Monday, March 31, 2008

More Manilow, More Magic - Atlanta Continued

There's more sleep to catch up on than I thought.

The rest of the thoughts on the concert are in no particular order. Maybe they'll come close to the actual set list if I'm lucky. That first essay was based on the few decent pictures I got.

OK, some more thoughts on the show and surrounding entertainment as they come to me....

At every concert by every major artist, there is always THAT ONE GUY/GIRL in the front who can't clap in time to save their life. At Barry's show, that was Pete. He was with me. A big "sorry" to everyone who had to deal with that. ;-)

"Somewhere In the Night" - one of my personal favorites (and Pete's too, though not for exactly the same reason ;-) ) got included in the opening medley. My condolences to everyone who was not there with a spouse or S.O. You just can't resist a good grope session to that song! Which was just a little awkward when the seats on the floor (especially in our rows) were crammed together like sardines. I wonder what Pete and I looked like from the stage! (blush)

Even though there was no "50s segment", they did bring out the costume change and choreography for "Bandstand Boogie". That was fun. Kye set the standard that the girls had to live up to for their little show around the song.

Quick comment on Kye (I'm guessing that really is his name because no one corrected me when I first posted it) - this is the only person on stage who is really a dancer. The backup girl who performs with him in the Mayflower segment on the M&P video comes close. But the other girls and Barry are definitely not. (Walking to a beat does not qualify as dancing.) But Kye organized the choreography and stage blocking so that everyone looks like they are of equal ability and training. No mean feat. The only time you really see what he is capable of is during his little "Copa" remix during Barry's/the girls' costume change and on the M&P video during "They Dance" - when he needs to be out front of everyone else. I wonder if he's done any solo performances before or otherwise outside of Barry's show. He could pull it off.

Speaking of ability - the William Tell Overture bit. All I had heard from the news groups and blogs and chat boards was that it was really good and really funny. I'll take under-exaggeration for 100, Alex!! We're not talking about 5 people just humming along with each other. Each one was singing a different orchestral part. Does anyone out there have the slightest idea how hard this is?

About 20 years ago, a Contemporary Christian group called "Glad" did a CD called The Acapella Project. It was the 5 guys in the band, in a 32-track studio doing orchestrated a capella versions of various hymns and spiritual songs. Beautiful collection of work and hailed as an innovative stunt. I don't remember if they toured in support of this disc, or if they even performed any of the songs from it in any live set.

Now here are the differences between Glad and Barry and Co:

  • Glad's stuff was just studio - Barry's group did it live. Live as in, if someone fucks up their timing, even for a split-second, the entire venue will know it and there's no hiding. No retakes, either.
  • A capella performance is sheer hell. If your tone is off, again, the whole world is going to catch it and you can't hide. I didn't see so much as a pitch pipe come out before the number.
  • The William Tell Overture is much faster and more complicated with more counterpoint than anything Glad did. Thus keeping the precision is much more difficult and getting back into sync after a mistake may be nearly impossible. This isn't like barbershop or 50s do-wop which is much slower, with simpler arrangements, and easier for each person to adjust to.
  • And choreography complementing the melody on top of it. So you have two aspects the 5 of them had to focus on at the same time. Presumably without tripping over each others' feet.

So this little novelty schtick was technically the most demanding part of the show, IMHO. Most people were laughing too hard from enjoying it to appreciate the technicality. This bit belongs on a live CD or DVD. THE PRECEDING SENTENCE WAS A NOT-SO-SUBTLE HINT!!!

So if Barry & Co need a new challenge, how about "Flight of the Bumblebee" next? ;-P

One more pause - need to get dinner on the table. More later!

Manilow Magic in Atlanta

Maybe the old songs
will bring back the old times

Maybe the old lines will sound new>
Maybe she'll lay her head on my shoulder
Maybe old feelings will come through
Maybe we'll start to cry and wonder why

We ever walked away

This show just might take a few posts to get through. When Pete and I watch a concert or video, we hash it through and try to analyze different observations. Maybe our conclusions are right, maybe not, it doesn't matter - that's just how we enjoy things.

To begin with, we were sitting in the second row, center. Just barely off of Barry's left hand. Definitely less than 15 feet from the mike stand in the center, less than 10 feet when he was standing on the hydraulic lift.

Here's a (crappy) picture, just for perspective:

I did manage to get some pictures with my point-and-pray camera. Most of them suck, although there are a few gems. If you want good pictures, someone posted a link on the BarryNet and you can get to them here. But the pictures on these posts are all mine, for whatever they're worth and will give you a feel for how we felt.

Brian Culbertson has a couple of new fans. Usually opening acts are merely tolerated but he put on a great set - he needed more than 30 minutes - and all kinds of things were impressive. Switching from keyboards to trombone. The great-looking sax player. The personality that came across in the instrumentals (NEVER seen that before). The fact that his dad was on the trumpet. The whole Earth, Wind, and Fire segment - EVERYONE around us was on their feet. Most of all, he was having a good time doing what he loved and was good at. Culbertson knew what he could do and had nothing to prove, and it showed.

Now for the main event......

The usual video opening. First time I saw this was on the M&P video shown on PBS. Much more of an impact when shown in its entirety on a big screen, and not part of a montage.

The backup singers hit the stage....

You can't see it well from here, but IMHO, they should reinstate the name "Lady Flash". Yes, even with the guy (Kye?) there. From the angle we were sitting and the way their dresses were made, nothing was left to the imagination. Nothing.

