The icon reveals surprising stories about how her difficult past made her the star she is today.
At the center of a bed covered with snacks, soft drinks, papers, old magazine clippings and a couple of dozing dogs, sits the superstar performer Barbra Streisand, who has been working on her memoir. “I write in longhand with a soft pencil,” reveals Barbra. “I like to erase. I can rewrite.”
Volumes have already been published about the legendary singer, actress and director, but Barbra has never been motivated to tell her life story herself — until now. At 76, the performer wants to set the record straight, reveal her truth about her journey to the top and finally unleash long-held secrets. “I kept journals, especially in the earlier years,” admits Barbra, whose road took her from humble beginnings in Brooklyn to become an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner as well as the best-selling female recording artist of all time. A NEW CHALLENGE Barbra, who recently released her 36th studio album, Walls, lives in Malibu in a majestic compound fronting the Pacific Ocean with her husband of 20 years, actor James Brolin, 78. It’s where she’s forcing herself to relive her past. “I find it hard to look back,” admits Barbra, whose prestigious publisher Viking Press hoped to release her stilluntitled biography in 2017. “They wanted the book in two years!” says Barbra, who has been writing for four — and she’s still not done. “She is a well-known perfectionist and she is on her own schedule,” notes a friend. “She believes she’s earned that and she feels
AFTER YEARS OF LETTING OTHERS TELL HER STORY, THE
LEGEND IS READY TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
obligated to do the best for her fans.”
In her forthcoming book, Barbra plans to clear up some of the most popular misconceptions about her — such as the persistent rumor that she is a diva. She insists that she never makes unreasonable demands and notes that on the set of 2004’s Meet the Fockers, she had only one trailer while her costar Ben Stiller had four! “I thought, These people, boy, they ask for a lot of stuff! I never even thought of it,” says Barbra, who confesses that, unless she is going out, she habitually wears sneakers and sweat suits around her house. “They all want to see me as this otherworldly person,” she says, “which I’m not.”
Still, she’s lived a pretty remarkable life. To complete the colossal task of writing about it, Barbra employs assistants to help her with names and dates and to dig up old news clippings. “You know, I have to look myself up,” she explains. “I have letters and things that one of my assistants — who’s been with me, God, over 40 years —started when she was 19. She sends me wonderful things that I forgot.” Some of these
old clippings can even surprise Barbra. “I tend to forget the good things written about me and remember the bad. That’s a critical flaw I have,” she says with a laugh.
“I can’t take my voice for granted. It’s a gift. I have to
SHARING SECRETS What can fans expect Barbra to reveal in her memoir? Certainly, she’ll examine her impoverished childhood, her father Emanuel’s early death and her difficult relationship with her mother, Diana. A semi-professional opera singer with a soprano voice, Diana wanted her clearly gifted daughter to go to secretarial school instead of show business. In response, Barbra grew out her nails so she wouldn’t be expected to use a typewriter. “She had talent,” Barbra says of Diana, who worked as a secretary. “I said, ‘Why didn’t you do this, why didn’t you go after your dream?’ ”
Diana, however, didn’t have the same burning ambition that fueled her daughter’s rise to the stratosphere. “You can have a dream, but how do you manifest it, how do you make it happen?” asks Barbra today. “Hard work, heart, taking chances — that was always my philosophy.”
In 1968, Barbra became a film actress and won a best actress Academy Award for Funny Girl. Just 15 years later, she directed her first movie, Yentl, which she also wrote, produced and starred in. “I’ve written about my movies [in my book] because I like talking about that,” says Barbra, who insists that despite her many accomplishments in film she’s finally left Hollywood and acting for good. “I don’t like acting. I don’t like make-believe. I like real life,” she explains. KISS AND TELL Barbra had the same clear-eyed attitude about love. Her many romances with boldface names including first husband Elliott Gould, tennis star Andre Agassi, Don Johnson and more will be among the memories she shares. “I did a chapter on Marlon Brando, my relationship with him,” reveals Barbra, who admits that she had a teenage crush on the actor but turned down his romantic overtures in the 1970s. “He wanted to take me to the desert, to see the wildflowers,” she remembers. “I was such a nice Jewish girl that I just said, ‘Marlon, I can’t stay overnight with you.’” Despite her gentle rejection, the pair remained lifelong friends who talked on the phone for hours.
Love, says the star, has been the only thing in her life that can make her put aside her work. “On the one hand, I am — or I was — ambitious,” confides Barbra. “On the other hand, if I was having a great love affair or something, I’d say, ‘I don’t want to do anything else.’ Searching for personal happiness was more important.”
The performer never expected to find the love of her life at age 54. Her relationship with James, whom she married exactly two years after they were set up at a dinner party, will certainly be included in her memoir as the most privately rewarding event of her exceptional life. “It is every woman’s dream to be some man’s dream woman,” says Barbra, who says that Jim completes her. “He fills a void in my life. He makes me feel very safe.”
She feels so secure that she can finally reveal her life story in her own way, even if there is no telling how soon she will release the much-anticipated tome on the public. “I like to live in the present, not the past,” she says. “[But] I have lots and lots of stories.”
— Reporting by Katie Bruno
“[Marriage] is much more pleasant when you’re older,” Barbra says.
The couple with Josh Brolin, his son Trevor and Barbra’s son JasonGould.