Before rapid gentrification turned the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg into an epicenter for hip, trendsetting free spirits — and proceeding to become a hilarious parody of itself — obsessing over artisanal cheeses, it was, for lack of a gentler term, a dump. The area was cluttered with abandoned warehouses and, like many areas lacking a fair share of public funding, not a desirable or safe place to live.
That’s not just history talking. This comes from a person who called the neighborhood home many years ago: Barry Manilow.
“When I grew up there it was a dump,” recalls the Brooklyn-born singer. “All I remember is running home from school so I wouldn’t get beat up.”
Manilow attended and graduated from Eastern District High School in 1961 before enrolling in The Juilliard School. The high school ceased operations after 100 years in 1995.
“I had the worst time going to school there,” says Manilow, one of the high school’s famous alumni along with NBA Hall of Fame coach and general manager Red Auerbach and comedic writer and director Mel Brooks. “The only thing that saved me… was the music.”
“I joined the band… and I realized that’s where my life is going to go,” added Manilow, saying the only thing he chooses to remember from high school is his experience in band.
Manilow’s new record, My Dream Duets, is available for purchase today, a week after debuting on QVC; it includes duets with Whitney Houston, Dusty Springfield, John Denver, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong, and others.
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