And the moment I've been waiting for since I was 5, and got delayed 2 months due to weather and the venue's judgement:

Set lists and the like are posted here and there on the BarryNet chat board. He did a bunch of favorites and for the most part, followed the bulk of the set list from the M&P show. He included a segment of cuts from this Songs of the 60s CD, and included "Brooklyn Blues".

A non-telephoto shot during "It's A Miracle"
Miracle - my sentiments exactly! Barry must think the ATL is cursed for him after a major snow and ice storm killed his first show. (I hope the VP of bookings got an earful of four-letter aria personally from the main man - the yutz had it coming.) Then a couple of weeks ago, a tornado totalled a few chunks of downtown within blocks of Philips Arena. Then thunderstorms rolled through north Georgia on Saturday afternoon. Vegas must look pretty good compared to that.

Yeah, I know it's blurry. I went to telephoto because I seriously wanted some close shots.

First impressions: If I am in half as good a shape, have half the energy, half the skill/talent, and half the looks that Barry does when I'm looking up close at 65, I will be One Happy Lady. Yes, I know, stage makeup, lighting, yadda yadda yadda. He didn't look a day over 50. And he performed like a man much younger than that even. So cut out the age jokes already, dude, you're not fooling anyone! ;-)

My favorite shot - I might need to print this, frame it, and hang it on the wall of my office. The only thing that would make it better is an inscription/autograph on it:

Somebody's having a good time! And so was I!

IMHO, the measure of professionalism is how well they hold themselves together WHEN something doesn't go exactly right. Not "if" something goes off, but WHEN. Barry spotted a few things that were off - only a couple were noticable to the audience.

Early on, he asked to turn down the echo on his mic. That wasn't the mic, bubeleh, that was the venue. You were playing in a cave designed for basketball and hockey, not concerts per se, and the acoustics show it. The echo delay back to the stage was almost a full second. Just like the old Summit and Rosemont Horizon. But eventually the sound guy got around it.
Every time I've seen someone flub a line (everyone does) they totally lose it. Someone flubbed a couple of lines in "Looks Like We Made It" and kept smiling, kept his composure and kept going. It sounds like Performance 101 - hold it together when you lose concentration, but no one does. Except Barry last night.

Now for the fun parts - the intro to the 60s segment with special herbal enhancement. I couldn't tell if the joint was real or a prop - you couldnt' smell anything and we were trying. No one who has read Sweet Life is suprised that he inhaled like a pro.

There was a dangerous combination here: I was getting frustrated that I couldn't get a really good shot (or so I thought) and I'm a four-star smartass. When Barry planted it in the chair of the set for the 60s intro, you can't imagine what it took for me to NOT yell at the top of my lungs, "BARRY, SIT STILL FOR A GODDAMN SECOND, WILLYA????" Or at least switch to decaf or something!

Oh, look! Someone brought a special treat. Do you have enough for the rest of the class? (Or at least the first couple of rows?)

"Someone is going to get a raise."

"Ah, tohellwithit."

"Have I...been, a really long time?"

Then he goes through some 60s/early 70s record jackets ("How did The Brady Bunch get in there?")

"Now there's a real desperate housewife."

All of Barry's moves (or any major act for that matter) are scripted word for word. Lots of people have seen M&P in Vegas many times. And some of the same bits have been standards in concert videos for years. (Like the "Sing It" piece and story about Grandpa Joe Manilow) You can't do this kind of banter without scripting and rehearsal - ad libbing would sound awkward. It would be easy to mail it in after so many times but Barry delivered all of these stories and bits like it was the first time.

I'll finish this up tomorrow. There's lots more. It's 2:30 AM after a Very. Long. Weekend. and I finally need some sleep sometime.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


What a night.
The first live music I have truly enjoyed in years.
Barry - thank you. Your show was just what I needed at just the right time. Not because you planned it that way, but because you do whatever you plan to do and let the positive karma fall where it may. My only regret is that I have no way to return the favor.

It's still a busy weekend so I'll post the in-depth thoughts and memories later with the few good pictures I was able to get. ;-)

It's good to feel good again.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A moment of peace

Catching the last breather I will get until the drive home.
My job here is as a PA to the head honcho (Honchess? Honchette? Whatever...The Boss!) to this conference so there is a lot of work to do.

If there were a global nuclear holocaust tomorrow the survivors would be:
  • Cockroaches
  • Keith Richards
  • Old-fashioned Southern belles over the age of 60, who pretend that they're not strong, capable women (visualize Scarlet O'Hara saying "fiddle dee dee") but will move heaven and earth to get what they want if they have half a mind to do it.
That is my life for the next couple of days.

I packed up some Barry CDs and old tapes I finally found for the hour-long drive. Barry Manilow from 1989 got its usual playing (one of my current favorites). Then I got to rediscover If I Should Love Again. I can't believe this one didn't do as well as many of his previous records. The title track got rewound a dozen times. Anyone else reminded of "Could it Be Magic" on that intro? I'd forgotten how intense it was and it made a long, dull ride much more enjoyable. If a certain someone wanted to put that song in his live act, this fan would not complain. ;-) How's that for a subtle hint?

27.5 hours til I can walk the hell out of here and head home! I tell people around here that I have to leave early to see Barry and no one holds it against me! Even the jealous ones. 8^D
At least the one time I see the guy it will be right up close. I'll get off now before I start to ramble too much.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Crunch Time

I'm headed out of town for my convention tomorrow morning so I took one last look at my Barry stuff before I'm deprived for a couple of days. I may not be able to check my mail or blog so I'm getting one last post in while I can.

