Barry Manilow On Bette Midler And Lady Gaga

Vanity Fair
Barry Manilow Only Ever Played One Bathhouse with Bette Midler
by Eric Spitznagel June 2, 2011, 12:00 AM

Do you never feel nostalgic for the bathhouses you played with Bette Midler in the 70s?

One bathhouse. We played one bathhouse.

Really? I thought you were touring bathhouses all over the country.

No, it was only ever that one bathhouse.

You’re starting to sound like a politician who got busted by his wife. “It was just one bathhouse, baby, I swear.”

[Laughs.] I played with Bette at the Continental Baths [in New York City]. They had a cabaret stage, and they hired me as the house piano player. They asked me, “Hey, do you want to play piano here full-time?” And I was like, “Sure, why not?” I played with all the acts that came through, all the singers. Bette was the best of them. She was the best one, so I stayed with her.

There’s an old show-business trick that if you ever get stage fright, just imagine that the audience is in their underwear. What do you do if your audience is dressed entirely in towels?

That’s a great question. Personally, I don’t really get stage fright. And in any case, I wasn’t really the focus of attention during those shows. It was all about Bette. She was fucking brilliant. I mean it. You never saw anything like it. It topped anything Lady Gaga is doing today. And she did it without any stage tricks or fancy effects. It was just Bette and me and a drummer.

Since you mentioned Lady Gaga, I feel like I should ask you about her, but I feel weird about it.

What’s to feel weird about?

Why would you care about Lady Gaga? She’s so different from you aesthetically, and from a different generation. Asking you about her feels like asking my mom to explain how e-mail works. It’s just mean.

I love Lady Gaga! I think I was the first guy on my block to discover her. You’d be surprised by what’s on my iPod.

Tell me what you like about Gaga. Are you a fan of the music, the alien-Egyptian-dominatrix costumes, the sacrilegious videos?

I think it’s the whole package that really impressed me. She has such an individualistic style. I was sold on that from the beginning. Later I realized that on top of everything, she’s a good musician and a great singer. That was it, that’s what sold me. This girl is the real deal.

During your show at the Paris in Las Vegas, do you, at any point, get hatched out of a gigantic egg?

It’s a little different. I come out of a Gefilte fish.

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3 thoughts on “Barry Manilow On Bette Midler And Lady Gaga

  1. Anyone else find it slightly offensive that the interviewer said ‘asking you about Lady Gaga is like asking my mom how email works’?? The interviewer is not polished at all but I like Barry Manilow’s sense of humor throughout it.

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