Barbra Streisand: I've experienced limited enjoyment throughout my life
Barbra Streisand established a goal for herself when she was 17 years old and living away from home for the first time.
"I have to become famous," she thought to herself, "just so I can get someone else to make my bed."
Recalling those early aspirations, the celebrity laughs, "I could never figure out those corners."
However, you know, dreaming about fame was more thrilling than the actual experience. I have a very private life. I'm not a fan of celebrity."
She picked up this lesson early on. Newsweek magazine had this to say about her when she arrived in the UK for the first time in 1966.
"Barbra Streisand is a symbol of aura triumphing over appearance... Her hips are too big, her nose too long, and her breasts too little. However, she crosses all boundaries of time and culture when she gets in front of the microphone."
From the beginning, the media had an unusual obsession with her appearance. She was dubbed a "myopic gazelle" who had a "unbelievable nose" and was a "amiable anteater".
See how Barbra Streisand got Siri to pronounce her name correctly in this video.
Only after she rose to fame did the emphasis shift. Streisand became known as the "Babylonian queen" overnight, with superlatives abounding in her biographies: 250 million records sold, ten Golden Globes, five Emmys, two Oscars, and acting and songwriting honors.
However, the harm had already occurred.
"I'm still hurt by the insults and can't quite believe the praise," the celebrity says in her recently released autobiography, My Name Is Barbra.
She claims that the book is her attempt to make things right.
"It was the only way to have some control over my life," she continues.
This is my inheritance. My narrative is mine. After this, I'm not required to do any more interviews."
On stage, Barbra Streisand
Streisand is among the few individuals who have achieved the status of EGOT, having won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award.
Fortunately, she agreed to give the BBC one final interview from the luxury of her Malibu cliffside residence. She has a reputation for being late, but she always arrives on time, even when she has to frantically search for her spectacles at the last minute.
She is everything you could ask for: genuine, witty, friendly, a little spoiled, incredibly charming, and occasionally prone to insane outbursts.
She says, "I feel for flowers just like I feel for ants," once. "I can't even crush them."
The writing of Streisand's memoir took nearly twenty-five years. In 1999, she began taking notes by hand, using pencil. The completed document weighs enough to be a weapon and is nearly a thousand pages long.
The actress says that her "memory is fickle," but the book is jam-packed with juicy details about confused suitors, backstage fights, and at least one incident involving tumbling off a London bus.
She then admits that her marriage to James Brolin served as the idea for Aerosmith's song "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." She also discusses cloning her favorite dog and checking into hotels under the name "Angelina Scarangella".
She will leave you famished with her exhaustive memory of every dish she has ever had. Melted chocolate cake, pieces of New York pizza, soft-shell crabs, honeydew melon, turkey sandwiches with Branston Pickle, and (her favorite) Brazilian coffee ice cream are just a few of the delectable dishes featured in the book.
"I've loved food ever since I was a kid and lived in the projects," she says. "We had a tiny kitchen and I would love to bake white cupcakes and put on dark chocolate icing."
The celebrity once declared, "I never cried easily but in a movie theater I could let my tears flow," expressing her childhood desire to become an actress.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Streisand's earliest recollections were singing in her apartment building's stairwells.
"When I was just five or six years old, I used to sing in the lobby with my young girl friends. The acoustics have an inherent echo. It sounded fantastic."
But life was difficult at home. When Streisand was 15 months old, her father Emmanuel passed away from a brain hemorrhage, plunging the family into destitution. She embraced a hot water bottle as her bedtime companion when she was younger.
Things did not get much better when her mother got married again a few years later. The used car salesman who became Streisand's new stepfather was cold and uncaring.
"I can't recall him ever speaking with me or enquiring about anything... How am I doing? Does school go? Everything," she utters.
He never saw me, and neither did my mother. My desire to become an actress was not evident to her. She gave me the blues."
Marilyn Bergman, a songwriter and friend of Streisand's, claimed years later that her early events may have helped lead her toward the spotlight.
"If you don't have a source of unconditional love as a child, you will probably try to attain that for the rest of your life," she said to her.
Streisand says, "That was a brilliant analysis." "Very eye-opening."
"Dollar signs everywhere on you"
After moving out of her parents' house at the age of sixteen, she started working as a clerk and on the weekends as a theater usher to keep up with the newest Broadway productions.
"I got paid $4.50, I think it was, but I always hid my face because I thought someday I'd be well-known," she relates.
Isn't that humorous? I didn't want people to see me on TV and remember that I had assisted them in finding their seats in the past."
When Streisand participated in a talent competition at a homosexual nightclub in Manhattan in 1960, the fantasy began to come true. Streisand needed both the free meal and the $50 prize.
A Sleepin' Bee, a Broadway staple, was her opening song. After she was done, there was a startled quiet that was broken by thunderous applause. Comedian Tiger Haynes' girlfriend said to her that evening, "Little girl, I see dollar signs all over you."