Snack for thought: I wonder what the teens in the audiences of Barry's TV specials think when they see themselves years later on the DVDs. Especially the three who begged for a kiss on TV, and the one who practically bit his shoulder during "Why Don't We Try a Slow Dance".

This is no longer a joke, I need to finish this presentation.

Have a great rest of the week, folks. If I don't find time to post between now and then, the next thing you'll see is my gushing about Atlanta this Saturday. If you've read this blog from the beginning (all the background is in February) you know that Pete and I really need this show.

Barry, don't let us down, buddy!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eureka moment - the 80s CD

File this under Songs That Barry Would Make Sound Amazing But It Isn't Going to Happen Because Mr. Mole Won't Let It.

If my 2 cents meant anything I'd put the following on Barry's forthcoming 80s record:

"Hallelujah" from Leonard Cohen

The original as written - all 15 verses, not just the 7 or 8 floating around in various covers. If anyone could dig the rest of those lyrics out of Cohen, Barry could.

I know everyone and their dog has covered this song but is there anyone else who could do it better? Including a custom arrangement? (I don't mean just duplicating John Cale's or Jeff Buckley's versions that are all over radio and TV. Go back to the original and start from there with the entire emotional range Cohen intended.)

Here ends the mini-brainstorm for this evening.

My Little Easter Miracle

Yours truly had a wonderful thing happen this weekend. Not only are we going to get one big chance to see Barry, we're going to see him very up close - we got seats right down front.

Now if you've travelled to shows and seen the man a billion times, this is no big deal and you're wondering why I'm wasting blog time on it. For me, it's not just about doing business over tickets. It's about learning to trust again and learning to believe that it's OK to meet people via the Internet.

The reason this is a big deal was posted a month ago: Every Rainbow Has to Have an End

Let's get down to brass tacks: Barry's fans have a reputation - deserved or not - for being a tad, shall we say, "enthusiastic". REALLY "enthusiastic". Pete and I were just a little smidge nervous about mingling with the folks who have been attending shows and members of the fan club for years and years. And of course my experience 10 years ago resulted in deep-seated paranoia that any fans I meet and befriend are "out to get you" when the moment is right.

So a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered via Internet that a lady couldn't use her tickets (and Pete gave me carte blanche to upgrade if I had the chance) I took a big leap of faith. Like jumping off a cliff big. I sent a chunk of change to someone I contacted via the Internet and waited for new seats to arrive. Just like that! They arrived yesterday! I can't even tell you what a breath of fresh air it is to be able to trust someone, sight unseen, over a common enjoyment of music.

So, thank you for restoring my faith and being a really great, trustworthy human being. We're going to have a great time and enjoy the people around us as much as we are Barry's show on stage. Believe it or not, that was a real concern for me. Visualize scared squirrels ready to climb a tree in a split-second if someone looked at us wrong. It's great to put that fear down and not worry about it. The way I see it is, angels are busy this time of year, as well as at Christmas. So real people have to step in and be good examples to each other. Thank you for being one of those for me.

Six days and counting. I need to finish my convention speech.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I swear to God I did NOT do this on purpose!

Pete is getting the baby ready for bed. Prior to this, she has her bedtime snack, complete with Easter Bunny huggie toy and her favorite Mardi Gras beads.

Snack finished. Toddles into the TV room and announces, "Watch Barwy". Pokes around the shelves where I keep the videos and DVDs (including the Television Specials and Songs of the 70s) looking for the one to bring to me, even though she knows good and well I don't want her grubby little hands all over the discs. She gets more insistent: "WATCH BARWY!" Pete's smiling though his teeth. ("Now there's two of them", he's thinking.)

I don't feel like going through my electronics routine involving 3 remotes and the DVD player, so I just pull up the DVR recording of Manilow Live! Works like a charm. She's dancing with the Easter Bunny toy around the room, punctuating her routine with "That's Barwy" and "Barwy singing".

She's a little over two. 28 months to be exact.

20 minutes of video (after "Bandstand Boogie", if you know the show I'm talking about) she's getting tired, even if she won't admit it, and is carted off to a toothbrush, pajamas, and bed.

I don't have time to watch these shows, especially in front of her, all the time, so she must have picked up on these songs very fast. I know there's worse out there but I have no intention of explaining "Somewhere In the Night" to her. She'll figure it out when she gets older. ;-)

No, our little girl will NOT be joining us next week - we just generally don't believe in letting kids go to concerts until they're well into their teens. Besides, there's only so much Pete can take.

Now I have to convince him this was not a plan. Must be genetic. Yeah, that's the ticket. I was only a few years older than her when I started recognizing Barry's songs (starting with "Mandy"). It'll be fun to see where this goes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I believe I have now entered the realm of the pathetic.
8 days, 6 hours, 21 minutes until showtime.

I've gone years without seeing Barry live. I survived it. I even managed to survive an extra 2-month delay due to weather and an idiot booking agent at Philips who cancels shows if so much as one snowflake sticks to the ground. What's another 8 days and change?

I'm sitting under a ton of work deadlines, preparing a major speech for a convention next week, and editing a newsletter - oh wait, not yet; I need to START editing the newsletter - all due before 3/26 and I'm paralyzed by writers' block. You could say I'm a bit distracted. Gee, I wonder why???

