If you go down to the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu residence, you’ll find yourself in her personal shopping center – a mall. Inside, you’ll come across Bee’s Doll Shop, a dream come true for any girl, designed in the extravagant style of Streisand.
Barbra Streisand expressed her passion for collecting and antiques and shared an anecdote from her childhood about using a hot water bottle as a substitute for a doll.
“Barbra, that’s impressive,” remarked King. “You’ve definitely made up for not having a doll during your childhood.”
In the lower area of the shopping center, there is a display of the remarkable wardrobe that has accompanied her throughout her life. It includes dresses she wore when meeting President Kennedy and the Queen of England, as well as more casual clothes like those found in a thrift store. Streisand proudly shared, “These are items I purchased secondhand. Just feel the velvet on this one. Can you believe it was only ten dollars? I feel a connection to something that has a history, something that I once experienced.”
Barbra Streisand’s book, “My Name Is Barbra” (published by Viking on November 7), offers readers a glimpse into her extraordinary six-decade journey as a renowned singer, actor, and director. In addition to sharing insights on her past relationships and regrets, Streisand also sets the record straight.
When questioned about the book’s intended impact on readers, Streisand stated, “I hope they gain an understanding of the truth. I am a firm believer in truth. One of the motivations behind writing the book was to address the misconceptions surrounding me.”
The renowned vocalist, admired for her unparalleled singing abilities, is also recognized for being a meticulous perfectionist and she does not make any excuses for it. In her autobiography, she states, “When a man is assertive, he is seen as strong – but when a woman is assertive, she is considered aggressive…If a man takes on multiple roles such as acting, producing, and directing, he is praised as a versatile professional. However, a woman in the same position is criticized as being self-absorbed and conceited.”
Barbara Joan Streisand stated that she does not consider herself to be a celebrity, despite her fame. She believes she is still the same person she was in high school.
As a child in Brooklyn, Streisand was self-assured and excelled academically. However, she received a D in conduct due to her tendency to blurt out answers when not called upon.
At the age of 15 months, her father, Emanuel, passed away, leaving a void in her life. She expressed her anger towards not having a father and recalls asking her mother why she never mentioned him. Her mother responded, “I didn’t want you to feel his absence.”
The book portrays Streisand’s mother, Diana, as a cold and unsupportive figure after she became widowed at the young age of 34 with two children.
King observed that she did not appear to be very loving towards you.
Streisand responded, “My mother didn’t believe in showing affection. I asked her why she never hugged me or said ‘I love you.’ She explained that her own parents never showed affection either, but she knew they loved her. I expressed that I didn’t feel loved in the same way.”
Her talent would rescue her. “I knew I had a good voice at five years old,” she said. “We kids used to gather on the stoop and we would harmonize, and I was the girl with no father and a good voice.”
When Streisand was 13 years old, her mother paid for her first record to be made. Not long after, she met her manager, Marty Ehrlichman, while performing at a night club in Greenwich Village. “Marty discovered me when I was 19 at the Bon Soir,” Streisand recalled. “He wanted to help me get a record contract. Columbia Records offered to sign me, but I told them, ‘I don’t care how much they pay me, I just want to have creative control.’ Marty responded, ‘Creative control? You’re only 19, you’re not famous. I’m not sure if I can get that for you.'”
The King commented that there are not many 19-year-olds requesting creative control.
“I’m not sure about that! However, they spotted me at the Bon Soir. They commented, ‘She’s performing these silly songs like ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ one minute and then ‘Sleeping Bee’ the next. I was fully immersed in the moment. My goal was to become an actress, not a singer. But I needed to make ends meet, so I entered a talent competition and ended up winning, right? However, I was able to apply the techniques I learned in acting classes to make singing a song more engaging for myself.”
The well-known phrase “Happy Days Are Here Again” was given a new twist by Streisand when she sang it at a slower pace and put her own spin on it.
In her book, she mentions that this would result in a memorable performance with Judy Garland on “The Judy Garland Show” in 1963.
