The magazine editor came to my office one day and casually said, "Hi, um, oh yeah, how would you like to interview BARRY MANILOW?!" After I screamed, I said, "Wait, maybe I shouldn't. What if I cry when I meet him??? I might cry! That wouldn't be very professional - I've loved him since I was like eleven!!!" He said, "Don't be dumb, you're interviewing him." Of course, he was right.
So, for the last couple of months, we've been exchanging e-mails with a member of Barry's team about doing an article. The article was going to take a particular point of view, to fit into our magazine issue's theme. We were also going to do a portrait of Barry and his writing partner, Bruce Sussman, taken by our wonderful photographer. Literally every night at home, before I went to sleep, I would run over what I would say, how I would act, and try to prepare myself to meet someone I've admired for so many years. I honestly prayed that I wouldn't cry.
Ground rules were established - no cell phone photos, but we could get a shot or two of me, our magazine editor, Bruce and Barry to use on social media. So I figured not only would I get to meet and talk with Barry, I'd also have a photo to keep forever! I daydreamed about the Christmas card I would make out of the photo, and how I'd have to console my nephew when he was replaced as my Facebook profile pic. But, as they say, the best laid plans...
Instead of going out to our photographer's studio in Brooklyn, he arranged for us to do the interview and photo session in a swanky Chelsea townhouse that once belonged to Jerry Orbach! Golly, it was beautiful! The picture at left is of our editor ringing the bell to the swanky townhouse. We arrived a bit before Barry and his team and I was happy to wander around and collect myself before the interview would begin. I was also sweating like Albert Brooks in the movie Broadcast News. You know the scene I mean. So now I was praying I wouldn't keep sweating OR cry. So many things to worry about.
Finally, there was much bustling and a flurry of activity and in came Barry. I hung back for a minute to collect myself, then walked up, shook his hand and introduced myself. No crying so far, thank heavens. I felt very calm and professional. And Barry was very kind and gentle, as I hoped he would be. He wandered over and took a seat on the couch. After a few minutes of the entire room making small talk (what a coincidence - we were in Jerry Orbach's old apartment, and Barry and Bruce's project was rehearsing in the Jerry Orbach Theatre! Good karma!), Barry's writing partner, Bruce Sussman came in, then I went over, sat myself down on the couch next to BARRY MANILOW and began the interview. And, may I say, he has BEAUTIFUL EYES. Thank you.
It's all rather a blur now. Thankfully, we audiorecorded the conversation so I can go back and relive it anytime I want. First, I explained the point of view from which I was approaching the article, which Barry and Bruce seemed to like, then we got right to the interview. They're both excellent conversationalists, concise yet illuminating in their answers. They're smart and funny. And they're passionate talking about the project we were targeting. It was interesting how unguarded the conversation was. I think I kept the questions coming at a nice clip, but yet left them space and air to answer. We took some interesting tangents, but came back when necessary. I made Barry laugh a couple of times, which made me blush on the inside, and we all seemed to be having the same conversation, which was a relief.
We talked for about an hour, which is amazing to me, and, at the end, I asked if I could please ask Barry a musical theater question that had nothing to do with our previous conversation. He said sure. I had been at a master class he gave on songwriting a few months ago, and he used one particular song as an example of good musical theater songwriting. I asked why he had chosen that one song, out of all the songs in the world. He thought about it and gave a lovely answer. I then asked Bruce the same question, telling him I knew I was putting him on the spot, but I had a song, too, if he couldn't think of one. Bruce gave me his song choice and reasoning, which was also lovely. Then Barry ASKED ME WHAT MY SONG WAS. He asked me. Me. Shiver. I answered. He said, "Good choice." AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! I felt nearly perfect happiness.
I knew that Barry and Bruce had time constraints, so I sent them over to have their portrait taken. Unfortunately, this is where it all sort of fell apart. I think because the interview was over, maybe Barry's mind moved on to his next appointment, which is understandable. Plus, it seemed as if he was feeling discomfort at being photographed. So, the photo shoot didn't go as smoothly as maybe we would've hoped. At one point, I jumped behind the photographer to keep talking to Barry and Bruce and keep them entertained. But I did thank Barry for introducing me to the genius that is Barbara Cook, and we had a nice chat about Barbara Cook. Then he asked if I were coming to the regional theater where his new project will premiere. Well, if Barry ASKED, now I have to try to go! :)
Because Barry seemed antsy, his team got even more antsy, and so it was decided he was done. No photos for social media. He would do a few more portrait shots and would go. I was like, wait, what about MY picture?! I was screaming it on the inside, but didn't say anything out loud. At least not at that minute. And suddenly, it was over. But I got an almost-hug goodbye from Barry Manilow and he said thank you as he left. I got a kiss from Bruce Sussman. It was a bit anti-climactic the way it was all over so suddenly. I looked at our magazine editor and the photographer, realized there would be no photo with me in it, and excused myself to stand in another room for some alone time and to finally have the tiniest of cries. Then I pulled up my big girl pants and went back into the sitting room and decompressed with the rest of the crew.
Everyone has been very complimentary on my interview, even Barry's assistant, so I feel that went well. It didn't really take me long to write the article, so I must've kept everything on target the way I wanted to. First my panic was I would cry in front of Barry and embarrass myself and my company; now my panic is that he'll hate the article. It's gone out to his team (who I completely blame for the no-photo-debacle), so we'll see what happens next.
It's all so unreal, now that it's over. I've been worried and excited and nervous for a couple of months now, knowing this was coming. During the interview, I tried to savor my time with him. Now that it's over and I got to spend so much time with a giant figure of my past, present and (probably) future, I'm so lucky to be able to look back with such happy memories about the day. OK, so it didn't end quite how I planned, but to discover that Barry Manilow is just the man I hoped he'd be was wonderful. Heaven knows, I've been disillusioned enough in the past. I'm thrilled that Barry didn't let me down, but I should've known. He never does.