Barbra Streisand turns 75 on Mon­day. What makes her such an iconic fig­ure on stage and screen?

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - TRIB­UTE MAU­REEN LIPMAN Mau­reen Lipman is in ‘Let­tice and Lo­vage’ at the Me­nier Choco­late Fac­tory from May 4

ASIDE FROM my brother, Ge­off, in Brussels and a hand­ful of cousins and school­friends, oh, and Cliff, of course… and Sue McGre­gor nat­u­rally… Barbra is the long­est serv­ing con­stant in my life. “BARBRA STREISAND STOPS THE SHOW” screamed Ge­off’s Time magazine. It was 1962 and I was in O-level year at New­land High School for girls, Hull City of Lim­ited Cul­ture.

I had played Dr Faus­tus on stage at school, but had scarcely ever seen a mu­si­cal save Calamity Jane and Gigi on film. I was ob­sessed by Broad­way/Hol­ly­wood and trav­elled home on two buses specif­i­cally to pick up Mo­tion Pic­ture and Mod­ern Screen from the stall out­side Paragon sta­tion. I scoured the vinyl shops for all the lat­est Broad­way open­ings to mime to, played on my new Dansette record player.

I Can Get It For You Whole­sale, with a book by Jerome Wei­d­man and mu­sic and lyrics by Harold Rome was about an un­scrupu­lous gar­ment man­u­fac­turer. Barbra Streisand planned her “kooky” ’30s look for her au­di­tion and let her sheet mu­sic fall across the stage for comic ef­fect. This girl thought ahead. Said one re­view “Qui­eter than Sev­enth Av­enue on Yom Kippur.” It closed after 300 per­for­mances, but launched the 19-year-old Streisand, via her show­stop­ping num­ber Miss Marmel­stein into a record­ing con­tract with Columbia and a mar­riage of eight years to her co-star El­liott Gould.

Barbra knew ex­actly where she was go­ing, to pre­cisely above the top…

The ex­tent of her am­bi­tion, tal­ent and in­tel­li­gence, in that or­der has kept her there for five-and-ahalf decades. She has adapted her singing style to what­ever was cur­rent, she has di­rected and starred in some birds of par­adise and some tur­keys. She has per­formed live through­out, even though it ter­ri­fies her, and kept her record­ings fresh and vo­cally dis­tinct.

She has stood up for her faith, for gay rights — em­brac­ing her son Ja­son’s sex­u­al­ity — for women’s rights, for Democrats and against Aids prej­u­dice. She has got up peo­ple’s noses and res­o­lutely kept her own. She is a mir­a­cle.

I met her three times dur­ing the pe­riod my late hus­band Jack Rosen­thal was work­ing with her on the film Yentl, then, hav­ing sworn “never again”, on Prince of Tides. She was more pe­tite, more beau­ti­ful and more or­di­nary than I had ex­pected. As usual, I found it hard to be my­self with some­one I had ad­mired for so long, and be­gan to bab­ble.

Jack found her gen­er­ous and par­si­mo­nious, sim­ple and com­pli­cated, ir­ri­tat­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing. Con­vinc­ing her that no­body said “cookie” in 19th-cen­tury Poland was la­bo­ri­ous. He wrote 13 drafts. Cookie went back in. A nice, pow­er­ful Jewish girl who doesn’t al­ways wield her power with equa­nim­ity. That struck a chord with me.

On one oc­ca­sion, I stum­bled into telling her the mid­dle eight of Mem­ory was per­haps too low for her voice. On the same oc­ca­sion, my four-year-old son told her “Your voice re­ally hurts my ears.” She took both with… equa­nim­ity. I told her a long story, which I wished I hadn’t started, in her dressing room after her live show, in­volv­ing an ac­tor who had to go on stage for a great star, after hav­ing been out of the busi­ness for seven years, work­ing as a win­dow cleaner. When I asked him how he’d got through it he said: “Mo, I just said to my­self, ‘Mitch, in three hours’ time you’ll be in bed.’”

She gri­maced, but later when I looked in my signed pro­gramme she had writ­ten: “In three hours time I’ll be in bed.”

Barbra is one of the first fe­male en­ter­tain­ers to make it work for her­self. On any given day, sit­ting by her pool, she prob­a­bly makes up­wards of thirty or forty thou­sand dol­lars in roy­al­ties. She doesn’t get duped by busi­ness man­agers. She strikes hard deals and makes prof­its. If the movie fails I guess she makes the money back in the sound­track. We should all glory in her achieve­ments.

She seems to have found a sim­ple hap­pi­ness with her sil­ver fox hus­band and a good re­la­tion­ship with her son. She has grown into her un­ortho­dox looks in a bet­ter way than her puffed-up con­tem­po­raries. And my dear, she’s still here.

We should take off our hats to Miss S. And don’t close the oys­ter — I bet you there’s more poils to come.


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