Instead my day consists of:
  • Going over the outfit I picked out back in January.
  • Going over Pete's outfit that I picked out at the same time. You can't be on my arm looking like a slob, Pete...
  • Praying that the ticket upgrade works out. Come on, USPS don't screw up now!
  • Figuring out how to pack binoculars in my little purse. Is it rude to watch Barry through binoculars from the second row?
  • Working on this blog. Enough said
  • Setting up my cel phone to add posts to this blog on the road. Depending on the photos I might get something up here before we leave Philips
  • Looking at other Barry blogs, groups, and boards. More than enough said
  • Wearing out my Cosmic Wimpout dice to keep my hands busy with something mindless.
  • Watching The Weather Channel (Long range forecast from TWC Online.) No more frickin' snow, OK? Ditto for ice in any form, tornadoes, earthquakes, or anything that proves that God has a sick sense of humor. So far it's supposed to be sunny and little if any rain.
  • Going over my map and timetable of exactly when to leave my convention so I can beat all the traffic lights back in less than 75 minutes.
  • Following up on downtown window repairs. This one isn't a joke - streets are getting re-closed due to high wind and falling glass. Best coverage is on WXIA Channel 11

For everyone coming to town next week: drive safe and check your reservations. Check them numerous times, even. If you are staying anywhere NEAR Philips Arena and the CNN center arrangements can change on a dime so have a backup plan. And don't forget to bring your own drinking glass. That's not a joke either.

I'm sure someone reading this blog has ideas for how to get your mind on track and finish the work that needs to be finished before the big night. So please, do share - I need all the help I can get.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Not What You See

I'll bet you think that what you're looking at is all that we are...

No one is what they look like
Everyone's so much more
No one is what they look like
And we're not what you see, that's for sure


I spotted this quote of Barry's in one of Scooter's many articles and it reminded me of a similar situation years ago.

[snip]I get invited to these Hollywood parties all the time, and the few times I've gone, I stand there like a dope. I feel out of water. I don't know what to say to these people. I never have a decent conversation, I just stammer and I can't wait to leave. [/snip]

Years before my family moved to Georgia, I worked in a major hospital with an intensive research program. One of my jobs was public education, so I interacted with patient advocacy groups and the like. I was the liason between the medical staff, administration, and the public in its various forms. Some groups put on fundraisers and little awareness-raising events and someone from our group would attend to give a "professional" perspective on the disease du jour.

A few months after Pete and I were married, I learn of one advocacy group's fundraiser in California. It's a grassroots community-meets-Hollywood type affair. Cute, I think. I'll talk one of the docs and one of the prettier nurses into showing up. It'll be a nice weekend off for them and we'll have something new to talk about when they get back.

Didn't happen. The Boss calls me into his office and tells me that because the gala is on a Sunday night, and the clinic was completely booked first thing Monday morning, he can't afford to let any medical staff come home sleepy. But I'm expendable, since I'm not required for patient care. Besides, I know these people and this group better than anyone else in the department. So "you go talk to the Hollywood crowd."

I was looking around for Ashton Kutcher and the Punk'd crew to jump out of a closet at me. This had to be a joke! How many times did I have to be "spoken to" for my blunt, point-blank talking style? And you want to send me into a crowd of people where appearances are everything and with whom I have nothing in common? Someone's been spending too much time in the controlled substances locker.

Turns out Dr. Boss wasn't sending me because I was the best woman for the job - it's just that no one else wanted to deal with it. He didn't think that this particular venture was all that important. I thought this advocacy group had a lot of potential and knew how to get the word broadcast far and wide very quickly. They would be good allies to have. Turns out that I was the only person who thought so.

So now for this special assignment these are the hurdles that have to be jumped:

  • Look like I belong in Hollywood - that means shopping for something that's glitzy but doesn't make me look like a bimbo. I'm there to show off my brains, not my tits. But if the tits aren't shown off, then the brains won't get a foot in the door.
  • Convince people that even though I look the part, I am a legitimate scientist with information worth listening to. That means getting people to look at my eyes, not the anatomy 12 inches down.
  • Figure out how to talk to these celeb-types. "But what's the problem," you ask. "They're real people like anyone else!" The problem was that Hollywood celebs are notorious for lamenting how they are not treated like "real people", then throw a galaxy-class hissy fit when someone DOES treat them like "real people". You can't win. I didn't think I had a chance here. Remember, I'm Miss Straight Shooter at work and it often didn't fly.
  • Convey the importance of public awareness of this disease. The people I'll be mingling with make their living in the World of Make-Believe. I live in a world that is all too real for the patients and staff. Mutually exclusive priorities and value systems.

So the plan is to pour me into a used beauty pageant gown, dye my old prom shoes, pack my evening bag with business cards, and get someone to do my hair and makeup at the hotel. Then someone gives me a shove to the ballroom.

"Be cool."
"They can smell fear. No fear."
"Just act like you know what you're doing."
"It's just a hotel. You've stayed in them before. It's no big deal."

These were my thoughts as the car pulled up to the hotel: Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton on Wilshire. The real 90210. The same place you see decked out in red carpet at Golden Globe time. The gala was in that same ballroom you see on TV.

The red carpets weren't set up yet when we checked in. I'll say this, the service was first-rate. They seemed to be very careful to treat everyone very well - just because you don't recognize a face, or someone isn't in a $5000 suit doesn't mean they aren't somebody important. Good rule of thumb. In fact, the tension born of self-consciousness or fear of sounding foolish was fading. It's no different than any other event I've attended or any hotel I've stayed in. Maybe I can handle this and maybe the other guests aren't evil droids out to annhialate any "little people" who contaminate their domain.

