The Untold Truth Of Barry Manilow

You know the voice and you know the songs: "Mandy," "Copacabana," "Looks Like We Made It," the list goes on and on. Iconic entertainer Barry Manilow long ago secured his name in the pantheon of pop culture, having secured everything but the "O" in EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards), not to mention the over 80 million in sales he's achieved on his chart-topping tunes. The man is a living legend. 

He's also notoriously private, which is why it was such news in April 2017 when Manilow confirmed that he is gay and married to Garry Kief, his manager and longtime love, per People. Together for almost four decades, they wed in a non-legal ceremony, but the singer-songwriter kept his personal life private all that time. "I thought I would be disappointing [my fans] if they knew I was gay," he told the magazine. "So I never did anything."

Given that revelation, we wanted to know more, so we took a deep dive to find some of the lesser known factoids from the "I Write The Songs" singer's life. Here's whay  you not have known about Barry Manilow.

Barry Manilow secretly married his manager

"I'm so private. I always have been," Barry Manilow told People in 2017, citing his reticence to share his personal life with the world as one of the reasons he stayed in the closet about his sexuality.

In fact, the "Mandy" singer is so private, it took a long time for most tabloids to get to the bottom of his wedding. The National Enquirer was the first to crack the case, reporting in April 2015 that Manilow and Kief had tied the knot at their home in Palm Springs, Calif. Suzanne Somers, who was reportedly "Best Man" at the wedding, confirmed the tabloid's report the following week on Andy Cohen's Watch What Happens Live. "They're married and really happy," she said, "and I was there when it was announced."

Of course, over the years, Manilow did his part to keep the press off his scent. In 2012, for example, he claimed he was "happily single" when asked by the Telegraph.

Both Manilow and his husband were once married to women

Barry married Eastern District High School sweetheart Susan Deixler in 1964, but the marriage only lasted a year. He told People he was "in love with Susan," and that the marriage didn't end because he was in the closet, but rather, because he "wasn't ready to settle down." "I was out making music every night, sowing my wild oats — I was too young," he said. Manilow also once lived with another woman, Linda Allen, whom Rolling Stone dubiously described in 1990 as "the woman with whom he has been most often linked throughout his celebrity." 

Manilow's manager-turned-husband, Gary Kief, was also once married to a woman, and has a grown daughter, Kristen, who "works in the Manilow organization," according to the Daily Mail. After the pair's 2015 wedding, the same outlet reached Deixler who said that she harbors no ill-will toward Manilow and that she is "glad that he's found love and happiness" with Kief. 

His birth name wasn't Barry Manilow

Barry Alan Pincus, born in 1943, grew up in the neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. According to the Independent, Manilow legally changed his last name to his mother's maiden name about a few weeks before his Bar Mitzvah.

Friction over Manilow's name started as soon as he was board, fueled by the fact that Manilow's father, Harold Kelliher, was an Irish-American truck driver. "It was considered a terrible thing for my mother to have done. [Her parents] wouldn't even allow my name to be Kelliher," he told the Independent. "They changed it immediately. When I was born, I was called Barry Pincus. They had to dig deep into my father's family to find one Jewish relative. They went back to the 1800s and they found one uncle, a Jewish guy called Pincus. My mother made my father change his name to Pincus. "Right now it sounds stupid but back then they thought that having a Jewish son was the most important thing.

"Right now it sounds stupid but back then they thought that having a Jewish son was the most important thing," he added. "To me, it means nothing. As a matter of fact, it would have been interesting if my name was Barry Kelliher and if I was raised half-Irish and half-Jewish, but I wasn't. The Irish part of me did not exist. It was gone and forgotten."

Barry Manilow's first instrument was the accordion

Barry Manilow had musical talent and interest from an early age, but his family didn't know how to help him. So, according to Epiphany (via Positively Positive), his mother and grandparents rented him an accordion, a popular musical instrument when he was growing up in Brooklyn.

"There wasn't much you could do on the accordion, but damn, I was good at it," he recalled. "I picked up reading music very fast, and I actually played the thing so it didn't sound like an old Italian baker outside his store. The only music I was exposed to in my young life was Jewish folk songs and awful pop songs on the radio. That was it."

Manilow's life changed further at the age of 13, when his mother married a man named Willie Murphy. As Manilow recalled, Murphy had a record player and a great music collection that was like "a stack of gold" to him. The collection included Broadway soundtracks, big band music, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, and classical music.