She was accurate. Greenwich saw Streisand booked for events that drew stars, record companies, and theatrical moguls. She was employed by one of them, Arthur Laurents, for a little humorous part in the play I Can Get It For You Wholesale.
Although Streisand's solo performance at the premiere reportedly drew a five-minute standing ovation, it was her following role that cemented her as a phenomenon.
Funny Girl was a once-in-a-lifetime union of actress and content, largely based on the life of vaudeville comedian Fanny Brice.
Like Streisand, Brice was a young Jewish lady who rose to fame via a combination of perseverance and hard effort; she excelled in spite of, not because of, her peculiarities.
The play, which was fortunate to have hits like People and Don't Rain On My Parade, received great reviews and was nominated for eight Tony Awards. However, Streisand was unable to enjoy her triumph because Sydney Chaplin, her co-star and the son of movie legend Charlie, was always trying to ruin her performance.
Broadway's Funny Girl schedule
Though Streisand's relationship with co-star Sydney Chaplin was tense, Funny Girl helped propel her to popularity.
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She shakes her head at the recollection and says, "I don't even like to talk about it."
"It was just this person who had a strange crush on me, and when I told him I didn't want to be involved with you, he turned very cruel on me."
"As I was speaking on stage, he began to grumble to himself. awful phraseology. Curse phrases. And he stopped staring directly into my eyes. It's also crucial to acknowledge and respond to the other person when you're performing.
It confused me. There were times when I wondered, "What the hell is the next word?" I was so agitated."
The incident aggravated Streisand's stage phobia, which prevented her from performing for 27 years. However, issues arose with male collaborators even after she stopped doing live performances.
"I have more talent in my farts than you have in your whole body," screamed Walter Matthau, humiliating her on the set of Hello, Dolly. Meanwhile, Oscar-winner Frank Pierson publicly criticized the 1976 version of A Star Is Born, which he directed, calling Streisand a control freak who insisted on getting more close-ups.
The actress shared the best actress Oscar with Katharine Hepburn after winning her first Oscar for the Funny Girl film adaptation in 1969.
Barbra Streisand working on the Yentl set
For Streisand, Yentl was a passion project, and she battled for the film's approval for fifteen years.
Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were
One of the best romantic films of the 1970s was the romantic comedy The Way We Were, which Streisand co-starred in with Robert Redford.
Her confidence captivated the men who didn't feel threatened by it. She was regarded as "devastatingly attractive" and having "great sex appeal" by King Charles, and Omar Sharif wrote long, impassioned letters pleading for her to leave her marriage; Marlon Brando even kissed the back of her neck to introduce himself.
"You can't have a back like that and not have it kissed," he says to her.
She says, "I think my heart stopped for a moment," in the book. "What a line!"
"I have the right to sing what I want," says Barbra Streisand
Streisand was unstoppable in the 1960s and 1970s. She portrayed screwball heroines in What's Up, Doc and The Owl and the Pussycat, as well as the love lead in the wildly popular The Way We Were, in addition to her movie musical roles. With singles including Woman in Love, Evergreen, and No More Tears (Enough Is Enough), she achieved a parallel recording career and went on to become the second-best-selling female musician of all time.
The first Hollywood film in which a woman served as writer, producer, director, and star was Yentl (1983), in which she made her directing debut.
It was an allegory for sexual equality, about an orthodox Jewish lady who poses as a boy to study the Talmud. It was made even more hilarious when Streisand was had to cut her acting pay in half, received no compensation for the script, and was only paid the minimum wage for directing.
But the sexism vanished when she traveled to England for the movie shoot.
"You had a Queen and Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister," she continues. Put otherwise, you didn't find my gender intimidating.
"I must tell you, it was very different in America. The folks were distant and chilly."
Barack Obama presents Barbra Streisand with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Barack Obama awarded Streisand the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Streisand seizes the chance to make amends and debunk the stereotype of the "diva" that surrounds her in literature. She does a good job of defending herself, recounting a tale of bravery and tenacity mixed with sardonic humor and self-awareness.
She does, however, occasionally act like a celebrity. For example, she once called Apple CEO Tim Cook to voice her displeasure with the iPhone mispronouncing her name.
"There's no 'Z' in my name," she objects. It's Strei-sand, just like beach sand. How easy can you make it?"
"Tim Cook was also quite charming. He asked Siri to pronounce things differently. That must be one benefit of being famous.
July marked Streisand and Brolin's 25th wedding anniversary.
She claims that the memoir represents the end of her career and is currently 81 years old. Her last ten years have been devoted to two film projects that have failed: a Gypsy biopic and a biopic of photographer Margaret Bourke-White.
She wants to spend more time at home instead.
Her words, "I want to live life," "I want to climb in my husband's truck and head off on a wandering expedition, presumably in the vicinity of the kids.
"Having them over makes life enjoyable for me." We enjoy ourselves while they play with the dogs.
"The reality is, I haven't had a lot of fun in my life. And I'd like to enjoy myself more."