BARBRA STREISAND

'The luckiest people in the world' may be, as the song suggests, 'people who need people' (an all-inclusive concept, it would seem). Sometimes I think the really lucky ones are those who have lived in or frequented New York City, that often-referred-to melting pot of multinationality, culture, things to do, places to see, vibrations to feel. Being from the Los Angeles area, also a pretty good spot for cultural diversity, I get a nagging feeling I've missed out by not growing up with first-hand N.Y.C. experience. In the '60s, my brother went to school with a kid named Dale Streisand who, like us, lived in Montebello, a 50-thousand-person suburb located about 15 miles southeast of the mad, mad world of Hollywood. Dale, who came to the house many times, claimed to be the first cousin of Barbra Streisand (which is true, even though as a teenager he sported a surfer-dude look that lacked any resemblance to her) while admitting he and his much older, geographically distant cuz had only crossed paths a few times. Seems she once complained to him that the family offered little if any support of her pursuit of stardom. As it turns out, any bad attitudes that came from the Streisand clan only fueled her determination to succeed.

Flatbush-born Sheldon Streisand and younger sister Barbara Joan (first name spelled "correctly") were raised by their mother (father died in 1943 when she was a year old); she first sang for an audience at age seven (at a public school as opposed to the Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva she attended) and auditioned without result for MGM Records in 1951. Mom had married Louis Kind and gave birth that year to a third child, Rosalind. Despite the obvious vocal talent Barbara revealed very early, her goal was to be an actress. From July through September 1957, when she was 15, the goal was realized; she joined a summer stock company in Malden Bridge, New York, a few hours due north of Brooklyn near state capital Albany. Small roles in productions of Teahouse of the August Moon, The Desk Set and Picnic kept her busy through September.

At 16 she began auditioning for off-Broadway stage roles and in early 1959 landed a part in Driftwood, which ran for several weeks at the Garrett Theatre (a 40-seat attic space) on 49th Street; another newcomer, 25-year-old Brooklynite Joan Rivers, also starred. She stayed with friends in Manhattan and sometimes lived on the street while working at a number of odd jobs to support herself. Several plays kept her going over the next year or so, though the pay was low enough and notices sparse enough for her to entertain the notion of singing for a living...or at least until the acting career took off. In June 1960, she sang in public for the first time as an adult in a talent contest at the Lion, a Greenwich Village nightclub that catered to gay customers. Barbara sang "A Sleepin' Bee" (a Harold Arlen-Truman Capote song from the 1954 musical House of Flowers) to stunned silence followed a few seconds later by thunderous applause. First prize: 50 dollars! Later, she found out why there didn't seem to be any other women in the place.

Right around this time she became "Barb-ra." It had been suggested she change her last name; so as a form of protest (never liked Bar-ba-ra anyway!), she removed the middle "a" from her first name. In August, after a two-week summer stock stint (The Boy Friend at the Cecilwood Theatre in Fishkill, about 70 miles north near Poughkeepsie), Barbra secured a regular singing gig opening for comedian Phyllis Diller at the Bon Soir, a dark, always-packed basement club in the Village. Marty Ehrlichman, a methodically organized type, became her manager and remained as such throughout her career. TV came calling: she first appeared (and sang "A Sleepin' Bee") on an April '61 installment of The Tonight Show with Jack Paar guest-hosted by Orson Bean. A bigger nightclub, the Blue Angel, offered more money than the Bon Soir; she performed there in three separate monthlong engagements over the next two years.

Then came the big break on Broadway. Late in 1961, 19-year-old Streisand auditioned for the role of secretary Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get it For You Wholesale, a Harold Rome-Jerome Weidman musical comedy that ran at the Shubert and Broadway theaters from March through December 1962. Oscar nominated actor Jack Kruschen starred as her boss, Maurice Pulvermacher, and the cast included Elliott Gould, a 23-year-old actor with four years of big city theater experience. Set in 1937 in N.Y.'s garment district, it revolved around labor organizers ("We want 15 dollars a week!") and focused on the rise and fall of wheeler-dealer Pulvermacher. There were dirty deals, romantic entanglements and Barbra's big number, "Miss Marmelstein" ("...nobody calls me Kootchy-Koo...or Bubbala...or Passion-Pie!'). The soundtrack album on Columbia, released in April, was the first record featuring Barbra's singing. For all anyone knew it would be the last.