Dinner was at Trader Vic's with some event organizers. The maitre'd escorted us past Billy Graham to our group table. Tension level went right back up. I was meeting casually with some other hospital reps - real doctors and nurses, who did give a damn about the "Hollywood crowd" - but I can't remember a thing that was said. So now, not only am I concerned about fitting in with the gliteratti, I now have to hold my own with some pretty illustrious medical researchers. Dr. Boss was going to get a fat lip when I got home.

Sleep came easily - after a handful of cocktails.

Next day is Hollywood Makeup Time and Game Planning.

An event organizer was getting her hair done at the same time I was and she gave me some pointers. First thing was to not panic about the celebrity guest list. We're not talking A-list here, but if you watch TV or movies at all, you'll see some familiar faces. Turns out one of her buddies was a talent agent and he convinced most of his clientele to attend.

"Wait - so they're raising awareness for a disease they're not really interested in?"

"Well, some are. Some are supporting their friends and colleagues. Others well - we'll just make them aware ourselves."

"So this is a "conspicuous compassion" thing?? Just for their own publicity?"

"Will you calm down about that? You want information out, right? You want the public to listen, right? Does it really matter how that happens?"

It did matter to me. I saw patients and families frightened and lives lost on a weekly basis. The thought of someone scripting a fake compassion for that misfortune in order to boost an acting career made me physically ill. But I was here now and I had to make a choice: get practical information out to the public via media figures, or waste the trip. Rock, meet hard place.

I was going ahead with it. So my friend and I mapped out a plan to navigate the party. Organizing practical steps in my head was cathartic and kept me from mentally drifting into the panic of me actually being in this surreal parallel universe.

"First is positioning. The papparazzi will be behind a velvet rope just inside the door. They can't..."

"There's going to be papparazzi???"

"Oh, grow up! Yes, and we all want them there, as long as they stay in their pen. They can't wander into the party so they'll get their money shots and then the guests will be all yours if you stand a few feet further in. So what's your opening line?"

"I need a line?"

"Well, you want to talk to everyone, don't you? How will you strike up a conversation?"

"At home I just....I mean, I think....ummm...... I dunno." I felt like a 5 year old busted for stealing a cookie and lying about it.

She sighed, hopelessly. "You can't just wing this. If you want to talk to the people here, it will help you to think of something you want to say, rehearse it in your head a few times, then go for it. Just pick out someone you recognize from a show or a movie, introduce yourself and give them your line. You have the brains and insights, but it has to come across polished. There's nothing wrong with that - in fact it's what everyone does at a major networking party."

Her hair was done and mine was in the home stretch. She left me alone to ponder my "line". For God's sake what had I gotten into? A steaming pile of deep shit, that's what I was into.

The manicurist was weed-whacking my pitiful cuticles and I was still building my "line". One of the doctors (the only female physician) had the table next to mine. She must have been able to see or smell that I was in over my head and took me under her wing.

"Everyone has a first time at one of these things," she whispered. "Want to know how I did it?"

I wasn't exactly picky about what advice I took.

"You're on the job. You're in your own facility. All of your HR policies are in force. Civilians walking through the door see your white coat and name tag and look to you for help. You see someone looking lost, and you go to assist them, just ike in your job description. Picture that and the rest will fall into place."

The hospital was my second home. I had to remember to not kick my shoes off at times. The point about HR policies gave me a framework to work with. The first policy I remembered was patient and visitor care: never ask a patient or visitor for a favor, and that includes photo ops and autographs. OK, one potentially awkward moment is eliminated. I'm the one with the info, I'm one of the people in charge, just like at work. I clipped my ID tag onto my evening bag as a reminder. Then my opening line started to take shape. Thank them for their help - because as much as we are banging our heads on the wall to get health information out, we can't do it without people in the public eye. Hey, that sounds pretty good! I would go for it myself.

Showtime. Literally.

The red carpets are out, just like on TV. There's the velvet rope to the right, and a dozen slobs with every camera accessory in the world in a bag slung over their bodies. In retrospect, one of them looked alarmingly like the schizophrenic in Dirt.

Trickles of people in tuxedos and gowns, who took as much time with their makeup as I did are walking around. Every once in a while there would be a flurry of flashbulbs and a Hollywood Chickieboo would pose her good side to the pen of slobs.

I noticed a good spot past the papparazzi where the inbound foot traffic was passing. I'm looking around at the actors and other celebrities and all I could see was hair, makeup, and cosmetic surgery. Yeah, real compassionate, dedicated, committed to the less fortunate crowd here. I stopped myself from rolling my eyes and painted on a smile that felt as plastic as my credit cards.

Many of these girls were young soap stars. I hate soaps. I didn't know any of them from Eve. Then I got lucky - a lady I recognized from an old sitcom had arrived. I couldn't pronounce her last name, so I just called her by her first name. She turned and said hello like anyone would in my own neighborhood. I introduced myself and the hospital I was from and thanked her for her support of the fundraiser. This was easy! We introduced our spouses and talked about the gala and our home towns for a moment. I forgot to be concerned about any potential hissy fit - she was....nice! The same encounter repeated several times with actors that I recognized from one show or another. Some were more receptive than others, but none were snobs, none were nasty, and none were blatantly disintrested in the cause for the gala. (That could have been good acting, but to be fair, at least they put out some kind of effort.)

Right before dinner was served I spotted someone I really wanted to talk to. I'll call him "Bobby". Bobby starred in a couple of my favorite comedy movies from the early 1980s. He was a physical comedian with Jack-Benny-like timing and he seemed very relaxed in this starched collar and bow tie setting. I did the usual opening line routine that I had quickly gotten accustomed to. As he and his lady friend shook my hand he cocked his head exactly 90 degrees to his body to size me up.

