BetteBack February 25, 1977: Barry Manilow Gets His First Network Special

Yuma Daily Sun
Man/fow has special
By BOB THOMAS
February 25, 1977

LOS ANGELES (API – The name of the Barry Manilow special on ABC Wednesday night is “The Barry Manilow Special.” It has been called “the best special ever conceived for television.” By whom? Barry Manilow.

He may or may not have been serious. The fact remains that you don’t rise from Brooklyn through piano bars and accompanying Bette Midler to superstardom in the music world by being humble.

Manilow is tallish. 30, willowy with blondish hair. He arrives 25 minutes late for an interview without explanation. The shirt is open, revealing his nylon undershirt. A necklace with a d i a m o n d – s t u d d e d sta r proclaims his status.

“Are you f a m i l i a r with my work?” he demands. The interviewer answers yes. he has heard Manilow’s hit singles: “Mandv.” “I Write the Songs.” “Weekend in New England.”

“I had been offered a number of television things, but they were summer shows and late-night specials.” he remarked. “1 said 1 didn’t want television until 1 could do it right: in prime time with a lot of money.

“I wanted a show that would be truly special, not just linoleum floors and shiny lightbulbs. No parade of guest stars. No filler, like having me sing ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ w i t h Lee Majors.

“I knew what 1 wanted to do but 1 didn’t know how to do it. The show took me three months to write, and then we shot it last September, October. The only guest is Penny Marshall (Laverne and Shirley‘), who was not that big a star when we signed her.

“The concept of the show is very personal. You get to know me at the end.”

Manilow is contracted for two specials a year

“l don’t have enough to say for a weekly show”.

He was signed last April after Fred Silverman moved from CBS to ABC as program chief. When Manilow signed the c o n t r a c t . S i l ve r m a n  i n q u i r e d . “Where’s the mail?”

“I used to work in the mail room at CBS. and I actually delivered mail to Fred.” Manilow explained.

He has done many things after his studies at New York College of M u s i c . Like conducting for a TV talent show, writing dozens of singing commercials, touring as part of a musical act, “.Jeannie and Barry.”

He was doing a stint as house pianist in the Continental Baths in M a n h a t t a n when Bette Midler flashed on the scene. It was love-hate at first sight.

“We had great times and great f i g h ts together,” r e c a l l e d M a n i l o w . He arranged, conducted and played piano for her during the rapid ascent of her career. When M i d l e r took a year’s rest, M a n i l ow decided to record his own album.

“I had always wanted to be a n a r r a n g e r a n d accompanist.” he said, ” Henry M a n c i ni was the one I wanted to pattern my career after. I wouldn’t have waited u n t i l I was ’26 to start.”

The future? “I’m banking for a long career. The ones I admire the most are Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand and Mancini. I like the moves they make: they’ve handled themselves intelligently.”

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