Barry was on the Anderson Cooper AIDS special on CNN a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I don’t go to the right places in the Manilow fan world but I saw very little, if anything written or discussed about this Barry appearance. Granted, Barry’s screen time was very brief: he was on right before a commercial to answer a question that was asked to quite a few celebrities who appeared in the same fashion Barry did. The question was along the lines about when AIDS really came to mean something in the life of the person. Barry chose to speak about Elizabeth Taylor. He related Taylor calling him to ask him to perform at one of her AIDS benefits for the first time.
Time has passed. Elizabeth Taylor asking Barry Manilow to appear at an AIDS benefit seems like nothing today but back in the 1980s, this request was a very big favor to ask of a performer. People today may not be aware of how courageous Elizabeth Taylor was in not only raising money for the AIDS cause but also speaking out about AIDS in public. At the time Taylor started her AIDS work little was known about the disease. A stigma was attached to anything connected with AIDS. Elizabeth Taylor ignored what the public would think. She saw a need from not just a private point of view but from a very public point that she could fill. Taylor forged a path for others to follow. Barry was one of those people who followed Taylor’s lead. She probably changed a lot of people in the public’s eye perception of what they could do to help with the AIDS crisis.
Seeing the respect Elizabeth Taylor gained in her public crusade to raise awareness and money gave performers like Barry the comfort to publicly support the AIDS cause. Over the years Barry has appeared at many AIDS events. He has helped raised large sums of money for the AIDS cause. Talking about Elizabeth Taylor took the spotlight off Barry and allowed it to shine on a person Barry thinks deserves credit for leading the way in the AIDS fight. In the short time Barry was on the Anderson Cooper AIDS special, he managed to convey a powerful message. At some point someone has to lead the way. Barry made us understand that Elizabeth Taylor showed him the way to do something about AIDS. Isn’t that usually the time when something means the most to us, when we find we can do something? This television appearance by Barry may rate right up there as one of my all time favorites. I’m glad I saw the show.