The Big Apple was all abuzz about Wholesale's quirky scene-stealer and the Tony Awards came around quickly. Barbra received a nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical (losing at the April 29 ceremony to Phyllis Newman, who wore nothing more than a towel throughout Subways Are For Sleeping...a hard act to compete with!); the real prize for Barb was meeting Gould, with whom she had a whirlwind romance resulting in wedded bliss just a year later. In May, at the height of the show's success, Columbia commissioned songwriter Rome to oversee a rerecording of his 1937 musical Pins and Needles (a timely, humorous pro-workers' presentation with an amateur cast: members of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union); Barbra recorded six songs for the 1962 album ("Doing the Reactionary," "Not Cricket to Picket"), which marked the 25th anniversary of the show. In June she performed for President John F. Kennedy after a White House dinner. She was the darling of the late night talk show circuit and a particular favorite of Johnny Carson (who took over The Tonight Show in October).

"Happy Days Are Here Again," an exuberantly uptempo Milton Ager-Jack Yellen song introduced by Charles King in the 1930 film musical Chasing Rainbows, was performed by Barbra on an episode of the prime time CBS series The Garry Moore Show in a ballad style unlike any previous version, creating unexpected demand for the song. Columbia Records signed her to a long-term contract, releasing "Happy Days" near the end of the year on a 45 (it was produced by Mike Berniker and arranged by Peter Matz, both of whom would work with her on many projects), followed by The Barbra Streisand Album in February '63, which reached the top ten in July.

A three minute 45-only version of Fred Ebb and John Kander's "My Coloring Book" was issued prior to her first album, but fell short against top 20 versions by Kitty Kallen and Sandy Stewart in early '63. A longer four minute take appeared on The Second Barbra Streisand Album, which hit stores in August. Third single "Gotta Move," a jazzy, fast-paced bongo-backed track, was also on that sophomore effort, which hit number two in November, held at bay by In the Wind by Peter, Paul and Mary, a folk group she'd opened for during her time at the Blue Angel. The Third Album was released in 1964 with no singles.

Barbra Streisand

A musical based on the life of Fanny Brice, the great singing star of the '10s, '20s and early '30s also famous for playing "Baby Snooks" on radio, had been in the planning stages since 1951 (the year Brice died), first as a film and later as a musical show. Broadway superstar Mary Martin was the first choice for the role, but she lacked key characteristics, like a Jewish persona and/or a nose approximating Fanny's protruding proboscis. An actress young enough to portray her as a teenager was preferred and of course singing talent was a must. Eydie Gorme and Carol Burnett were both strongly considered...but there was this girl from Flatbush who fit all the requirements like a glove! After a preview run in Philadelphia, Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand (with music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill) took New York by storm in March 1964. The following week, a painting of her by artist Henry Koerner appeared as the cover of Time Magazine's April 10, 1964 issue.

Grammy time rolled around and Streisand won two of the top awards: Album of the Year and Best Vocal Performance, Female (The Barbra Streisand Album on both counts). The Funny Girl cast album peaked at number two on the album charts in June (this time she was blocked by more direct sources: the original cast album of Broadway's hot Hello, Dolly! and Louis Armstong's longplay of the same title). "People," the standout song from the show, was rerecorded (without the intro in the original cast version) for single release; she scored her first hit, top ten in June, clobbering a cover by Nat "King" Cole. Flip side "I Am Woman" turned the tables on "You Are Woman," sung in the musical by co-star Sydney Chaplin. Bumped up to the Best Leading Actress in a Musical category for her second shot at a Tony, she lost to Dolly's Carol Channing.

The hit take of "People" concluded the like-titled LP (her seventh, counting the Broadway-based albums); it was her first number one seller at the end of October while the previous four remained in the chart's top 100 (even The Beatles couldn't make this claim with their five American LPs). A "Funny Girl" single (not connected to the show) peaked mid-chart at about the same time (Merrill and Styne wrote it as well as the flip, "Absent Minded Me"). The Grammy love continued when "People" got her a second consecutive win in the Vocal Performance category the following April, just before she stepped under a much larger spotlight than Manhattan island could offer: the entire U.S.A.

