You joke that you paved the way for the Britney Spearses of the world--for mediocre singers with big breasts. But you've always been in on the joke. Isn't there a difference? I always took a kind of jaundiced view of the whole show-business thing. The idea was to use whatever you could to get as far as you could. I personally was stunned to get as far as I did.
You do a lot of anti-Bush banter on your tour. Do you worry about offending your red-state audiences? No. Everyone's behaving pretty badly, and I think attention must be paid. My audiences are kind of a humanist group anyway.
Why do you think there's been such a resurgence of interest in American standards? Those songs offer a window into a life that's calmer and more beautiful than the one you may be living. It's like looking through your scrapbook in a way. The memories acquire a patina, a sheen they didn't have when we were growing up.
What was it like to hear from your old accompanist, Barry Manilow, who called you to collaborate on a Rosemary Clooney tribute album? I was very surprised because our relationship had been quite fractious. I never really expected to hear from him again. But once we started working together, it was as if we had never stopped. He always gets the best performances out of me 'cause he won't take no for an answer.
Your daughter just left for college. How's the empty nest? I went right on the road again. I'm not gonna sit around and feel terrible. The dog isn't doing too well.