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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    The Audacity of Copa: My Tangled History with Barry Manilow

    By Kyle | March 23, 2008

    In my Sunday column I look back at the fraught history of my not altogether honorable relationship with Mr. Barry Manilow while sort of condemning him, in the most equivocal language, with my fingers crossed behind my back.


    “His name was Rico. He wore a diamond.”

    Thirty years ago this winter, with those simple words, an improbable American experiment about a corny balladeer who wanted to reinvent himself as a disco sizzler was launched. Studs and showgirls. The merengue and the cha-cha.

    Music, and passion.

    I have already sort of condemned, in the most equivocal language, with my fingers crossed behind my back, the music of Mr. Barry Manilow.

    But this is not the whole story.

    For some, nagging, minor questions remain that hardly deserve a mention except that they are also worth a 37-minute speech. To this small, insignificant number of people, the fact that I lied when I initially lied about whether I had ever heard Mr. Manilow sing “Can’t Smile Without You” or “Daybreak” shows that I am a liar.

    Others have responded that my lying does not matter as long as I speak in dreamy modulated tones carefully interrupted with dramatic pauses. They have stated that my use of triple word pairings has reconfigured their outlook on life. I admit that sometimes I resort to this time-hallowed technique even when I’m describing to my wife what we need from the store. I speak of bread and milk. Butter and eggs.

    Macaroni, and cheese.

    But my impaired relationship with the truth is a small part of the fraught history that defines white people’s experience in America. So I ask you today to cast your gaze upon the larger picture and forget what I said before. Because I need a distraction. A smokescreen. A ruse.

    Did I spend the summer of 1977 rollerskating to “Looks Like We Made It”? Of course. Did I have in my possession 45-rpm records of both “Mandy” and “I Write the Songs”? Yes. Did I listen to “Barry Manilow Live” on 8-Track while playing “Monopoly”? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you listened to Neil Diamond or Gordon Lightfoot. Who isn’t even American.

    I worshiped at the Church of Manilow for many years. He is a part of me. I can no more disown him than I can unload my LPs of ABBA’s “Super Trouper” or “The Best of Andy Gibb.” However, I respectfully request that you please not hold any facts against me and start talking about something else.

    Now it has come to pass that we are arrived at that moment in the history of this great American republic when I, my fellow citizens, am called forth by destiny to change the subject.

    Change is not just a slogan, or an ideal, or a vapid buzzword that has been used in every political campaign since Pericles ran for dogcatcher.

    Change is what I need to survive.

    So we are brought forth upon this continent, to this moment, when I stand before you to emphasize that I now listen to Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend.

    By the way, I like Garth Brooks too.

    Please don’t make me discuss the Dixie Chicks.

    I am the son of a white man from Massachusetts and a white woman from Massachusetts. Barry Manilow’s leadership in singing exquisitely crafted yet beautifully hopeful sad songs with swelling choruses and stirring key changes has proven integral to my personal mission to sound really good when I talk – stirring and lilting, dulcet and mellifluous.

    Barry Manilow to me is nothing more than a crazy uncle in a rhinestone-spangled powder-blue jumpsuit. And yet it was Barry Manilow who was frequently playing on my turntable when my older brother came in the room to purloin the quarters from my humble Tootsie Roll bank or administer unto me an unholy litany of noogies.

    It was Barry Manilow who played on the car stereo when we drove to my grandparents’ house in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, and my brother could not keep his big stinky feet on his side. My fervent appeals for help to the so-called parental authority figures in the front seat too often fell on deaf ears, planting a seed of injustice that would be nurtured by the sunlight of opportunism to grow into a shoot of backstory that today, with your help and the grace of the Almighty, now stands as a mighty Sequoia of charisma.
    The stark history of division in America has led to sometimes painful differences of opinion. Reasonable people can disagree on whether I am the greatest living human or a demigod with transcendent spiritual powers. I think we should split the difference.

    Say it with me now, America. Change. The subject.

    Topics: Barack Obama, Comedy, Music, Politics | 10 Comments »

    10 Responses to “The Audacity of Copa: My Tangled History with Barry Manilow”

    1. John Ayala Says:
      March 23rd, 2008 at 4:21 pm

      Would it be humanly possible for you to be even more out of touch? You come off as a cliche slinging dolt..

    2. kishke Says:
      March 23rd, 2008 at 8:36 pm

      Very good.

    3. K Says:
      March 24th, 2008 at 1:32 am

      It’s okay. We accept you as you are.

    4. blackhawk12151 Says:
      March 24th, 2008 at 8:23 am


    5. Michelle Malkin » Maryland lawmaker/pastor cheers Jeremiah Wright: He “spoke the truth” Says:
      March 24th, 2008 at 11:19 am

      […] Har II. Posted in: Barack Obama Send to a Friend Printer Friendly comments (3)   trackbacks (1) […]

    6. Haley Rodman Clemson Says:
      March 24th, 2008 at 12:09 pm

      I will accept any anti-White, lberal leaning, heavily taxing and generally destructive plans you have. Please continue to tell me who I am and what I should believe. To whom should I make my $2,300 check out to? Obey the leader. Obey the leader. Obey the leader…

    7. Chad Says:
      March 24th, 2008 at 5:09 pm

      I was paralyzed, but after reading this, I can walk now.

    8. Rebecca B Says:
      March 24th, 2008 at 9:15 pm

      that is funny – I read it twice! Plus, do you really like Arcade Fire?

    9. kyle Says:
      March 24th, 2008 at 11:24 pm

      @Rebecca, Arcade Fire kind of glums me out a little. I think I’d like them more if I were still in college.

    10. Yankeefan Says:
      March 28th, 2008 at 11:45 am

      I am a supporter of the Messiah — both of them, actually: Barack and the Other One — and even I think this shit is really funny. No doubt many followers of the Anointed have no sense of humor about him…or should I say Him. (I like Manilow too, but that’s another story.)

      I will add this, though: Having the opportunity to parody a man’s eloquence marks a refreshing departure from the past 8 years, in which the wince-inducing “rhetoric” of the sitting prez pretty much parodied itself.

      Make fun of BO all you want — I’m all for it and into it. But it sure as hell is great to hear a guy who can think and speak on his feet, formulate reasonably cogent ideas, and not handle the language with all the grace of a remedial ESL student.