Friday, February 27, 2009

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing

(Damn, they moved the video from the Steve Chase awards - here's the link from the Desert Sun: Celebrities abound at Steve Chase awards gala)

For a while, everyone's been talking about Barry's humanitarian awards and the work of the Manilow fund. I noticed, in the back of my mind, that his charity foundation stands out from the pack in So Cal/Hollywood, but I just couldn't put my finger on why.

When I get a question like that in my head I chew it to death! But I think I finally figured it out...
Whenever you hear the stereotypical "A-lister" talk about charity, with very few exceptions the promotion is less about a charity and more about "MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!" The celebrity manages to shoehorn in mention of the charity while starring in a movie or on a show, or what award s/he is receiving at the moment. It's like their agent or PR person realized they look like a jerk by talking about themselves so much, or acting foolish on TMZ, so they sprinkle a little charity on top for show.

The other issue is when politics and "charity" collide. "MY way is the ONLY CORRECT WAY and if you disagree with me AT ALL or have any other priority besides MINE then you are [insert expletive-filled insult here]". All this in the name of "tolerance". The biggest mouths on the A-list seem physically incapable of tolerating anyone who disagrees with their world-view or priorities, and they take advantage of any interview, papparazzi encounter, or award ceremony to insult anyone who takes a different view on whatever the issue du jour is. All the while talking about "tolerance". Figure that one out.

The Manilow Fund and TPTB in charge don't seem to function this way, in the view from my armchair. Take a look at the beneficiaries list (click that link on the main site - all of the pages are inside IFRAME tags) - the scope of the fund is specific enough to have a clear set of foci, yet broad enough that almost anyone can find a genre or specific charity they can relate to. And on top of that, they invite people to suggest their favorite charities! No other "celebrity charity fund" or sociopolitical initiative in Hollywood/Palm Springs/Malibu/Los Angeles does this.

In addition, you don't hear TPTB tooting their horn each and every time they make a donation to a cause. They just do it and let the efforts bear fruit where they will. Sure, Barry does benefit concerts; according to some messages I've seen he waives his performance fee for benefits too. (Which we can safely assume is bigger than a bread box - not a small donation on his part.) But benefit shows are not bully pulpits, either. When Barry gives a press conference he's publicizing the charity, not himself. You don't hear TPTB extolling their own charities while criticizing fans or the public who have different priorities - in fact, they invite the public and fans to tell them what other worthy causes they should look at.

When I first saw the announcement that the Manilow Fund was asking for suggestions for charities to support, I submitted one of my own favorities. I will be very happy if they choose to support it. But if they don't, I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch. I imagine there are a lot of suggestions to sort through in that office and I'm glad I don't have that job.

I don't doubt for a moment that Barry's fans get the point about helping others in their communities and letting others do the same in their own way. My hope is that Barry's colleagues and neighbors in the entertainment industry learn that lesson too.
In other news.......
We found out that the "fan in training" due in July is definitely a girl. Yay!
However the doctor has recommended some additional testing. If this were anyone else I'd say it was no big deal but Pete and I are nervous. So if you are so inclined, some positive thoughts or prayers to whatever deity you might acknowledge would be gratefully accepted.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Totally OT: I need some advice...

This was one helluva day. I have run out of options in dealing with someone who has NO clue how to interact with fellow adults and I'm not picky about who offers advice. As long as I'm carrying a passenger, having a drink is out of the question.

Ever know one of those people who just doesn't know when to walk in step with others, and when to leave it alone? I have one of those as a neighbor. Generally he's a nice guy if you see him walking down the street. But if he gloms on to an idea, he not only can't let go, he's a couple of sandwiches shy of a picnic in his perceived place in it.

I run a little online presence for my neighborhood. Nothing serious, just a little website with logins and a listserv. I'm volunteering my time, expertise, and resources, including server space. Doofus wants to be my "assistant". He has ever since he moved to the neighborhood a couple of years ago.

First, he wants to host the site on his server. Source code and server are incompatable.

Second, he wants to be the Moral Majority of the neighborhood and dictate what the adults can or cannot post to the private listserv. Fughedabouddit - I'm not exiling anyone to a private list for a mere opinion and splitting up the group over different POVs.

Third, every "idea" Doofus has about "improving" our little community-within-a-community is a direct result of his not understanding how it works. Like suggesting that the site be migrated onto a completely different platform (read: rewritten from the ground up) because he doesn't know how to update a section designed for individuals to update. No one else has this problem.

Most recently (last night) I get an email at a business address asking why the email address he is using won't post to the listserv. Answer: because he never requested that the email address be added. And he tried to jump in on some questions someone else had, again with the wrong answer.

What the hell do you do with someone who won't take the hint that his "help" is not helpful? The straightforward approach works only temporarily. When told "I'll let you know if I want your help", he gets his wife to tell me there's "no need to be sensitive".

I'm out of ideas and need some fresh ones. I like getting along with my neighbors and I want the result to be happy humans all around.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reader's Choice

I got some interesting posts and emails when I asked you for inspiration when at a time when I couldn't find any. I promised answers so here they are:

Take a song...any song..and write about what it means to you. What is your favorite? Which one inspires you? Is it the orchestrations or the lyrics that grab you? What MOVES you to laugh, cry, shout, sing???

Thanks, Suzanne, for one of the more sane questions. :-D

OK, here goes.....

