Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Terry Fator on divorce, "handlers" + Barry Manilow

OK, so the podcast is up and you can hear Terry Fator and his ex-wife Melinda discuss -- or not discuss as the case may be -- their marriage. I've also analyzed the situation a bit in this week's column, so you can read that, too. But I thought I'd provide a partial transcript of the salient parts because there was more to this conversation than the marital chatter. Like, for instance, the part where we're discussing Fator's gay puppet, Barry Fabulous, and he said this:

Fator: The whole point of Barry, I thought it would be a lot of fun to create a character that was almost an homage to the people of the past that we all knew were gay – Liberace, Paul Lynde – these guys we all knew were gay…

Friess: Barry Manilow?

Fator: Barry Manilow. And yet they just won’t come out of the closet. So that’s the whole point of Barry. It was like, you know these entertainers. There’s no doubt in our minds that they’re gay. Do we care? Of course we don’t care. It was the conservatives that made Liberace an icon.

Barry Manilow has, in fact, never confirmed whether he is gay.

The marital stuff was juicy, and I'll get to that in a moment, but Fator also had choice words for "handlers" he blames for some of the show's content:

Friess: You just said the show that opened at the Mirage as not yours. What about the show at the Hilton?

Fator: No, that was not mine either. That was other people.

Friess: Who? Who’s telling you what to do at that point?

Fator: Yes, exactly.

Friess: No, no. I’m asking you. Who?

Fator: From the very moment "America’s Got Talent" happened, I had advisers swoop in and take charge and take complete control of my career and life. I had my ex-wife who was at home telling me everything to do. I was the hen-pecked husband who never ever argued and never ever gave my opinion and then these advisers swooped in and I was the henpacked entertainer who never ever made a decision. It was all done by other people. It was wonderful because on the one hand I was achieving everything I ever wanted, but on the other hand, I wasn’t able to fulfill my creative potential as an entertainer. I would come up with an idea and I’d be immediately shut down by these advisers and then I would go, "Uh, OK," the way I did at home when I wanted soemthing at home.

Friess: Can you give me examples of things that were in the show in the beginning that aren’t there now?

Fator: Pretty much any of the dirty stuff. My show was getting dirtier and dirtier and we were getting more blatant. I like double entrendre jokes that are not outright dirty. And I was told, 'You’re in Vegas now, you can’t do a clean show. It has to be have edge, you know." They called it edge. . . . I was too big of a wimp because of the way I was raised to even mention it. It was that sense of confidence, the sense of, I won "America’s Got Talent" without any of these advisers. None of them were even there. I created this whole concept. . . . Their attitude was, "Well, you don’t know Vegas." And I was like, "I don’t care if I don’t know Vegas. Good entertainment is good entertainment, I’m a good entertainer and I’m a very good writer and I’m a creative person."

I asked him about his decision to have anti-Obama jokes in the show and why they're gone now, and this was his response:

Fator: That was one of those that was pushed on me, that they were saying that gives you edge. I definitely had second thoughts about that and it was one of those things that I caved and gave in to the other people. Once we had done that joke for two or three weeks, I put my foot down and said I don’t want to do political humor because I am a conservative, I am a Christian -- obviously my Christianity comes out when I do the song "Horses In Heaven" – but I don’t push anything down anyone’s throat and I certainly don’t want to use my show to push one political side or another. My show is about forgetting political differences. It’s about laughing or having fun and forgetting the realities of life.

Finally, for the record, here's some of the back-and-forth about his marriage:

Friess: I realize that nobody can say what goes on in a marriage. It’s always going to be personal and private, but was the demand on you as a public figure a factor in what happened to your first marriage?

Fator: Not at all. What really happened, the issues that were happening in my first marriage were happening for years before. I mistakenly thought success would fix those issues, and they made them even worse. Really, what happened was my ex-wife didn’t get along at all with my family and refused to allow them to enjoy the success that I had achieved, and family had been there when I first started ventriloquism. You know, decades before I ever met my first wife. It was just tearing me apart that they couldn’t be a part of it. I just really had to make a choice between my family and my mom, my brother and my sister and their families and my ex-wife. And I don’t regret that decision, haven’t regretted it one day because to sit and watch my mom who was not able to take part in any of the "America’s Got Talent" stuff because of my ex-wife, who was not able to take part in my first show in Las Vegas because of my ex-wife, to have my mom come to town and look at her face and see how proud she is sitting out there in the crowd. . . .

