Barry Manilow recently revealed to journalist Chris Wallace why he waited for decades to come out as gay. Appearing Friday on Wallace's talk show Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?, Manilow said he feared coming out would have “killed” his career.
“Well, in the ’70s, you know, you didn’t [come out],” Manilow told the veteran broadcaster and presidential debate moderator. “It wasn’t the same as it is today. Now being gay is no big deal. But back in the ’70s, it would have killed a career.”
The 80-year-old singer told Wallace he “never thought about” hiding his true self, but he also called revealing aspects of his personal life “kind of creepy.” Ultimately, Manilow admitted he kept the secret because his fans were not ready for the truth about his sexual orientation.
“The public was not ready for anybody to come out,” the “Can’t Smile Without You” singer explained. “And, frankly, it was just too personal. I just didn’t want to talk about my personal life anyway. I never did that.”
Manilow continued: “I was happy talking about music. But talking about my personal life was just kind of creepy to me. So I never did.”
Manilow came out in 2017, at the age of 73, telling fans he had been married to his longtime partner and manager, Garry Kief, since 2014. The pair met in 1978, a little over a decade after Manilow broke into the business. Though it was a startling revelation for some, Manilow contends that it was anything but for those close to him.
“Honestly, Chris, it was a non-event,” he recalled frankly. “When we came out, it was—I think everybody knew that Garry and I were a couple all those years.” Manilow reported he ultimately changed his mind when the duo wed. “It never dawned on me to come out, but when we got married it was a big deal,” he said.
The singer told Wallace that it was Kief’s influence which kept him sane, and out of trouble, for so many decades. “As my career exploded, it was just crazy. You can get into a lot of trouble if you’re alone night after night after night,” Manilow explained. “But I met Garry right when everything was exploding, and I didn’t have to go back to those empty hotel rooms. I had somebody to cry with or to celebrate with.
“I wish that [for] young people, that they don’t have to go back to those hotel rooms by themselves.”
Manilow was visiting Wallace to promote his long-in-gestation musical, Harmony. The show opened Monday night on Broadway to mixed reviews. The New York Times called it bleak, while Entertainment Weekly referred to it as “saccharine” but ultimately “moving.” Manilow has been trying to get the project to Broadway for nearly 30 years, since its 1997 premiere in San Diego.
Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? is currently streaming on Max, and available to rent on other platforms.