When you write the songs that make the whole world sing, your lapses tend to get people a little riled up.
Barry Manilow's fans say that he looked nervous last night when he took the stage at a Grand Hyatt hotel ballroom to entertain the roughly 1,200 people who had come to a convention in his name. Only the previous night, some of these fans had been screaming for blood.
Or worse. "Join Phil Collins' Fan Club Today," said signs on a few delegates' hotel room doors; other doors sported pictures of Manilow with a slash mark across the face.
Fans who had come from as far as Chicago, California, even Australia, were bitterly disappointed Thursday night when "Barry," as they call their beau ide'al, failed to show at the banquet of the third Barry Manilow International Fan Club Convention. While no promises are ever made, in earlier years he came to the banquet one night to answer questions, and the next night held a concert; his absence on Thursday night raised the awful possibility that the "special event" scheduled for last night would feature (as advertised) only the music of Barry's back-up band, Uncle Festive.
But Manilow strolled onto the stage sure enough, swinging into (and no doubt sending his fans into) something called "Sweet Heaven." Press coverage was strictly forbidden by the management company that handles the activities of Manilow's fan club. But fans who were present say that for close to two hours he alternated songs with conversation and an occasional sporting kiss.
"In my heart and in my gut, I never had a doubt" that Barry would appear last night, said Robin McNeely, who runs a Maryland fan club chapter called Dreams. McNeely sounded something like a political pro as she worked to minimize what a press secretary would call Thursday's gaffe:
"I want us all to leave here with the feeling that the majority of us, who have been with him since the beginning, never doubted him for a second. I hope the anger and the frustration felt last night by a minority of fans were dissipated by tonight," she said.
Sitting in the lobby with sated smiles, Paulette Stannard and Sue Vardilos of Westerly, R.I., expressed a simpler joy. The concert showed that "he cares very deeply for his fans," said Stannard.
"You could feel the love," said Vardilos.
The fans were, in fact, bursting with good news: Barry will tour this fall. Barry's forthcoming autobiography, "Sweet Life: Adventures on the Way to Paradise," will answer the personal questions they long to ask. Best of all, the fall tour will coincide with a new Barry album called "Jump Street."
Most of the songs Manilow sang last night, fans said, were numbers from the new album. Not only was it "the most intimate concert he's ever given," in McNeely's words; Barry also flattered his fans by asking for feedback as he went along. Said feedback consisted, invariably, of howling approval.
"Of course," Manilow is said to have observed, "I have a feeling you're an easy crowd."