He straightened up, but was still shorter than he appeared in his movies. (Why is that always the case?) "I'm so glad to meet you," he breathed. "My father has cancer and it doesn't look good for him."

All of a sudden, Bobby was no longer the actor I had seen in his movies in the theatre. He wasn't a B-lister looking to revive his career either. He was a son concerned for his father and inspired to learn all he could about his dad's illness and help others suffering the same fate. My opening line went out the window. I'm in my element. I started asking the questions typical in my profession: "Where is he being treated?" "What is the stage?" "Is he having such-and-such a symptom?" We had a conversation about his dad's case, and I was able to point Bobby to some new symptom control measures that his doctor hadn't considered. He turns to his lady friend; "Are you getting all this?" There was so much to tell him and he was eager to learn. I dug out a handful of my business cards and motioned for him to turn around. I leaned on Bobby's shoulder while I wrote down notes of what I described on my cards and handed him the stack.

By this time a circle had formed around us. Other actors and guests were listening in. Some were throwing in their own questions and the small conversation became a roundtable Q&A. The "real" doctors stood on the outside just watching. They were licensed to treat patients, but the guests - the actors and "gliteratti" that I was afraid of a day before - wanted to talk to the girl answering all the questions, even drawing pictures on cocktail napkins to illustrate a point. The cameras started pointing toward the crowd, and to me. (Oh, crap, is my profile going to look bad in this light?)

The rest of the night continued like any other dinner party. My fears of being looked down upon by gliteratti (what did that word mean, again?) seemed damned ridiculous. The resentment I imagined I would have against the callous career builders never materialized. I learned a lesson:

None of these people are what you see on the surface. I had more in common with them than I thought. It was just a matter of being sure of my purpose there and sharing what I had. And then these "glitterati Hollywood types" did the same thing right back, because they knew the coast was clear. I even made some friends, even if it was just for a night.

Ever since then it's been easier to meet people of all stations and professions. I just had to see for myself that people are more alike than different. Even if they are a big star (or just think they are!) it isn't hard to find common ground if you're willing to be patient. You never know when lil' ole you will be just the thing that another person needs - no matter how famous, infamous, or anonymous they are.

Epilogue: Bobby's father did pass away, but he wasn't in pain and he got much more quality time with my suggestions than he would have otherwise. Many of the actors that I spoke to have spread awareness information on cancer and have been more dedicated to fundraising for research. I still got "spoken to" for being a little too straightforward at work, but no one could deny the value of the job I did. But all chapters in life have an end and I left the hospital when it came time to move to Georgia. The lessons learned came in handy - because I've been able to bond with "traditional Southern" friends, even though I was born and raised in the Metro New York area. After all, we are more alike than different.

Looks Like We Made It (Atlanta's still standing)

With the exception of severe storms on the Alabama state line, the rest of the state fared better this time around. The ironic thing is, Georgia really needs the rain.

Scooter's blog inspired me again with this gem from the UK. (Scroll down to "London Times, 11/7/1998")
BTW - Scooter, I can't get over your collection! I need to get some work done in my office, sometime but the blog is SO much more fun!

The following quote reminded me of a story and some talking points that have been bouncing around my head for a while.
[snip]I get invited to these Hollywood parties all the time, and the few times
I've gone, I stand there like a dope. I feel out of water. I don't know what to
say to these people. I never have a decent conversation, I just stammer and I
can't wait to leave. [/snip]

Need to get some of the aforementioned work off my desk before I can write this one.
Have a great Palm Sunday, for those who celebrate it.


Friday, March 14, 2008

OT: Atlanta Storms (updated 4:21 PM EDT)

Update 4:21 PM EDT
Round 2, coming up.
Worst cels are skirting the north Perimeter and the southern metro, including the airport.
Tornado last night was confirmed: EF2, 130 MPH
CNN on cable/satellite and their website has the best coverage, given that they got nailed in the middle of the storm!

Stay safe, everybody.

Update 9:36 AM EDT
OK, now with daylight damage is getting assessed and cleanup planned. GEMA has its hands full.

Reminds you of that scene from Die Hard
McClaine: Is the building on fire?
Sgt Powell: No, but it's going to need a paint job and a shitload of screen doors!

That's what the area around CNN and Centennial Olympic Park is like.

The part that Barry fans want to know:
Philips Arena had very minor damage. (Barry - you still have a venue to play in!) By "minor" I mean that a lit name sign and some siding came lose. Easy to take down.

The CNN Center/World Congress Center got hammered. Holes drilled into the roof in various places. Lots of hotels lost lots of windows. Pete saw footage of the Omni @ CNN and the nearby Westin. These hotels are - and this is his word - "fucked". Especially the Omni. Come Monday you're going to want to give a call to wherever your reservations are for 3/29 and see if there's any changes that need to be made. Give them the weekend to shovel out the truckloads of glass from the streets and atriums.

Older homes in the area are totalled. Developers and emergency staff alike are relieved that there are no bodies to recover. People are shaken up but again, the important part is: No. One. Died.

Downtown is a war zone. Windows are blown out along CNN Center and some skybridges between buildings started falling. The monuments in Centennial Olympic Park are horizontal. They're reporting a tornado on the local news that stopped the SEC B-ball championships dead in its tracks when a several-ton catwalk at the top of the Georgia Dome started swinging. There's a hole in the roof of the Dome now and a lot of older buildings are rubble. The stairs at Georgia Dome are flooded. Cars were picked up and thrown around with people in them. It makes Beirut look like Walt Disney World. MARTA is shut down and a lot of people will be stranded for a while.