"I had never heard music like this. I didn't even know it existed!" Manilow remembered. "I tried playing the overtures of the Broadway scores on my accordion, and I did pretty well! But Willie knew that would never do, so he saved his money and bought me a spinet piano. Between [my mother] Edna and Willie, they pooled their money and sent me off to piano lessons once a week."

Barry Manilow's mother was a suicidal alcoholic

Not all of Barry Manilow's childhood was great. In fact, according to The Independent, his mother Edna "was a troubled parent – alcoholic, suicidal, doting – and her sway over her son was evidently a powerful one."

Speaking to the Telegraph in 2012, Manilow admitted that therapy helped him to forgive his mother over the years. "We all have stories," he said. "I had my own, but I had to do the work in order to get to the point where I can forgive these people. 'Cause really they're only people. But parents are not people to you. They are gods and goddesses. And it's very difficult for you and I and the world to treat our parents as if they are people."

Manilow also attempted to learn more about his mother as he got older, including the time he interviewed her for his autobiography in the '80s. "It was the first time I saw her as a woman who had a life," he recalled. "I knew a tiny little bit of this and that, but the dawn broke that afternoon. Oh, she's not the goddess I thought she was. She was just a woman doing the best she could."

You probably didn't know Barry Manilow wrote these jingles

Barry Manilow worked a variety of music-related jobs before becoming famous, including being a music arranger in the waning days of the The Ed Sullivan Show. But his most successful gigs at the time involved composing music for advertisements like Stridex. He was also the man behind Band-Aid's "Stuck on Band-Aids" ad; State Farm's "Like a Good Neighbor" jingle; and McDonald's "You Deserve a Break Today" campaign.

Manilow won two CLIO advertising awards in 1976 for his work with Band-Aid and the soda brand Tab. He also won an honorary CLIO in 2009. "I learned the most about music working in the jingle industry," he said in his acceptance speech. "It was the best music college I could ever imagine."

Bette Midler and Barry Manilow have a love-hate relationship

It's pretty well-known that Barry Manilow and Bette Midler got their start together performing for a gay audience at the Continental Baths in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, their relationship was "hate at first sight," he told the Winnipeg Free Press in 1974 (via Bootleg Betty). "We didn't trust each other but we recognized each other's talents and that kept us together."

He said he learned a lot from watching Midler as her piano player and music arranger, but that wasn't always good. "I learned from Bette how to perform, how to do a show," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. "I made a fool of myself trying to copy her and it was all wrong until I figured out my personality on the stage."

They've since had several feuds over the years, including the time he surprised her on Roseanne Barr's talk show (screenshot above). As of December 2016, they are not talking, Midler told Today. She said he was peeved after they did a Peggy Lee album together and she changed some of his music without telling him first.

Barry Manilow was a jerk when he first got famous

Although he's beloved by millions around the world, Barry Manilow wasn't always as nice as he appeared in music and on television. "Fame is difficult to deal with, and it had dropped into my lap," Manilow told People in 2017. "You become an a****** for a while.

Take 1974, for example. One night that year, he was having a meal at a Philadelphia diner with Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Ed Sciaky, a local DJ who had arranged the meeting of the musicians. "Apparently, at one point I said, 'Out of all three of us, just watch, I'm going to be the biggest star at this table," he told Rolling Stone. He claimed it was because he "was making the most blatantly commercial music," and that he "respected their music more than [his] own." At any rate, Springsteen and Joel reportedly never forgot about it. "To this day, Billy Joel gets pissed off when people mention my name — and I have always been such an incredible fan of his," Manilow said.

Reflecting on his behavior in 2012, Manilow told The Independent, "You are one person one day and the next you are your image. Then the image becomes so big that people treat the image but they don't know who you are." He called himself "a brat" who threw tantrums. He admits he knew he had to change things when he realized everybody in his life was on his payroll, and his family and friends were out of his life.

The time Donald Trump went all Donald Trump on Barry Manilow

In 1994, Barry Manilow backed out of a concert event in Atlantic City, New Jersey, after he found out it was for Christine Todd Whitman, the state's incoming governor at the time. "At no time was I asked to headline the inaugural activities of Governor-elect Christine Whitman," Manilow said, according to The New York Times. "In fact, it was specifically stated to me in writing that this was a nonpartisan event. I would not have agreed to endorse Mrs. Whitman in this way, having never met her, spoken to her or been aware of her political platform."

