Happy Birthday, Michael Bolton!
Michael Bolton turns 54 today, and my present to him is my attempt to prove to all of you that he doesn’t suck. During a Stupid Questions interview two years ago, he agreed to call my mother, Joyce, who’d confessed to me the night before that she’d seen him live and found his performance “sensual” and ”mesmerizing.” He agreed even though moments earlier, I’d made him feel “completely self-conscious” by asking how he always knew exactly how many buttons to undo on his shirt for “maximum hotness.” He said he was just going to wear turtlenecks from now on. We decided to make that my mother’s call…
Michael: You probably told her you were doing this.
Mandi: No, this is the thing: I told her I’d call her after the interview to tell her how great you were, but she has no idea you’ll be on the phone.
Michael: Let’s see if she can figure it out.
Joyce: Hello, Bierlys.
Joyce: Yes. [Thinking it’s a telemarketer, she almost hangs up]
Michael: Joyce, I’ve been speaking to your daughter Mandi.
Joyce: Uh huh.
Michael: And she said, I don’t know if this is true or not, but she said that you have some kind of fond memories of me.
Joyce: Oh my god, is this Michael Bolton!?!
Michael: Uh huh.
Joyce: [Now breathless] Oh my gosh. Yes, I do, very much.
Michael: When did you come and see us?
Joyce: I believe it was a Christmas show that you did in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I think it was a year-and-a-half or two years ago, and what I remember most was you closed with an operatic selection.
Michael: Isn’t that funny? So you remember the Italian.
Joyce: Yes, well among other things, but that surprised me because I was surprised that you would be singing something like that in the quality that you did. It was really beautiful.
Michael: Wow, I want you to tell your daughter that.
Mandi: Mom, why don’t you tell him about calling him “sensual” and “mesmerizing,” that would be fun.
Michael: That whole thing happened because I was invited to sing with Pavarotti, and I had to study because I was singing in front of 15,000 Italians and then who ever watched it on TV. Millions of people. I started working with a coach, and he said, “Oh, this is easy for you. You’re a tenor.” I never even thought of myself as a tenor. And I started studying, and then I fell in love with some of that music and the one you’re talking about is “Nessun Dorma.”
Joyce: Yes. Yes.
Michael: Which brings down the house. It doesn’t matter how many hits you perform before it or after it, it steals the show every night.
Joyce: It was just beautiful. But “When a Man Loves a Woman” is still my favorite.
Joyce: And I did say “sensual” and “mesmerizing,” very much so.
Michael: “Mesmerizing!” The critics have spoken. “Mesmerizing!”
Joyce: That’s right.
Michael: Thank you very much. Where’s home base?
Joyce: Home base for me is Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Well, since I have you on…
Mandi: What are you doing, Mother?
Joyce: I would like to know if I could get an autographed picture.
Michael: I’ll hook it up through Mandi. Absolutely.
Joyce: Oh gosh, I appreciate this so much. Now our oldest daughter saw you—
Mandi: Okay, Mom.
Joyce: She was going to Virginia Tech, and she saw you before I did.
Michael: Mandi, you didn’t say that.
Mandi: I didn’t know that. I apologize.
Michael: You know everything.
Joyce: Mandi doesn’t know everything.
Michael: You know something, Mandi, you need to know more.
Mandi: I know how many buttons you undo on your shirt.
Michael: How many buttons do I undo, Joyce?
Joyce: Oh, I don’t know. [Flustered]. Four?
Michael: Should I button up higher?
Joyce: More! Oh yeah, six!
Michael: I think she’s saying the opposite.
Mandi: Yeah. He’s asking you if he should button up more, Mom.
Joyce: No, no, no, no, no, no. No. No.
Mandi: He’s thinking about just wearing turtlenecks now, Mom.
Joyce: Nooo. Although, he’s very becoming in turtlenecks, too.
Michael: Mandi, are you listening?
Joyce: A turtleneck and a sport jacket. Yes, very much so.
Mandi: Okay, there you go.
Joyce: And jeans.
Mandi: Okay, Mom.
Michael: Mandi’s blushing.
Mandi: And scene. Mom, maybe you’d like to hang up now?
Joyce: No I wouldn’t, but I will. But I must tell you that I certainly enjoy your music, and I have for quite awhile. Keep it going. We love ya.
Michael: Thank you very much. We’re gonna let Mandi know when we’re gonna perform in Pennsylvania and please come as my guest. Come see us backstage.
Joyce: Oh my god, thank you so much. [Possibly tearing up] Yes, I would love that. Well, you have a wonderful weekend.
Postscript: My mother and her best friend Susan (pictured), were “Michael’s guests” at his show at the York County Fair seven months later. They, like other women who arrived early, were given a rose when the usher took their tickets. They had second row center seats. My mother took many photos, two of which were blown up to 8 X 10 and framed for display in my parents’ house. After the show, she and Susan were among the fans who went backstage for a meet-and-greet with Michael. My mother told him that I was right: He did have lush chest hair. He told my mother to tell me that he’d had three buttons undone on his shirt. My mother and Susan had their picture taken with Michael. I received a wallet-sized version a few days later in the mail.