Paul O’Grady has defended Barry Manilow’s decision to keep his sexuality “low key”.
In an interview with the Mirror, the TV presenter revealed that his friend Barry never kept his sexuality hidden from those around him: “We all knew he was gay, and he knew everybody knew he was gay.
“We’d talk as one gay man to another, you know, I’d say: ‘What are you up to when you get home?’ and he’d say ‘Oh, me and my partner, we’re going away to Miami, HE loves it!’”
Manilow came out publicly on Wednesday. The legendary entertainer, who had notoriously remained tight-lipped about his personal life, revealed that he has been in a relationship with his manager Garry Kief for almost 40 years.
In Paul’s view, Barry wasn’t hiding his sexuality: “As you get older you just want to keep your private life low key.
“I think the main reason he’s being so open about it now is because he’d done it, he’s made his money and I genuinely think the world has changed.”
Recounting how the pair first met, Paul said: “We first worked together on Noel’s House Party in 1998.
“Barry was playing the piano and I was singing Falling in Love Again, dressed as Lily Savage,” Paul revealed. “And he wasn’t reluctant at all, he was well up for it. And ever since then he’s greeted me as an old friend.”
Paul also said that he understands Barry’s decision to hold off on coming out, due to the cultural climate in the US. He did not mince words when giving his views on a certain segment of Americans: “Unfortunately showbusiness is mostly based in the US and it panders to Middle America because they represent the majority.
“They’re all freaks – a bunch of religious fanatics, blinkered bigoted idiots,” he said. “And it will never change there with that lot. They’ve got the president they deserve with Donald Trump and under him I think things are only going to get worse. Faced with that it’s no surprise Barry wrestled with coming out publicly.”
Paul was recently interviewed for the Attitude Heroes podcast. In the revealing conversation, Paul told Attitude Editor-in-Chief Matt Cain about exploring his sexuality on the gay scene in 1970s Liverpool, his experience of the Aids epidemic of the 1980s, and the anger that continues to drive him today.
Recalling life and loss as the dark spectre of Aids hung over the gay scene, he says: “It horrified me, especially with close friends because they had what was called ‘the look’, that’s how it was termed then, with big eyes and teeth that started to get bigger, and you’d know.”
He continues: “And the bravery of these men, who’d try and make light of it, and then they’d crack a little bit… And a week later they’d be in hospital and a week later they’d be dead. It was that quick in the early days.”