I did not have an affair on [Melinda]. She’s kinda gone out and made the claims that I did. What happened was that once we were separated, then it was several weeks afterward, my sister told me that [on-stage assistant] Taylor [Makakoa] was interested in me. I couldn’t believe it because I’m an older guy and I’m not that great looking. Turned out, She was looking for a guy who would love her and not cheat on her, and I’m that guy.

Friess: Part of your biography when you first came to Las Vegas and when you won "America’s Got Talent" was this notion that for all of those years, you were playing in empty rooms and convention halls and you were struggling until you finally got noticed and you got noticed big. Part of that was, you would give a lot of credit to your first wife for sticking with you and not abandoning that dream with you. Was that sort of television fable-making or was that true?

Fator: The actual reality of it was that I felt like I was stuck in what I felt was a no-win situation. I felt like I might as well make the best of it. When I wrote the first book, my ex-wife went through it and got really angry with me because I didn’t give her enough credit for enough stuff, so she edited it. (Laughs) When you’re stuck in a marriage, and in my mind there was no hope because I was raised to believe you don’t get divorced, that’s just not an option, you know, the old religious viewpoint of you can’t do it, you have to stick through everything, and so in my mind I was like, "Well, I might as well make this look good because I’m unhappy but we might as well look like it because I’m stuck." It wasn’t until I really started to get more confidence in myself. Another thing I was taught by my crazy religious father was if you do something good for yourself, it’s a sin and God’s going to punish you for that. I was terrified to do anything for myself. I was terrified to do anything that would benefit me. It was always about benefiting someone else. And I began to get the confidence in myself and said, "Wait a second, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a decision that helps me. That’s not a wrong thing. As a matter of fact, when I do good things for myself, it puts me in a better position to help others." And it was when I got that confidence in myself, when I got the realization that it’s not wrong, it’s not a sin to do something good that helps my life and my family’s lives, it was then that things really started to change in my life. It was when I really started to take control of my show.

It was when I started bucking everyone, my ex-wife included, and saying, "Wait a second, this is my life, this is my show, this is not your show, this is not your life, is when things really started changing for me." The show you came out to see, that’s my show. I put that show together, I wrote that show with the help of some other writers but they were my ideas and I was the end result of every decision that was made in that show. And I’m telling you, Steve, I’m more proud of that show than anything I’ve ever done in my entire lfe. And my life has become what I always truly dreamed of. I don’t have to exaggerate anymore. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I think that the success is probably what began to give me that confidence in myself and in my own ability to make decisions.

Friess: How old were you when you first got to know your wife?

Fator: I was in my mid-20s. That was another thing. In my mid-20s, I had no desire to have children. Never. Throughout our entire marriage, she never wanted children. But when I got to be about 30, I would be at an airport and I’d be picking up my luggage -- and of course I’d be by myself -- and I’d see a little kid run up to their dad and say “Daddy!” and I began to get those feelings of oh my gosh, I wonder what that feels like to have a child, to have children. And I’d go home and talk to my ex-wife about it and I would say, "Do you think there’s any possibility" and it was, "No, absolutely not, just get it out of your head, you’re never going to have kids, that’s all there is to it. There’s not even a discussion here." And of course, the way I was in life, it was "OK, OK. Whatever. It’s not my decision, it’s yours." That was another big issue. I’m here at the Mirage here, I ave a stable life, I don’t have to travel every day, I can have children. And now the prospect of having a houseful of kids and dogs and having a family is the sweetest prospect of all.

Friess: You kind of seem to acknowledge that it came out kind of badly in the press, the way you left your wife and got involved with Taylor. Is there anything you regret about the way that was rolled out?

Fator: Absolutely. And again, this was me not having the confidence in myself to make my own decisions and my advisors at the time, they were panicking and telling me that my career would be over. And so they advised me to hide my separation for six months. It was absolute hell. Taylor and I started dating and she had to hide in the shadows. And it was my fault because I did not have the confidence in myself and my own decisions to say, "No, this is how it’s going to be." I mean, I was lied to, I was told things by these advisers that my divorce attorney had advised me to do certain things and then when I talked to my divorce attorney, my dovorce attorney telling me no I would never tell you to do that. So it was people manipulating my life and my career and so, I feel what should have ehappened was I should have just come out and said, "Look, this is not working, it’s something that we just couldn’t see eye to eye," left her, made an announcement right away and then when Taylor and I started dating just dated in public and not have to worry about it. What’s funny is, it had almost no impact on anyone. Yeah, I got ripped, but sometimes people rip you.

