Answer Man

Barry Manilow ‘ready to take a chance’ and hit the road again

Barry Manilow performs at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on June 17, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Barry Manilow performs at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on June 17, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Getty Images

Q: Pardon the pun, but “even now” I am still a huge fan of singer-songwriter Barry Manilow. What has happened to this wonderful songbird? Did he marry? Is he ever coming back to sing those wonderful songs? His “Let Freedom Ring” was awesome!

Jo, of Mascoutah

A: What, you haven’t bought your tickets yet? My goodness, girl, start scraping together those nickels and dimes (and hundred dollar bills) now!

That’s right — even though Manilow staged his One Last Time! tour two years ago, he was just fibbing you a little. This May, the 73-year-old Manilow will hit the road again for a mini series of concerts to support the April 21 release of his new album, “This Is My Town: Songs of New York.”

The music celebrates his Brooklyn roots. That’s where on June 17, 1943, he was born Barry Alan Pincus, the son of Harold Pincus and Edna Manilow, whose name he reportedly adopted after his bar mitzvah. The album includes such classics as “On the Roof,” “On Broadway,” “New York City Rhythm” and a host of others. You can pre-order it through his website (barrymanilow.com) and hear a selection or two on his Facebook page.

But here’s what fans are really waiting for: four live shows in May, including a grand finale on May 25 in the Big Apple. But the one you might want to make tracks for is his appearance May 17 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, near Chicago. Tickets are now on sale through Ticketmaster. Officially, they’re $20-$350, but already some are being offered for resale for hundreds more.

And here’s even more exciting news: For the next 20 days, you can bid to win seats in the very front row! Just go to frontrowmanilow.com and enter your offer. As of Wednesday, that bid had to be a minimum of $1,125. But, hey, how many more chances will you have to see a star who has a Grammy, Tony and Emmy to highlight a career that includes 13 Billboard No. 1s and 29 platinum albums (1 million in sales), including three triple platinums? (Besides, he can’t smile without you.)

We only pray that his heart will be able to take the strain again. On Jan. 31, 2004, Manilow, then 61, was rushed to a California hospital with chest pains while doing legal battle to regain rights to the original stage musical “Harmony.” During his 24-hour stay, he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a potentially deadly heart rhythm abnormality. Apparently he’s suffered a number of episodes since.

“You think you’re gonna die,” he told Seven Magazine in 2012. “You’re not gonna die, but you think you are. Heart pounding like crazy. It’s like you have a flounder in your jacket. You think, ‘Well, any second now it’s just gonna explode.’

“I got used to it, but they’d rush me to the hospital every time. ‘Give you the paddles — ‘Clear!’ ’Cause they have to stop it. If it goes on for a couple of days, they have to stop it.”

In fact, some papers reported that it was his health concerns (he also battled a painful hip condition requiring surgery in 2006) that prompted him to finally tie the knot with his long-time manager, Garry Kief, three years ago

When Manilow was just 20, he had married his Eastern District High School sweetheart, Susan Deixler, whom the yearbook noted may have been the prettiest girl in the school while Manilow was called the best musician. She was “adorable, small with great legs and a voluptuous figure...and a smile that lit up the room,” he wrote in his 1987 autobiography, “Sweet Life.”

But about a year later, he walked away from the marriage with his clothes and piano to head off on a “wondrous musical adventure.” While Deixler went on to have two children, questions persisted about Manilow’s sexuality. In the 1980s, he dated Linda Allen, a TV production assistant, but he refused to comment when Patricia Butler wrote of him being gay in her 2002 book, “Barry Manilow, the Biography.”

All speculation probably was put to rest in 2014 when Manilow and Kief, his manager of nearly four decades, invited two or three dozen close friends to lunch at Manilow’s Palm Springs, Calif., home and promptly surprised them by marrying, according to a report in People magazine. Kief also had been married to a woman before and has a 38-year-old daughter, Kristen, who works in the Manilow organization as well.

“I wish him well,” Deixler told Britain’s Daily Mail in 2015. (She went on to become a holistic healer and settle down in Point Reyes Station, Calif.) “I’m happy for him. I’m glad that he’s found love and happiness.”

Manilow himself still refuses to talk about any of it.

“I am a private guy,” he once told England’s Daily Telegraph. “You can only come into my world if I invite you in. From the very beginning, that was the rule. I learned how to deal with the publicity/press thing. You just say, ‘I’m not interested in talking about (that).’ Even the names of my dogs! They are my kids, my friends are my friends and my family, they are mine. That’s the only way I can survive. I have to keep that to me. I don’t want strangers knowing everything. If that happened, that would drive me crazy.”

He just writes the songs (and jingles — KFC, Band-Aid, State Farm, to name a few), so if you can’t meet him somewhere down the road at his Windy City concert, you can always relive his “Let Freedom Ring” salute (and many others) on YouTube.

Today’s trivia

What was the original title of Barry Manilow’s hit song “Mandy”? Why was it changed?

Answer to Saturday’s trivia: Here’s an idea to give a “lift” to your next vacation: Visit the Weightlifting Hall of Fame at the corporate headquarters of York Barbells in York, Pa. Featuring a diverse history of strength sports from mythology to the 21st century Olympics, the hall boasts 8,000 square feet of displays, including a statue of Bob Hoffman, the Father of World Weightlifting, and the death mask of Maurice Tillet, a pro wrestler best known as “The French Angel.” For more details, see yorkbarbell.com.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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