No fatalities, only minor injuries. A moment of prayers or good thoughts to whatever deity or higher power you acknowledge would do some good.

More detail from WSB-TV/DT Channel 2 (ABC Affiliate)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A thank you to those who have more Barry-stuff to share than I do

OK, about 2 1/2 weeks to go before my first and only Barry show. Not much to do here but twiddle my thumbs and catch up on all of the great stuff that I missed over the years. I feel guilty sometimes that I don't have anything in kind to return (except my ramblings. Who reads this stuff, anyway?? ;-) ) The only clip I was able to post was one I borrowed from that someone else uploaded. It caught my eye because I had just read the section of Barry's autobiography about his playing for Bette Midler in the early part of his career so it stood out.

Those of you who have posted pictures, photo galleries, interviews from magazines, video, audio interviews from the radio, and even your own recollections of concerts or meet-and-greets are doing a great favor for fans like me who are coming back "home" after a long absence. Even if a photo or magazine article is 20 or 30 years old even, it's new to me and no less enjoyable.

So in case no one else tells you today - THANK YOU!! Your efforts are not in vain, they are not going to waste and they brighten alot of days when I finally get a few minutes break to see what's out there today.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The Critics

This post over on Scooter Talk got me thinking about one of my current favorite songs.
Barry has had more than his fair share of pot shots from the press. They all say the same thing so a fan has to wonder if they're just passing the same review around and around amongst themselves and changing the name of the record/concert venue/whatever to make their job easier.

Toby Keith's album, Shock'n Y'all, has a cute little deep cut that just sums up everything you've ever thought about a critic in a few simple lines. The lyrics are below but it just doesn't do the song justice. It's not a stereotypical "Country" song. The bass line is a 6-string accoustic, the percussion is simple finger-snaps and there's some sparse piano to complement the rhythmic spoken-word verses. So I guess "song" is the wrong word, but I digress....

The whole piece expresses a casual, bemused disdain! Imagine a child a little too big for his britches trying to create some mischief because he can and when he's busted by the real grownups they have a choice between pitying the poor kid, or laughing at him. Laughing offers the wayward child a slightly greater remnant of dignity.

So check it out on iTunes and cough up the 99 cents for it - I promise it won't disappoint! Whenever we fans run across a bad Barry review past or present, this will put the whole thing in perspective!

The Critic

(Tell it like it is!)

He gets up real early on his morning drive
Down to the office for his 9 to 5
He drives a '94, two-tone economy car
Loves to tell the local bands down at the bar
that he's The Critic

(Yeah, I can hook you up! I know everybody... in the business!)

He flunked Junior High Band
He couldn't march in time
He tried to write a song once
But he couldn't make it rhyme
He learned 2 or 3 chords on a pawn-shop guitar
He just never quite had what it took to be a star
So he's A Critic

(I work for the Gazette, man. I got a reeeeeaaaallllll job!)

He did a 5-star column on a band you never heard.
He did a bluegrass review without an unkind word.
He thought it was time to ask his boss for a raise
His boss said, "I can't even tell if anyone's reading your page."

So he thought.
And he thought a little more.

He caught a young, hot star headed into town
And then he hid behind his typewriter and gunned the boy down
Here come the letters, the emails the faxes
They raised him to twenty thousand dollars AFTER taxes!
He's a happy critic!

(Yeah! He's rollin' in the dough!
Man, I could do this forever! This is easy!
They're all reading my column!)

(Please don't tell my mom that I write the music column for the Gazette
She still thinks I play piano down at the Cathouse)

Friday, March 7, 2008

A EUREKA! moment

Clive Davis
"Mr. Mole" from Thumbelina

Which is which? And is it a coincidence? You make the call.
I'm a baaaaaaaaad girl today!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

OT: Patrick Swayze and Pancreatic Cancer

This story has nothing to do with Barry or music, but I thought it was important to get the word out. Perhaps something good can come out of this terrible news and other people can be aware and help prevent pancreatic cancer.
The following is the news that no one wants to hear, even when it's happening to someone besides ourselves or our family

Patrick Swayze Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer (from

Pancreatic Cancer strikes fear into anyone who hears about it. The mortality statistics are not an exaggertion. However, there is hope. With awareness of the risk factors and symptoms, it is possible to treat it and long-term survival is possible.

The link below is to the Pancreatic Cancer webpage of the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, which according to US News & World Report, is the Number 1 cancer center in the USA.

Pancreatic Cancer Research & Treatment Information from M. D. Anderson

The key risk factors for pancreatic cancer are the following:
  • History of tobacco use
  • Family history of colon or pancreatic cancer, or certain lymphomas
  • Age over 50
  • The disease occurs slightly more frequently in men than in women

Symptoms are generally vague and disregarded as "not that serious". If you have any of the above risk factors, please do not ignore the following symptoms if they persist. See your doctor regularly and discuss options for testing or scanning.

