Stanley never expected to marry again.
“I wasn’t looking for another ride on the love-mobile,” he says.
He would prove himself wrong.
In June 2017 Stanley married Denise Skinner’s best friend, Ilsa Glanzberg, an instructional aide at a Venice, California, elementary school, before approximately 75 guests in a sunset ceremony on the roof of a friend’s house on Venice Beach. The two had gotten to know each other during Stanley and Skinner’s courtship and marriage.
“Denise would not agree to start dating him unless I approved,” Glanzberg, now 61, says. The Indiana native had served as the couple’s de facto wedding coordinator for their Las Vegas ceremony. And after Skinner was diagnosed with cancer, she was among the West Coast friends and relatives who came to Cleveland to help care for her.
“At least once or twice a month [after her death], we would talk,” Glanzberg adds.
Two years after Skinner died, Glanzberg asked Stanley if she could spend a long weekend at his far-East Side home. She felt she could get some much-needed closure to Skinner’s death by seeing the house, her garden and friends again.
“The place felt like a home again for a few days as opposed to just a house,” Stanley recalls of the visit.
After Glanzberg returned to California, she asked him to mail a sweater she’d left at his house. It arrived with a note.
“It was a beautifully written letter about how our connection was strong and maybe we should think about the possibility of making it stronger,” she says.
Glanzberg was stunned. As a happily single woman who had raised a son alone, she wasn’t looking for a man or a commitment. But Stanley had long ago confirmed her first impression of him as “charming and wonderful and smart, funny.”
The two continued their friendship, exchanging paper-and-pen letters and visiting one another. By early to mid-2014, she felt the same way about him. Although she was too surprised by his April 2015 marriage proposal to accept it, she began to rethink her answer after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer the next year. She asked for a do-over while preparing a Sunday breakfast in his kitchen.
“If there is a God, He was awake and paying attention,” Glanzberg says. “He just gave me a gift that I never expected.”
Stanley shares the sentiment. “To end up with Ilsa was just a miracle,” Stanley says. “It was a blessing.”
The couple still maintains a long-distance relationship. “We talk three times a day, we text each other goodnight every night, and we try to see each other every six to eight weeks,” Glanzberg reports.
Retirement will provide Stanley with more time to spend with his wife as well as his two adult daughters and five grandchildren. However, he isn’t ready to roll the credits on his career just yet. He does concede that, after writing some 400 songs, crafting a lyric has become more challenging.
“It’s hard to come up with something to write about that you haven’t written about already,” he says.
But he was back to work at WNCX less than two months after a second heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in late 2017. Three months after that, he was on the Hard Rock Rocksino stage with his nine-piece band the Resonators. He estimates they do about 25 shows a year from the East Coast to Atlanta to St. Louis, traveling as far as a weekend and profit margins allow.
“The audience is much smaller, obviously, than it used to be in the heyday,” he says. “But they’ve given me a lot of freedom to continue to do this.”
This month’s Cleveland Arts Prize’s Lifetime Achievement Award is fitting for a man who mirrors Cleveland’s spirit — hardworking, humble and determined. Those characteristics appeal to an audience who grew up listening to his songs not only here in the Rust Belt, but beyond the heartland.
“Michael Stanley represents a connection to a broader audience that is well beyond our fine-arts community,” says Alenka Banco, Cleveland Arts Prize executive director. “We felt that that was a really important message.”
Fans can expect his show after the awards ceremony to be full of hits — the 1980 ballad “Lover,” the 1983 anthemic “My Town” and the 2008 rocker “Just Another Night in America,” to name a few.
It’s a performance that’s sure to showcase why Barry Gabel, Live Nation’s senior vice president of marketing and sponsorship sales, calls Stanley “Northeast Ohio’s poet laureate.”
“Indiana might have a [John] Mellencamp, Detroit might have a Bob Seger,” he says. “We have a Michael Stanley.”
At 71-years-old, Stanley doesn’t know how much longer he can keep being the Michael Stanley we’ve known onstage for the last 50 years. He doesn’t want to be one of those musicians who embarrass themselves by continuing to perform long past their prime.
“I have a guy, a friend of mine, whose job is to tell me when it’s time to hang it up,” he says. “So far, he hasn’t done that.”