[Barry Manilow] was so gratuitously mannerly that it drove me up the wall. “Copacabana” was everything I disliked about show tunes combined with everything I found stupid about disco (as opposed to everything I found awesome about disco—still got a ways to go with show tunes, sorry), all before I knew enough to have a real opinion about either. He was unflavored syrup, so white-sounding (damn right I knew what that meant at three) that it was almost unreal, like the time I watched Lawrence Welk with my great-great aunts Loretta and Arlene. The first couple on the show took a dance, torturously flashing their dazzling whites at the camera between waltz steps, and I laughed so hard I was asked to leave the room.
But Welk was an aberration, an emissary from an old world that the brighter, harder pop culture I was obsessed with had long since wiped out. Manilow, on the other hand, regularly appeared on American Bandstand and Solid Gold. I was cursed to live in his times, and with my mother’s tastes. She did like Motown and Philadelphia International and Al Green, but most of what she liked was much worse.