"Why Did I Choose You" (penned by Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin for short-lived musical The Yearling) was the leadoff single from My Name is Barbra (oddly, the album version is edited by about a minute). She had signed an unprecedented five million dollar contract with CBS-TV to star in several television specials and this was the first, a one-woman show broadcast on April 28, 1965, followed by an accompanying album (she expressed happiness that the videotaped program had been completed so quickly; the standard procedure of doing daily performances must have been taxing!). "My Man," Brice's number one hit from 1922 (she sang it in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1921), hadn't been included in Funny Girl (you can blame composer Styne for keeping it out) but was recorded at this time by Fanny's '60s doppelganger, and spectacularly so.

Streisand's biggest single of '65 was "He Touched Me," taken from the musical Drat! The Cat!, which starred hubby Gould and Lesley Ann Warren as an allurring cat burglar. The song originated as "She Touched Me," sung by Gould in the show. Introduced on the TV special, it led off My Name is Barbra, Two..., a sequel to the earlier LP. Both My Name discs peaked in the familiar number two position. "Second Hand Rose," another famous Brice song (her "My Man" B side), passed over for the musical but included in the TV presentation, went top 40 in January '66, her second single to reach that level. At the 1965 Emmy Awards (the only year in its history that "Outstanding Progam Achievements" were given in place of nominations in competitive categories), My Name is Barbra was cited six times, with an award for Streisand in the Actors and Performers division. Her first 60 minute program had became a yearlong event, placing "TV star" on her resumé next to "stage..." and "singing..."

Her unconventional image became a much-talked-about subject as the parameters of beauty were constantly being redefined by the media. She appeared on many magazine covers: Cosmopolitan in May 1965, Vogue in March 1966, Look in April 1966. Life Magazine made her its cover girl a second time, posing with pet poodle Sadie. Another Grammy was handed out, her third straight for Best Vocal performance, Female (for the entire album My Name is Barbra). The next single featured a pair of Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields songs from Neil Simon's Broadway musical Sweet Charity, "You Wanna Bet" (a rewrite of the title tune) and "Where Am I Going," a very New Yorkish number, though a line in Barbra's version was curiously made less specific ('...run to the Bronx or Washington Square' became '...run where it's foul, run where it's fair').

Then came Color Me Barbra, CBS special number two, another solo performance show just eleven months after the first, leaving the black and white era behind. Videotaped at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, she ran through a variety of selections, some she'd never performed on record or anywhere else. One segment had her made up like photos of a bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti of 3300 years earlier, a striking resemblance that didn't go unnoticed by members of the press. A rapid-fire nearly-two-minutes' worth of Frederick Chopin's "The Minute Waltz" (lyrics by N.Y.-born TV writer Lan O'Kun) and French song "Non...C'est Rien" were also on the Color Me Barbra album. "Free Again," an English translation of the latter, was issued on a 45. English and French selections comprised the content ot Je m'appelle Barbra, which translates as "My name is...," making it the third album in that series.

Barbra Streisand and Sadie

Her Funny Girl run on Broadway had ended in December 1965 (the show continued through July '67 with Vancouver, B.C.-born stage show specialist Mimi Hines taking over the lead role). In April 1966 Babs resumed the show in London's West End with a mostly different principal cast (one notable exception: veteran actress Kay Medford continued in her role of mother Rose Brice). Once it ended, the plan was to spend the summer on an extensive tour...but one little detail (baby on the way!) forced a change of plans. The tour was pared down to four cities; "An Evening with Barbra Streisand" featured a 35-piece orchestra conducted by Peter Matz and was scheduled between July 30 and August 9 in Newport, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago. Tickets went for $3.50 to $12.50 a seat. The four-months'-pregnant prima donna and her fluffy sweetheart Sadie flew to the four venues (and back home each night) in a twin-engine jet painted on its side with the name "Barbra's Second Hand Rose."