Donald Trump allegedly got involved with the kerfuffle when even organizers asked him if Paul Anka, who was supposed to be playing at one his hotels, could sing at the event instead. Trump agreed, but dissed Manilow on television "in a tirade that turned offensive enough for the station to censor several seconds," according to the Huffington Post. Oh well. At least Twitter didn't exist back then!

He once had Passover Seder with Bob Dylan

Sure, it may sound like the setup for a joke: Barry Manilow, Bob Dylan, and Burt Bacharach walk into a seder. But no, it actually happened — sometime in the late '80s in fact, according to Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Manilow fondly recalled the dinner, which was hosted by Bacharach, revealing that Dylan advised him to "keep on doing what you're doing," adding, "We're all inspired by you.

""It was a wonderful thing to hear because those were the days when I was getting absolutely creamed by the critics, so for him to say that to me was a very, very important moment for me," Manilow said.

Barry Manilow still sells lots of concert tickets and albums

Barry Manilow was widely popular in the 1970s, thanks to catchy top hits like "Copacabana," "Looks Like We Made It," "I Made It Through the Rain," and "Weekend in New England"; however, he went out of style in the early 1980s, and has been "uncool" to some tastemakers ever since.

Manilow talked about this lack of hipness to Rolling Stone in 1990, saying it was about the music and passion he shows. "I'll tell you what you see," he told the magazine. "You see passion. It's that I believe in what I do, and you get it. Now, some people don't get it! But my guts go out there onstage, take it or leave it. And that's very uncomfortable for a lot of people to witness, especially to be coming from a man."

Despite the mockery, people still buy his music and go to his shows. Case in point: he had a No. 1 album in 2006; a few Top 10 albums of standards in recent years; sold-out dates on Broadway; and many top-selling tours. The Fanilows and others still enjoy this entertainer who has been making records for over 40 years, and whose tunes are so catchy they've become earworms. That's nothing to sneer at.

He denies he's had plastic surgery

Over the years, numerous rumors have sprouted alleging that Barry Manilow has had plastic surgery over the years. Manilow, of course, denies them. Speaking to talk-show host Jonathan Ross in 2013 (via the Telegraph), he insisted, "Really, this is what I look like. I don't know what the hell they're talking about ...This is me at 70. It is. I swear."

However, Manilow did admit to the Telegraph that he did have one surgery in the past. "And the press caught me coming out," he said, which may or may not have referenced the time he was reportedly caught walking out of a Beverly Hills clinic wearing a wig in 2003. At the time, Manilow said he needed to have cysts removed on his eye and cheek. "They didn't know what it was," he continued. "So I had to go to a plastic surgeon to do it. And he said, 'You know, I can get rid of these things as long as I'm there,' " he says, pointing to the lines around his mouth. "But that was it. That was it."

Manilow also admitted to dabbling in Botox. "When I was living in Bel Air all those years ago, a big thing was Botox and stuff like that. Everybody was doing it. And I did it a few times and I didn't like it," he said, adding later: "I'm the Joan Rivers of the plastic surgery thing [because] of one picture and the Botox. But I do see those pictures that they think [show] that I've done loads of surgery. And I know why they think that, because those pictures are weird."

The long road to New York for Barry Manilow's original musical

Barry Manilow has grown very rich and very famous performing show-stopping and emotionally packed songs of love gained and love lost, the kind one would hear in a big, sweeping Broadway musical. His songs are very theatrical, in other words, and in 2019, Manilow announced that his stab at a stage musical had made it to the big time — a New York run — after many years of attempts.

According to The New York Times, Manilow composed the music for Harmony, while Bruce Sussman, with whom he's written more than 200 songs, tackled the lyrics and script for the project about the Comedian Harmonists, a six-member singing group who gained popularity in 1920 Germany, just before the rise of Hitler and Nazism. Despite the involvement of a pop legend, Harmony's development has been rocky. It was staged for the first time in 1997 in California, with subsequent runs in Philadelphia and Atlanta, while an announced Broadway run was cancelled in 2003 due to financing issues. In 2019, Manilow announced during a performance of his Broadway revue, Manilow Broadway, that Harmony would hit New York in 2020, staged at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. However, it was soon after delayed to 2021, owing to the director's battle with appendicitis.