Jaundice If the bile duct becomes blocked, the level of bilirubin in blood rises, causing noticeably yellow skin and eyes. Jaundice is present in about 50% of pancreatic cancer cases.
Change of color in urine and stool urine may turn orange or the color of iced tea. Stool may turn yellow or reddish, or become grey or chalky-white. These are also symptoms of a blocked bile duct.
Pain occurs when a pancreatic tumor presses against or infiltrates nearby nerves. Typical pancreatic pain is dull, fairly constant and mostly localized to the mid and upper back and the upper abdomen. Sometimes the pain starts in the abdomen and radiates to the back or shoulder.
Indigestion (especially with fatty foods), lack of appetite, nausea, weight loss:
these symptoms may occur when a pancreatic tumor presses against the stomach and small intestine.
Sudden-onset diabetes or a sudden change in blood-sugar control in diabetics: Diabetes may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer as well as a risk factor. The exact association between diabetes and pancreatic cancer is still being studied.

More information is available at the above link, including survivor stories and links to research news. Also visit the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, which was the charity sponsored by Sopranos star Vincent Pastore on The Celebrity Apprentice.

I wish Mr. Swayze only the best and a successful treatment plan. I pray no one reading this blog has to face this disease. But if you do, there is hope and there are resources available to you.

NBC Nightly News - Better Minds Through Music

As seen here (This link takes you to a blog on NBC Nightly News' website that links to resources directly involved in this study. The video of Brian Williams giving the story is available as well but it is not possible to link directly to it from here.)

NBC Nightly News reported a new (?) study that shows music ed in schools improves performance in math.

This isn't new. Studies have been showing the correlation between music and academic performace for years. If you let kids in school (at any age) take a music class, their scores on exams in academic courses go up. I grew up in school districts where music was a standard - even if it was considered an "Easy A" course to boost your GPA. Although I can think of some times when I had my doubts about the intelligence-boosting aspect. Case in point: high school chorus is rehearsing an English-version, concertized performance of Faust. High school boys get bored too easily. As a second alto, I was sitting next to the bass section so I was treated to a front-row view of their antics. Boys find things to do when bored in chorus class - like re-write the libretto. "Gounod" became "Gonad" and the situation deteriorated from there.

I liked to sing but I'll never claim that I was good at it. Today I only sing in church on Sundays. My excuse is, in church, they have to forgive you. ;-) I always wondered if my very deep alto range could be pushed further to a full contralto (basically a female tenor). Every choir director I ever had discouraged that kind of training. I could never tell if it was really bad for me, if I just didn't have enough talent for that kind of investment, or if they just had never had a female student with that deep a voice and thus had no idea how to handle it.

I skipped lunch to take chorus in school. I did feel rejuvenated going back to my academic courses. So maybe I did benefit in the way the news report said. I believe it enough to ensure that my own children get to enjoy music. Even my two-year-old has a weekly group for children her age where she can bang on Remo's line of instruments for children and play games to music and learn songs she can sing along with at home or in the car.

It makes me concerned for my children and others of my friends and neighbors when I hear that a local school district is in financial dire straits and one of the first programs cut is the music program. Gym programs get cut, and then there's public shock and outrage that kids are overweight and not active enough. Then music programs get cut, and there's public shock and outrage that kids are bored in school and glued to video games and wasting their creativity. You'd think the solutions were obvious - guess not.

Back in January Barry made news in his hometown by donating instruments to a local middle school whose instruments were literally falling apart. (News report on Note that the area where he lives is not poor by any means, and yet even this school district can't find a way to prioritize the needs of a practical music program. What Barry did was set an example that ANYONE can follow. So here's a few clues from a fellow parent who is probably going to deal with this situation in her own school district:
  1. You can't rely on a school district or board of education to make the best decisions and provide every educational opportunity your children need.
  2. Music programs are not about turning your kid into the next Mozart, Yo Yo Ma, or Kelly Clarkson. They are about opening them to a different dimension of life and probably helping them in their academic studies. Music is not less important just because most kids taking it are not going to be famous.
  3. It shouldn't take a celebrity to draw attention to or provide a solution to gaps in the school program. It's nice, but not a key.
  4. Take the study mentioned above and others like it seriously.
  5. Fighting the Board of Ed is only one option. Others include passing the hat amongst yourselves to fund a boosters program, or finding a music program outside of the public school system - like your house of worship or local cultural center. They almost universally have a childrens' music program.
  6. Nothing is stopping YOU from enjoying these programs, either! My daughter has learned to love to dance because of the music in our house and in preschool. She has a thing for the drums too - I won't tell her 'no' if that's what she wants to play! That mistake my folks made won't be repeated.

Bottom line - everyone benefits when children and their families have a chance to make music (no matter how badly). But don't expect the school board or anyone else to automatically make it happen for you!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Info for anyone travelling to the Atlanta show on 3/29

Update: Atlanta has some bigger issues than dirty glasses in Hotel rooms these days.
Atlanta Storms
Call and confirm your reservations now while there's still time before the show.

Persusing the chat boards on the Internet, I learned that there are a lot of fans travelling from out of town and out of state for Barry's show at Philips Arena. Many of you will likely be staying at The Omni at CNN Center, right near the venue.

HEADS UP: bring your own drinking glasses for the bathroom. This is not a hoax or a joke.

WAGA-TV/DT FOX5 in Atlanta ran an expose - including hidden video - that shows that housekeeping did/does not clean the glasses properly after each guest stays in a room. The reporters specifically mentioned the Omni at CNN, in addition to a number of other high-end hotels in the city. (Like Crowne Plaza - Ravinia, and the midtown Hyatt for instance)

The main story right from the source is here. Lots of links, including streaming video. Scroll to the bottom and look for anything labeled "I-Team Investigation." Check 'em out.

On the incredibly slim chance that someone from Stiletto is reading this - pack some extra dishware for the trip. I would if I were you.