When news broke that “Copacabana” crooner Barry Manilow had secretly married his long-time “friend” and manager Gary Kief, we were happy for him but not entirely shocked. The 71-year-old veteran performer has been setting off people’s gaydar for decades, yet he still chooses to remain closeted to mainstream audiences. Think Liberace.
But it’s 2015, and certainly audiences could handle rethinking songs like “Can’t Smile Without You,” “Could It Be Magic,” and “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” in the context of same-sex affection. They’re just songs, anyway.
For whatever reason, Barry has gone out of his way to quell rumors.
Downplaying his early career start accompanying Bette Midler at a gay bathhouse in the ’70s:
It’s fairly common knowledge that Barry got his start at the Continental Baths in New York City, performing for crowds of gay men clad only in towels. Interestingly, his official bio doesn’t mention it. In 2002, he said, “That’s such a bit of misinformation. There was one bathhouse, it was called the Continental Bathhouse and I worked there for two weekends and Bette worked there for about a month of weekends and that was it. I accompanied her for two weekends there and then we went on to a lot of nightclubs around New York, Chicago and L.A. and she exploded like a year later. So it really wasn’t ‘gay bathhouses.’ I don’t know where that came from.” It probably came from the fact that it was a gay bathhouse. There’s an entire video of the two performing there.
Making homophobic comments on stage:
During a 2004 concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Manilow was setting up to sing a duet with Brian d’Arcy James. He told the audience, “Of course, we’re not going to sing it to each other—that would be creepy.” Really, queen? Barry’s people put out a statement that “the line was meant lightheartedly,” and that Manilow was “very sorry if he offended anyone.”
Editing his first wedding story:
Barry wed his high school sweetheart Susan Deixler in the ’60s, but the marriage was doomed for obvious reasons. In his 1987 autobiography Sweet Life, Barry doesn’t even mention her name, but describes her as, “adorable, small with great legs and a voluptuous figure.” On January 6, 1966, an annulment decree was signed. A cousin of Deixler claims that “the marriage was annulled for not being consummated.”