Barry Manilow is gay – shock horror!
But seriously, I cant imagine anyone was surprised to learn that Bazza has come out of the closet at the ripe old age of 73. In fact, I imagine for those not asking “Who’s Barry Manilow?” it must have been fairly obvious for quite some time that Barry batted for the other team. After all, he wrote drippily sentimental big ballad songs that were – let’s say – a little camp. While he was left in the shade by Liberace’s over the top style, there is no denying Manilow was somewhat effete.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not slagging him off! In solidarity with his decision, I’m coming out of the closet too. Not in a gay way you understand – that happened a LONG time ago – no, my confession is that I am a HUGE Manilow fan and I’m OK with that.
Let’s face it, he created hit after hit for other singers before going out and becoming a star in his own right, and what songs they were: Mandy, I Write the Songs, Read em and Weep, Cant Smile Without You – the list just goes on and on.
And then there’s Copacabana! Do you know, decades after I first heard it, I still know the words to that song? And I mean EVERY word!
As a teenager, I even created my own choreography to it – and in a cupboard somewhere in my house is an old video recording of me and my best friend Matthew lipsynching to it. I was in jeans and a t-shirt and he was in one of my mother’s dresses. Mum helped him pick it out, and to this day, she still maintains she had no inkling that Matthew and I were gay.
So Manilow was there in song when I began realising I was gay. I came out by the time I was 20, but Barry stayed in the closet for a few more decades. There’s something quite sad in that, but it was all too common for queer entertainers from that era and earlier. The list is long of men who hid their sexuality, afraid that their careers would be ended: Liberace and Rock Hudson are just two who spring to mind.
Times change, and now it’s almost fashionable to be gay. Younger stars such as Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Colfer and even Josh Thomas don’t have the the same liabilities, and even some of the ones who initially hid such as Elton John are now out and proud.
It’s a shame it took Barry Manilow so many years to acknowledge it, but coming out is an individual journey and one that we all must make on our own terms.
You might be thinking – so what? Why does it matter now in a more enlightened age? Well the problem is we don’t necessarily live in a more enlightened age. Sure, more and more countries have marriage equality and many more have laws that support queer people, but 76 countries around the world still regard homosexual sex as a crime.
We are still in an age where ISIS is throwing gay people off buildings, where gay men and women are being persecuted in Russia and Transfolk are being banned from toilets in America. Here at home in New Zealand, things are better, but we still have idiots blaming earthquakes on gays.
We need people to ‘come out’ and be visible for all those around the globe who are still in the closet and being persecuted. Everyone needs to know that queer people exist, that we have always existed, and that we can and do live successful lives.
So, thank you Mr Barry Manilow for coming out after all these years, congratulations on your marriage and thanks for the music.