demand more in an opening gambit than my client is willing to accept in settlement. The same holds true when I’m acting on behalf of myself. (The one exception in recent memory was when I was seeking compensation for lost luggage and the airline was trying to lowball me; because I knew that the law was very strongly on my side and that the optics of opposing me would look bad for the airline, and because I could have conveniently sued the airline in New York if it came to that, I held out for — and received — 100% of my damages. That incident will be the subject of a future post on this website.) But Barry did absolutely nothing. And that’s not good enough.


  7. WCBFF

    Heh heh heheheh heheh heh hee heh hee hee – Fanilows 😀


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