The English Dearly Love a Duke, but It Took Barry Manilow to Lure 40,000 to Blenheim Palace
updated 09/12/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/12/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Barry's crowd was mostly female, mostly in its teens, 20s and 30s, and mostly dotty about the American Sultan of Swoon. His British audience may be his most fervent: Last year more than half a million people applied for the 21,500 seats available for five Manilow concerts at Royal Albert Hall. His local fan club of 17,000 is outnumbered only by Elvis' British faithful. At Blenheim, early birds endured half-mile-long queues to get choice seats, scooped up "Smile Barry Style" T-shirts, and posed for snapshots with life-size Manilow cutouts.
The only split in the ranks was a question that has puzzled pop-culture theorists for years: Is Barry Manilow a sex symbol? Said one fan club official, "What people love first about Barry is his music. Then they learn to love the man. His sex appeal is part of that love." Suzanne Smith, 22, of Nottingham observed, "He says he has no sex appeal, but you can't really go by looks anyway."
Unsubtly, Manilow made the most of his own non-Hollywood visage when he finally pranced onstage, bumping and grinding, at sunset. As profiles of his nose flashed on two giant video screens, he noted, "Men who have big noses have big...hearts." He teased about wanting to shed his clothes and about the pointed thrill of '50s brassieres. After rewarding a fan who joined him onstage with an "I Sang With Barry Manilow" T-shirt, he snickered, "I've got T-shirts that say I did a lot of other things with Barry Manilow, too."
During the two-hour, 20-minute show, the audience clapped and sang along. An encore of Hot Tonight closed the concert on the perfect frenzied note. "Barry's changed since I saw him last year," wondered a fan surprised by his improbable posturing. "But I'll take him like this anytime. It was worth all the waiting and pushing."