Jason Emanuel Gould, her only child, was born on December 29, 1966. It was housewife/mom time for awhile, then she staged two high-profile shows: a free concert in New York's Central Park in June '67 and another at the Hollywood Bowl in July. Singers, dancers, bit players and a guest star (Jason Robards) were added to her third TV special, The Belle of 14th Street, broadcast in October to lukewarm response. Franz Guber's "Sleep in Heavenly Peace (Silent Night)" marked the lead track from A Christmas Album. Simply Streisand track "Stout-Hearted Men," an Oscar Hammerstein-Sigmund Romberg number from the 1928 Broadway operetta The New Moon, scored big on the Easy Listening charts, hitting number two in September '67. She tackled a song made famous (in 1945) by Billie Holiday, the fabulous "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)." Early '68's "Our Corner of the Night" was an attempt at a contemporary sound that stiffed; maybe fans weren't ready for such a move from the decade's eminent diva. They soon would be.

Funny Girl monopolized much of Streisand's time over a six-year period; filming began in mid-1967 on what would be her big screen debut. Hollywood legend William Wyler directed and Omar Sharif replaced Chaplin as her leading man. In September 1968, the soundtrack album hit stores and the film hit theaters, grossing over 50 million dollars (the second highest of the year behind Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey). Four days before its release, CBS aired A Happening in Central Park, an edit of her high-profile concert of 15 months earlier...it was a big Barbra media month! Earlier that summer, Rosalind graduated from high school and started recording for RCA Victor, following in big sis's footsteps in more ways than one: she respelled her first name. In January '69, Roslyn Kind commanded a curious crowd at the Hungry i in San Francisco while her debut album, Give Me You, hit stores. Debut single "It's a Beautiful Day" revealed a voice quite similar to her superstar sibling's, though most selections avoided putting any major demands on her vocal cords.

Shortly after Barbra's flashy tugboat number, "Don't Rain on My Parade," was sent out on a single, awards started rolling in for Funny Girl. The Hollywood Foreign Press honored her in February 1969 with the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. The film received eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture; in April, she tied with Katharine Hepburn ("The Lion in Winter") for Best Actress, giving her the opportunity to speak a line from the movie to her newly-obtained statuette: "Hello, Gorgeous!" She was already hard at work on Hello, Dolly!, adding her portrayal to the dozens of actresses who'd played Dolly Levi (Shirley Booth in Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker on stage and screen, Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Pearl Bailey and many others on Broadway post-Channing).

A more daring Broadway show, Hair, was "the" sensation of 1969. Numerous acts recorded songs from the musical by James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot; Barbra tried her hand at "Frank Mills" (sung in the show by Shelley Plimpton). Breaking away from show tunes with potentially hit-worthy pop-rock fare became a priority. John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Honey Pie," Paul Simon's "Punky's Dilemma" and the more congruous "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (a Marilyn Bergman-Alan Bergman-Michel LeGrand Oscar nominee from The Happy Ending) all appeared on What About Today?, Barbra's lowest-selling LP to that point. Hello, Dolly! made it to theaters in December and like its predecessor pulled in some top awards, including three Oscars (though filmgoers stayed away in droves as musicals became a harder sell on silver screens). The final Streisand single of the decade paired her with co-star Louis Armstrong; "Hello, Dolly!" (songwriter Jerry Herman's title tune that had taken Armstrong to number one in '64) was issued on 20th Century-Fox Records (as was the soundtrack album), an anomaly in the career of the Columbia label's premier songstress.

In 1970 she received a special Tony award for "Star of the Decade," her many acomplishments beyond the New York stage perhaps factoring into the decision to bestow what some considered a consolation prize. Broadway, television, concerts, movies...Tony, Grammy, Emmy, Oscar...with the stratospheric 1960s behind her, Barbra Streisand plotted her future. What might she add to that set of accomplishments? Composing songs? Writing screenplays? Directing movies? Producing documentaries? Supporting humanitarian causes? Could not just one but all of these objectives be fulfilled? Maybe with the right strategy she would be able to accomplish what had heretofore been a difficult task: getting lots of big hit singles on the charts. Laura Nyro's "Stoney End," produced by Richard Perry, might be a good start. Perhaps the tides would change and a string of great million-selling hits (several number ones, even?) would become reality.

- Michael Jack Kirby

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Happy Days Are Here Again People My Name is Barbra Don't Rain on My Parade