The song that grabbed me the most was so intense I can't listen to it unless I'm already braced for a serious cry and being in a funk for the rest of the day: "I Miss You" from Mayflower. The song just spells out your worst fears - losing your spouse and having to live without them - without any allegory or symbolism, it's just raw and right there, unavoidable. I can't handle it. It's arguably the best song on the record and it's so intense I can't handle it. Go figure.
What's your favorite Barry video and why?

This one's easy: The "First" disc from First & Farewell. Forget production, forget video quality (there isn't any) forget costumes and confetti cannons. Even forget Clive Davis because this show was taped long before he came along! What's so cool is those of us who were just little kids when this show took place get to see the very core of where all of Barry's music came from. This is what Davis saw when he took over Bell and created Arista. (And Barry doesn't understand what Clive saw in him - open your eyes, man!!) And most of all, the stories. I'll never get tired of the "Richmond, Indiana" story. Sure, he went into more detail in Sweet Life, but it's more fun to hear him actually tell it.

Maybe I can just relate to this one. First time I spent any serious amount of time in Indiana, I was travelling with my then-fiance visiting fraternity brothers and relatives. We drove across the state for about 45 minutes and the scenery never changed: corncornbeanscorntreeshousecorncorncornwheatcorncorn.... I turned to him and asked, in all dead-seriousness, "Have we actually GONE anywhere yet???" The "landmarks" were all the same all along the highway! Plus, my now-other-half has been to Richmond and comes from a similar small farm town himself in that state. He thinks it's amusing that all of us "city folk" get frustrated at how little there is there. He thinks Barry's description is dead-on.
What's your wildest fantasy about Barry?

I can't believe I'm even going to answer this.

The gutter-dwellers can consider themselves excused, this is not going to be what you think it is.

In Atlanta, there's a major museum called the High Museum of Art. They have all kinds of programs, even for kids, and including music. On the third Friday of the month, they have "Jazz at the High" where artists showcase their music and occasionally give lectures on the form.

My fantasy is for an "unannounced" show where Barry performs what he loves best. Not with his real name - use a pseudonym (like when Garth Brooks used to play tiny clubs for the hell of it, he'd call his band "Yukon Jack" so no one would know until they got there.) There wouldn't be any other announcement - well, maybe a friend or two and I would get tipped off. But we wouldn't tell. ;-)

No production, no costumes, no choreography, no concern for what is going to be a hit, no pressure from the record company or the hotel to deliver sales numbers, no "Sex God", no "Blue Angels" security, nothing but the kind of music Barry loves to play for its own sake. And just folks in the audience who want nothing more than to hear and understand what he hears and feels when playing it.

Hope you all have a great Monday tomorrow!

Looks Like He Made It

This little clip from the New York Post yesterday is the only glimpse we have into Barry's Friar's Club induction on 2/14 right before his benefit show at Nassau Colliseum.

I heard Lisa Lampanelli was giving the toast and I started salivating - don't you all just wish you could say what you want like she does and get away with it? She takes it a step further and actually gets PAID for it!! One can only dream!

So Barry got off without a roast. Come on, just a little roast? A teeny tiny one? It's tradition! I'll even give you the opening joke, just to show you how harmless it is:

What's the definition of a gentleman?
Someone who knows how to play the accordian - but doesn't. (*rimshot*)

See, that's not so bad.

While you're cruising for information on the show and the Good Morning America appearance from Friday 2/13, make sure to browse the blogs on My Manilow Network. There are a ton of first-hand stories from people who were there, just what the doctor ordered for your warm-and-fuzzy fix.

Happy Valentine's weekend, everybody!

(Here's a link in case the video doesn't start playing.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another American Idol Comment

That's it?

I don't doubt that Barry's advice to these kids was the most invaluable they'd ever hear in their lives when it comes to building a music career. But we heard so little of it. Come on, Fox and 19 Entertainment, you could have shoehorned a bit more in there!

At least Access Hollywood picked up the ball and aired an interview following up.

I love listening to Barry give advice to other performers. All the way back to the One Voice special. He doesn't seem to keep any secrets about how he does his own job. And he manages to be very straightforward and gentle and polite all at the same time. That's a skill I don't have.

For example, the one great comment AI managed to air was Barry emphasizing that the contestants be prepared. Not the first time he's mentioned this but it's amazing how many people didn't take this basic piece of advice.

Here's how I would have put it:
"Listen up. Those of you who have no idea what working for a living is, are about to get baptized in fire. I don't care how much your mommies told you how you're special little snowflakes and helped you avoid developing a work ethic. No one in this industry is going to look at your face and just hand you a contract or a TV interview, or an award. So cut the drama, cut the gimmicks, and stay the hell out of the swimming pool and the bar. If you're here for a party or camera time at any cost, you're in the wrong place; The Bachelor is down the street. Those of you who are ready to sing, boot camp starts today. MOVE IT!!!"

Subtlety has never been my strong point.

The other thing I wondered (but I can't imagine Barry ever saying it) is what he thought of those in the room who were trying to build a career on a gimmick or flirting as opposed to serious elbow grease. Everybody knows Barry's work ethic is exhausting. So I would have paid quite a lot to see him personally wedge his Hollywood-boulevard-style cowboy boots right into Bikini Girl's butt crack. Talk about somebody who had no business being there! Stunts like that are part of the reason I don't watch much of AI anymore until they get close to the finals. The last people standing are usually the most serious about their craft. THAT is what is fun and interesting to watch, not the slackers avoiding a real job.

Somebody let me know when they're down to the top 8.