Barbra Streisand expressed that she developed strong feelings for the person she was singing with and was in awe of their amazing voice. However, while performing together, Streisand couldn’t help but notice the other person’s vulnerability. During their duet, the other person reached out and held Streisand’s hand, making her wonder why they seemed nervous.
“We eventually developed a friendship. I recall her visiting my apartment and realizing, ‘This is what she’s been afraid of.’ This is a common occurrence when you have a lengthy career. It doesn’t become simpler, it becomes more challenging. And you no longer fear the possibility of fame.”
The King inquired, “Do you not feel afraid today?”
“Do I have fear today? Absolutely not! I no longer wish to sing in public.”
Barbra Streisand’s longed for success came in the form of a lead role on Broadway as Fanny Brice. She expressed that “Funny Girl” held great significance for her, encompassing all she desired in a production – meaningful connections, humor, and memorable music.
However, while writing, she mentions that the success of “Funny Girl” came with a high cost – she was obligated to fulfill a contract: “Now, I was required to perform the same show every night for eighteen months. It felt like being sentenced to prison.”
The king inquired, “Is it challenging to continually repeat the same task? Like singing the same songs repeatedly?”
Streisand expressed, “Oh my God, yes. You simply end up boring yourself. It’s incredibly tedious.”
“Some members of the audience may be seeing this for the first time, so they are not likely to be bored.”
“I’m not them!”
Streisand’s uniqueness was a major factor in her appeal. Her distinct nose set her apart from anyone else in the industry. She shares that she was often told to alter her appearance, including her nose and teeth. However, she questioned why she should change her “bump” when it made her stand out even more.
Her performance in the film version of “Funny Girl” won her an Oscar, and launched her movie career, playing comedy in “What’s Up, Doc,” and capturing the magic of an opposites-attract romance in “The Way We Were.” That film, along with a remake of “A Star Is Born,” cemented her status has a major box office draw.
Barbra Streisand directed three films, including “Yentl.” She expressed her passion for directing, stating that it allows her to fully utilize her skills in decorating, visualizing, and guiding actors to achieve the performances she envisions.
Following a young marriage to actor Elliott Gould, Streisand’s real-life romantic partners included a politician (Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau), actors (Don Johnson, Ryan O’Neal), and a tennis star (Andre Agassi).
“I didn’t intend to write about any of them,” Streisand stated. However, her editor insisted, “You must include some personal details!”
The King expressed his appreciation for knowing about Barbra’s enjoyable dating history. He also mentioned that he personally enjoys such information. Did you have a pleasant experience?
“Yes, with the male figures in my life.”
Barbra, who was in her 50s at the time, was introduced to actor James Brolin at a dinner party. Her initial remark was quite bold: “As I passed by him, I couldn’t help but notice his hair. So I asked, ‘Who messed up your hair?’ It was simply the truth… What else could I have said? Hi, my name is Barbra. I mean, come on.”
King inquired of Brolin, “Did you find that level of straightforwardness appealing, or did you think it might have turned some people off?”
He responded, “It happened very quickly. It was as if a magic wand went, Bing. Oh dear, you’re in trouble.”
They have been married for a quarter of a century.
When questioned about the most common misunderstanding about Streisand, Brolin stated, “There’s a significant amount of youthful energy within her. And as a result, it was masked by a strong determination of how she wanted life to be and how she wanted things to be handled.”
Barbra Streisand, who is 81 years old, has had a fulfilling life and left behind a significant legacy. When questioned about what brings her joy, she responded by saying that she is touched when people reach out to her and share how her music has impacted their lives, such as playing her songs at their weddings or helping them through difficult times like cancer. She believes that through her music and films, she has earned her place in the world and the success that has come with it.
To access the Barbra Streisand album “Evergreens – Celebrating Six Decades on Columbia Records,” simply click on the embedded player below. Please note that a free Spotify account is necessary to listen to the full tracks.
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This story was created by Reid Orvedahl and edited by Lauren Barnello.
To catch the rest of Gayle King’s conversation with Barbra Streisand, watch “CBS Mornings” on Monday, November 6.
Access Mo Rocca’s coverage of the transformation of Barbra Streisand into the iconic Barbra Streisand by clicking this link.