Barry Manilow explains why he waited decades to come out as gay

Barry Manilow performs on 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno' on October 31, 2007. Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

For Barry Manilow, coming out publicly as gay was a “non-event.”

During a guest appearance on HBO’s Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace, the 80-year-old Copacabana singer said he didn’t think it was important to announce his sexuality during the earlier decades of his career.

Manilow came out in 2017, almost three years after he married his husband and manager Garry Kief in a private ceremony. The couple have been together for 45 years now, though they’ve kept much of their relationship away from the public eye.

When he came out to People magazine in 2017, Manilow — whose real name is Barry Pincus — worried he’d be “disappointing” some of his fans by revealing his sexuality. Instead, Manilow, who was 73 at the time, said the reaction from his fanbase was “beautiful.”

Garry Kief and Barry Manilow attend the 2016 Pre-Grammy Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Feb. 14, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Steve Granitz/WireImage

Despite his current feelings of nonchalance about his own coming out, Manilow said announcing his sexuality as his career was booming would have been a bad idea.

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“Now being gay is no big deal,” he explained. “Back in the ’70s it would have killed a career.”

Regardless, the usually very private Manilow said he thinks “everybody knew that Garry and I were a couple all those years.”

“Really, Garry and I’ve been together for so long,” he said. “It just never dawned on me that we’re going to come out. But when we got married, it was a big deal, so we did.”

Click to play video: 'Barry Manilow comes out at 73'
Barry Manilow comes out at 73

Manilow credited Kief for saving his life. He said he is thankful he had Kief to support him as his music career was taking off, despite keeping their relationship under wraps.

“As my career exploded, it was just crazy. And, you know, going back to an empty hotel room, you can get into a lot of trouble if you’re alone night after night after night,” Manilow explained. “But I met Garry right around when it 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.”

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Manilow said he did not wish an isolated hotel room for any young people.

“It was pretty lonely until I met Garry. And then it was fun,” he smiled.

Kief is not Manilow’s first spouse. In 1964, Manilow married his high school sweetheart, Susan Deixler. They were married for one year.

Manilow told CNN’s Wallace he “really did love” Deixler, but added “the gay thing was pretty, pretty strong. I couldn’t deny it.”

The singer said he knew he was gay before marrying Deixler, but their marriage ended because Manilow couldn’t be the committed husband his then-wife needed. He revealed that his sexuality was not the reason his marriage failed.

“We had a very nice marriage, it was great, but I was away every night making music, as a young musician would be,” Manilow described. “It wasn’t good for me, and it wasn’t good for her.”

“I couldn’t be the proper husband,” he continued. “I was out making music every night, sowing my wild oats. I wasn’t ready to settle down.”

Brooklyn-born Manilow skyrocketed to international fame in 1974 after his release of the ever-popular pop-rock ballad Mandy. He became one of the biggest-selling musicians of all time. Prior to his success as a singer-songwriter, Manilow was behind a number of famous commercial jingles for brands like State Farm and Band-Aid — a gig that he has said helped him create catchy hooks for his own hit songs.

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Barry Manilow photographed in New York City in 1976. Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Manilow’s Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace episode aired on Friday and is available to stream on HBO Max.

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