IHOP manager treats employees to Barry Manilow concert

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Parked outside the IHOP on 103rd in Jacksonville is a Mini Cooper with a sticker in the back windshield that says "Manilow University."

The Florida license plate says "MANILOW."

It belongs to Penny Johnson, the operator/manager of the IHOP, the self proclaimed biggest Manilow fan (Fanilow?) in Jacksonville.

"It's just a major connection with the music," she said. "I've seen him more than 250 times."

All the employees know exactly what Manilow means to her.

"It's always a good day when Barry's in town," said waitress Melissa Lawler.

Johnson knows not everyone in her restaurant is a Manilow fan, so she takes the role educator very seriously. She shows off all her memorabilia in the restaurant, sure, but last time Manilow came to town she gave her employees a masters course.

"It was 2011 and I told them next time Barry comes to town I'll take you, and I took 42 people," she said.

It was a $7,000 gift to her employees, and she made sure none sat farther back than row 6.

This time through, she's taking all the fellow managers and operators around Jacksonville.

"Yeah, it's 10 in total," she said. "It's something I'm very passionate about."

And next time, who knows, maybe more employees will get to experience Barry Manilow in person for themselves.

"They've all heard me go on and on about him for so long, so when they finally see him they'll be like 'Fine, I may not be a fan, but I get it,'" she said. "Then they'll know I'm not crazy."


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