Barely Man Enough

by Peter Wallace, © 2007

Barry Manilow was surely a pop icon of my college years. He is also somewhat of a lightening rod, with some people loving him dearly, and others hating him enthusiastically. His boyish looks, carefully coifed hair, and somewhat feminine demeanor have earned him the moniker, “Barely Man Enough.” That’s not nice, or fair, but part of the price of celebrity is that people get to make fun of you, while you get to buy anything you want.

I actually like some of Manilow’s music. “Mandy” is a little too sappy for me, but “Weekend in New England” is a great love song, and “Daybreak” is a very cheerful ditty.

I was looking at the paper the other day, and I saw a news article about Barry Manilow. It wasn’t about a new CD, or a new Vegas show. It was about how he had refused to appear on “The View” because he disagrees with the views of Elisabeth Hasselbeck. For those who don’t know, (and as a non-“View” watcher, I can only take this from second hand information) Elizabeth is the one who would disagree with Rosie O’Donnell when Rosie made her claims that President Bush was responsible for bringing down the towers on 9-11, and other such theories.

Manilow said that he wouldn’t allow his principles to be compromised by appearing on a program with someone he disagrees with.

Keep in mind that the other hosts of “The View” share their thoughts, and mostly don’t agree with Elisabeth. But Barry finds no solace in that. Being with even one person whose views he disagrees with would be just too horrible.

Let’s think about this. Has political discourse descended to the point where we can only be with people who see things the same way we do? Is there only one correct point of view? Can nothing be gained by polite discussion of difficult issues?

I’ve always found it interesting that we value the political views of entertainers, since even “the hardest working man in show business” never worked as hard in one day as a roofer or a cement worker or a ward nurse. Does wealth and fame and privilege give them any more insight into what’s what than you or I might have? Alec Baldwin is a liberal, and Bruce Willis is a conservative. So what? They pretend to be other people for a living. Their views mean no more or less than yours or mine. Right?

In the song, “Ready to Take A Chance Again,” we perhaps get some clues to Barry’s psyche: “You remind me I live in a shell, safe from the past, and doing’ okay, but not very well. No jolts, no surprises…no crisis arises: My life goes along as it should, it’s all very nice, but not very good.” It sounds like even back then, Barry enjoyed being in a safe shell.

If having one’s ideas and notions challenged now and then is too much of a chance for Barry to take, I’m sorry for him. He should reconsider his refusal, and be Man Enough to be in the same room with someone who he disagrees with. Who knows: he might persuade Elisabeth to see some things his way, or, God forbid, open up his own mind a bit.

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