Now that he is an out and proud gay man, Barry Manilow is opening up about the early days of his career. Specifically at the Continental Baths. In a new interview Barry Manilow discusses performing with Bette Midler at the gay baths. Specifically at The Continental Baths. Those performances became the talk of New York and made Midler a star. But it wasn’t as long tenure at the baths, as so many people seem to think.
In an interview Manilow says
‘Those were just for a couple of weekends. That was it,’
‘It was just a couple of weekends and people think we were there for years. It was two weekends.’
‘It was odd. You’ve got to admit, it was odd,’
‘She’s performing in front of guys with towels on. (laughs). She would sing The Star Spangled Banner and they would all get up and the towels would drop and she could check out the merchandise.’
Five years earlier he told Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair: Do you never feel nostalgic for the bathhouses you played with Bette Midler in the 70s?
One bathhouse. We played one bathhouse.
Vanity Fair: Really? I thought you were touring bathhouses all over the country.
No, it was only ever that one bathhouse.
Vanity Fair: You’re starting to sound like a politician who got busted by his wife. “It was just one bathhouse, baby, I swear.”
[Laughs.] I played with Bette at the Continental Baths [in New York City]. They had a cabaret stage, and they hired me as the house piano player. They asked me, “Hey, do you want to play piano here full-time?” And I was like, “Sure, why not?” I played with all the acts that came through, all the singers. Bette was the best of them. She was the best one, so I stayed with her.
Vanity Fair: There’s an old show-business trick that if you ever get stage fright, just imagine that the audience is in their underwear. What do you do if your audience is dressed entirely in towels?
That’s a great question. Personally, I don’t really get stage fright. And in any case, I wasn’t really the focus of attention during those shows. It was all about Bette. She was fucking brilliant. I mean it. You never saw anything like it. It topped anything Lady Gaga is doing today. And she did it without any stage tricks or fancy effects. It was just Bette and me and a drummer.
Barry Manilow talks about Bette Midler and the Continental Baths at around the 12:00 minute mark; watch!