New York Imagery Propelled Manilow To His Only Grammy Award
Just how far north was the "hottest spot north of Havana"?
For those of us in Central New York, North of Havana is still south of us, specifically at 10 East 60th Street in New York City. This was the home of the Copacabana, a Brazilian themed night club named for the beach in Rio De Janeiro. Opening in November of 1940, the menu, oddly enough, consisted of Chinese food.
As legend has it, a young Barry Manilow, a native New Yorker, would frequent the club throughout the 1960s. In an ironic twist, while in Rio at the Copacabana Hotel, Manilow first mused on the idea of a song named "Copacabana". He reached out to songwriters Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman to craft lyrics of a story based in the NYC night club as he created the music.
It was then that the story of Lola, Tony and Rico was born.
You remember Lola, right? She was a showgirl with a penchant for feathers as hair accessories and a talent for doing all the latest dances. Of course, that was more than 30 years ago.
Then there's Tony. He was a bartender who never heard that one should not poo where they eat i.e. do not date at work. Not one to use his words in a disagreement, he may have acted before thinking when a fella went too far with his woman.
And Rico, an affluent man who wasn't one to respect relationship boundaries of others. He was also not one to shy away from a fight, though he was the kind to ignore the rules of engagement and bring a gun to a fistfight.
With an infectious beat and grandiose arrangement, "Copacabana" peaked at nnumber 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned Barry Manilow his only Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal performance. In 1985, the song was turned into an Emmy Award winning CBS Made for TV Movie, starring Barry as Tony and Annette O'Toole as Lola. Even more than that, it has become an iconic song that is featured in every Manilow concert to this day.
On a side note, the song also appeared in both The Second Barry Manilow Special and The Third Barry Manilow Special Television specials on ABC. Curiously in the Second Special airing, there is a lyrical difference in the last verse. As aired on TV, the verse says,
Her name is Lola, She is a showgirl
With Yellow feathers in her hair, and a dress cut down to there
She still merengues, But just remember
That now her heart has turned to stone,
And tonight she'll be alone
So when the rhythm starts
You better play it smart
Learn your lesson from lonely Lola
And don't lose your heart
I suppose this was more friendly for the tv audience than a vision of old Lola sitting in her old dress at the bad where she "drinks herself half blind". And indeed by 1978, the Copacabana was reopened as a disco, as the song says. By the Third Special, the original ending verse was restored.
"Blood and a single gunshot" have never been so fun.