I interviewed Melinda Fator for the podcast, and you can hear her responses, but she denies that the conversation about children ever happened and she denies rewriting Fator's book for make herself seem better.


Jeff Simpson said...

Good interviews.
First, what happened to the inter view with Fator's new wife?

Second, I've got to say: Didn't you out Barry Manilow (if he is gay) as much as Fator did? You prompted Fator, and he agreed. I thought he was being agreeable. Why did you say "Barry Manilow?"

And by the way, it's Paul Lynde that Fator was talking about, the very funny former Hollywood Squares center square.


I said Barry Manilow because the puppet's name is Barry! If he had called the puppet Anderson Fabulous, I would've tossed in Anderson Cooper. It seemed logical and obvious. But for one entertainer to announce that another is trapped in the closet is pretty unusual. The other people he mentioned were dead.

P.S. Yes! Lynde! I will fix!

Jeff in OKC said...

Saw Fator about 18 months ago, expecting it to be a stale attempt to do a retro type show filled with punch lines I could see coming from a mile away. Instead it was the best show I have seen on the Strip. I laughed, I cried and, I hope this doesn't sound shallow, it was an American show.
Is also included the set moment I have ever seen at a live show: He said something o the effect of "You know how they say no cameras and flash photography? I don't care. Take all the pictures and video you want. You'll be back and your friends will come see the show after they see your pictures".

Michael said...

Great stuff and I really like the story. In truth when I first heard about Fator's divorce, I chalked it up to another entertainer having made it and deciding to 'trade' up.

I have to say after reading and listening, I have a different view now, perhaps it's just Tator as a salesmen, but I think I can understand him a bit in this situation and as sort of weird as his whole divorce saga seemed to be there were parts that didn't make sense. From a personal opinion, I can believe it was because he was essentially uncomfortable doing that. Balancing a bad marriage with the thought of marriage needs work is a topic that is sort of an unknown as a discussion topic. It's certainly not a quantifiable decision.

Again, I could be wrong on my new beliefs of Fator, and he could divorce his assistant in 10 yrs and if he did I'd believe I was wrong, but if he doesn't then I'd say it speaks volumes of how truthful he was in the interview.

Anonymous said...

The video projections in Fator's show have a ton of cannabis-leaf imagery. Is he a stoner? Does it play a role in his creative process? Relax him before the show? Just wondering.

David McKee

Dan Short said...

To be honest, before the interview my wife and I had no interest in seening Fator. Now we have no interested in even listening to him.

What a pompuse ass and class A whiner. "I was the hen-pecked husband in a bad marriage." Give ne a break. He was a nobody with a second class act before the talent show and his wife made him what he is. Then he ditches her for a bimbo from the Make a Bear store.

His wife comes across as the class of the two and wins the battle.

BTW, is Barry Manilow gay? Who cares and for this jerk to use the name Barry for his gay character just shows where he is ooming from. If I were Barry I would sue his ass off, but Barry is too much of a class act to do that.

Jeff Simpson said...

What happened to your interview with Fator's new wife?


Jeff: The interview with Terry and Melinda was for the show. The one with Taylor was for a separate piece on her and not for the show, so I wasn't authorized to use it. It wasn't that good, either. :-)

Anonymous said...

Terry has a great show and is a great entertainer. Who cares if he divorced has wife? I'm sure she got well compensated for her years of hen-pecking! I wish him well, and hope he and his new wife go on to have a house-full of kids! It's obvious he loves kids and for him to have to choose between his ex-wife and his family, he should have done it years earlier!!

Ross R said...

Come on guys....there are 3 sides to every story.

I automatically jumped to the same conclusion as most. Here goes another person who gets rich and famous and leaves wife #1 for a more attractive wife #2.

But who knows? We were not there in his personal life before the fame.

Just enjoy Terry for what he is and stay the heck out of his personal life...