Fiercely private, the pop icon recently welcomed PEOPLE into his Palm Springs home for an exclusive interview and photo shoot with his manager husband Garry Kief — and talked for the first time about their nearly 40-year romance. Says Manilow, “I’m so private. I always have been.”
Born Barry Alan Pincus in 1943 and raised by his single mother Edna Manilow, in Brooklyn, Manilow knew early on his first love was music. His second love was his high school sweetheart Susan Deixler. “I was in love with Susan,” says Manilow of the woman he married after graduating high school, “I just was not ready for marriage.” The star maintains he wasn’t struggling with his sexuality at the time of their one-year matrimony. “I was out making music every night, sowing my wild oats — I was too young. I wasn’t ready to settle down.”
Indeed, Manilow’s personal life took a backseat as he pursued a career in music, writing jingles to pay the bills (State Farm, Band-Aid and others still use them today) and in 1971, taking a gig arranging music for and accompanying a young Bette Midler at the gay hotspot the Continental Baths. He produced the diva’s first two albums and when her career took off, his followed suit.
After skyrocketing to fame in 1974 with his pop-rock ballad “Mandy,” the Brooklyn native’s star only got brighter with the release of classics like “Looks Like We Made It,” “Copacabana (At the Copa)” and “Can’t Smile Without You.” Then in 1978, he met Kief — a TV executive and Houston native — and “I knew that this was it,” says Manilow. “I was one of the lucky ones. I was pretty lonely before that.”
Soon after, Kief became Manilow’s manager, a role he still holds today, in addition to being President of Barry Manilow Productions.
“He’s the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life — and a great guy, too,” Manilow says.
Adds longtime friend Suzanne Somers: “There’s Barry Manilow the performer, and then there’s the Barry ‘machine.’ It takes enormous savvy and know-how to book and market complicated arena tours, choreograph promotion, direct the entire team and make it look effortless, and that part is Garry’s domain. A major career takes two. Between them, there is enormous comfort and trust.”
Not that it was always easy for the pair. Early on in their relationship, Kief went to a Manilow concert. Afterward, “I got into the car with him, and [the fans] were rocking the car,” Manilow recalls. “He was like, ‘I can’t handle this. It’s not for me.’ I’m glad he stayed.”
And the couple has stayed together for 39 years, all while remaining mum on his sexuality — an open secret to some in his long-devoted, mostly female fan base, a shock to others — and even stepping out and living with once-rumored love interest Linda Allen during his relationship with Kief.
Manilow,who will release his new album This Is My Town: Songs of New York on April 21, admits he’s always been hesitant to discuss the relationship — and to come out publicly, even after he finally married Kief in a clandestine ceremony at their 53-acre Palm Springs estate in April 2014.
In 2015, news of their marriage and Manilow’s sexuality made headlines, something the legend calls “a blessing and a curse.”
Considering his fans, “I thought I would be disappointing them if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything,” says Manilow. Turns out, “When they found out that Garry and I were together, they were so happy. The reaction was so beautiful — strangers commenting, ‘Great for you!’ I’m just so grateful for it.”
Barry Manilow opens up about being gay, explains why he kept sexuality a secret
After years of keeping his private life to himself, Barry Manilow has decided to open up about his sexuality and discuss his nearly 40-year romance with his manager husband Garry Kief.
Rumors first swirled about Manilow’s relationship with Kief in 2015, which he told People magazine was “a blessing and a curse.”
“I thought I would be disappointing them if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything,” Manilow, 73, revealed to People.
But Manilow’s loyal fans were very supportive, he revealed.
“When they found out that Garry and I were together, they were so happy. The reaction was so beautiful — strangers commenting, ‘Great for you!’ I’m just so grateful for it.”
He said he knew he’d met the right person when he first started dating Kief in 1978.
“I knew that this was it,” Manilow recalled. “I was one of the lucky ones. I was pretty lonely before that.”
He said he has always been a private person. He quietly married Kief in a ceremony at their home in April of 2014.
“I’m so private. I always have been.”
Manilow also spoke to People about his first marriage to Susan Deixler, his high school sweetheart whom he married right after graduation. Their union lasted just one year.
“I was in love with Susan,” Manilow said. “I just was not ready for marriage. I was out making music every night, sowing my wild oats — I was too young. I wasn’t ready to settle down.”
Of his husband Kief, Manilow gushed, “He’s the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life — and a great guy, too.”
Barry Manilow reveals he is gay
The singer Barry Manilow has said publicly that he is gay after keeping his sexuality secret for decades for fear of “disappointing his fans”. The music veteran, whose hits include Looks Like We Made It and Copacabana, also confirmed that he has been in a relationship with a man for 39 years. It is the first time he has spoken openly about his sexuality.
Manilow married Garry Kief at their home in Palm Springs in 2014, but never publicly confirmed the news because he was unsure how fans would react, he told People magazine. The 73-year-old told the publication: “I’m so private. I always have been.”
Rumours of a marriage between Manilow and Kief surfaced two years ago, but the pair never commented on the reports. The singer said the speculation had been a “blessing and a curse”.
Manilow said he was overjoyed by the reaction from fans around the world. “I thought I would be disappointing them if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything. When they found out that Garry and I were together, they were so happy. The reaction was so beautiful – strangers commenting, ‘Great for you!’ I’m just so grateful for it,” he added.
Manilow said he had been focused on his burgeoning music career when he met Kief, a TV executive, in 1978. “I knew that this was it. I was one of the lucky ones. I was pretty lonely before that.”
Early on in their relationship, Kief found the singer’s fame hard to deal with. When the pair got into a car together after a concert, “[the fans] were rocking the car,” Manilow recalled. “He was like, ‘I can’t handle this. It’s not for me.’ I’m glad he stayed.”
Soon afterwards, Kief became Manilow’s manager and president of Barry Manilow Productions – roles he still holds today. “He’s the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life, and a great guy, too,” Manilow said.
Manilow thanked his fans when he shared a link on Twitter to the People magazine article. A later tweet from him read: “I’m loving all of your responses. You guys are truly the greatest.”
The news has been welcomed by fans and celebrities, with Manilow trending on Twitter and Facebook as many made puns and wondered how their mums were coping.
“So all this time, Barry Manilow was singing about Andy,” one user wrote. “Not quite sure how I’m gonna tell my mum that Barry Manilow is gay,” said another.
George Takei, the gay actor best known for his work in the Star Trek television series, was one of the first stars to react to the news on Twitter. “Congratulations @BarryManilow on coming out! Welcome to the club,” he wrote, adding the hashtag #NeverTooLate.
Some expressed surprise that Manilow hadn’t come out sooner. Feminist writer Roxane Gay said: “I didn’t realise Barry Manilow was in the closet! But good for him coming out. He’s the best.”
Manilow was briefly married to his high school sweetheart, Susan Deixler, while he was studying at the New York College of Music. The singer has said he was in love with her but was “not ready for marriage”.
“I was out making music every night, sowing my wild oats,” Manilow is quoted as saying. “I wasn’t ready to settle down.” In his 1987 autobiography, Sweet Life, he made a fleeting reference to his ex-wife, but did not name her. He described her as “adorable, small with great legs and a voluptuous figure”.
Manilow did not explain why he had chosen this moment to come out publicly, but his 29th studio album, This Is My Town, is due to be released on 21 April.