HER SWINGIN' '60s CREDENTIALS: A star for over forty years, Barbra is one of the most versatile, admired, and powerful women in show business history.
CATEGORIES OF SWINGIN' CHICK: Songbird, Movie Star, TV Star
BIRTH: Barbra was born on April 24th in '42 (the same birthdate as Shirley MacLaine), making her only seventeen when the '60s began. Her exotic birthplace: Brooklyn, New York. Her name at birth was Barbara Joan Streisand, but at nineteen she changed it to Barbra. Her nickname: "Babs."
IMPACT ON THE '60s: One of the most most acclaimed talents of the 20th century, Barbra Streisand is a true original. She has maintained her artistic vision throughout her career and shown herself to be a master of all trades -- a singer, composer, actress, director, and producer. Her versatility was displayed in the '60s with an astonishing string of successes on Broadway and in Hollywood. On stage, she is able to display a stunning range of styles and emotions, everything from the comic to the heartbreaking, from the sophisticated to the kooky. She remains the biggest-selling female singer of all time, with hits that date back to the early '60s and span four decades. And in June of 2001 Biography magazine's readers voted her #10 of their all-time favorite film actresses (Audrey Hepburn was #1, Cher #3).
CAREER IN THE '60s: Her '60s career began when, after numerous auditions in Manhattan, Barbra won a talent contest and got hired by prominent Greenwich Village nightclubs called Bon Soir and the Blue Angel. These performances first exposed her to the public and the critics, all of whom were dazzled by this startling newcomer. Soon she made her TV debut on "The Tonight Show," where she got a standing ovation for her '61 performance. Broadway then scooped her up for the hit show I Can Get It for You Wholesale (the show where she met Elliott Gould) in '62. That same year she signed a record deal with Columbia. In '63 she got the lead role of Fanny Brice in the musical Funny Girl, a troublesome play that overcame some tough out-of-town tryouts, was rewritten to showcase Barbra, and opened to rave reviews on Broadway. Ironically, "she would never have gotten to try out in the first place if three then-better-known actresses -- Mary Martin, Anne Bancroft, and Carol Burnett --- hadn't all turned down the role," wrote Biography magazine in April of 2002. "Martin and Bancroft thought both the script and score were inferior, and Burnett thought the part should go to a Jewish actress. Eydie Gorme was also approached, but refused to consider the role unless her husband, Steve Lawrence, could be included in the show." With Barbra in the lead the show became a blockbuster, the song "People" became a hit, and Barbra was an "overnight sensation." In '65 she got her first network television special, a tour de force called "My Name Is Barbra" that daringly focused solely on her, with no other acts or co-stars on the show. This show revealed her comedic ability to the nation, and also her overwhelmingly emotive voice, especially when she recast a bouncy song like "Happy Days Are Here Again" as a forceful ballad. In '66 she did a second special for CBS, "Color Me Barbra." This one, shot in color (a rarity then), was just as daring as her first special in that most of it was staged inside an art museum. That same year she took Funny Girl to London, where she again amazed the theatre critics. In '68 she performed in Central Park to 128,000 people, leading to a CBS special called "A Happening in Central Park" that was aired on September 15, 1968. During this concert she forgot the lyrics to a couple of her songs, which started her long-time fear of performing live. On September 19th of '68 the movie Funny Girl was released, leading to her stunning win at the Oscars in the spring of '69 ("Hello, gorgeous," she said to the statuette as it was handed to her). Her follow-up film, Hello Dolly!, was considered a flop, though it did get nominated for Best Picture (Barbra was generally thought to have been too young for the lead role but she did win a Golden Globe for it). Meanwhile, beginning in '63 and all throughout the decade she recorded seven albums, all of them successful even though more rebellious rock 'n' roll was dominating the charts. Thus, Barbra conquered all facets of entertainment -- live concerts, Broadway shows, movies, TV, and recordings -- during the '60s, making her perhaps the most acclaimed female entertainer of her generation.
CAREER OUTSIDE THE '60s: Born in Brooklyn, Barbra always felt like an outsider as a child. Her dad died when she was only fifteen months old, a loss she would deal with for the rest of her life and that would bring fears of her own early death. Her step-father was abusive and hit her mother. Struggling past her own insecurities, at thirteen years old she cut her first record, "You'll Never Know"; her voice, while professional-sounding, hadn't fully developed yet into the stunning instrument her fans would later love. As a teen she was an honor student at Erasmus High in Brooklyn (another student there was Neil Diamond, who became a life-long friend). She began going into Manhattan for auditions, and in '60 she won a talent contest that landed the job that sent her on her way: a gig at a Greenwich Village nightclub, Bon Soir, where she wowed the critics and launched her career into orbit. After the '60s, Barbra concentrated on her movies and LPs. She began the '70s with the films On a Clear Day You Can See Forever ('70), the delightful screwball comedy What's Up, Doc? ('72), and the feminist comedy Up the Sandbox ('72). In '73 she made one of her most popular movies ever, The Way We Were, which is still heralded as one of the most romantic movies of all time (the theme song became one of her signature songs, and Barbra was nominated as Best Actress). A Star Is Born in '76, The Main Event in '79, and All Night Long in '81 were all disappointments. In '83 she made her directorial debut with Yentl, in which she also starred. The movie, dedicated to her father, took a long time to get born, as funding for the project was difficult to come by. That she succeeded was a testament to her tenacity. She followed with two more acclaimed movies, the daring Nuts in '87 (Barbra as a mental patient) and The Prince of Tides, which she starred in, produced, and directed. In the '80s she tried different musical styles, including rock and disco, but she scored her biggest commercial and critical hit mid-decade with The Broadway Album, a stunning return to her '60s roots. It brought her a Grammy as Best Female Pop Vocalist. Always concerned with the environment, civil liberties, and health issues, in '86 she became a major fundraiser for the Democrats by staging a concert called "One Voice" at her Malibu estate (she would later donate that five-home 24-acre estate to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy). In late '93 and early '94 she performed some memorable shows at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with Marvin Hamlisch as the conductor and arranger. "The reasons I actually came back to do it was because of my fans," she explained, "I worked very hard to get up the nerve to do it." She took her concerts on the road and toured the world, generating some $60 million. In '95 her company Barwood Productions produced the emmy-winning TV movie Serving in Silence, an acclaimed drama about gays in the military. She performed four concerts (two each in L.A. and New York) in September 2000 as a farewell to public performing. "I just don't enjoy public performances," she said, "I just don't enjoy being up on that stage strutting my stuff." In a November 2001 interview with the L.A. Times she discussed her new life away from performing:
"I like being semiretired," Streisand says softly, sitting in the living room of 'Grandma's House,' the name Brolin gave to one of the three houses in their Malibu compound. It's a room decorated in comfy New England style and filled with the figurines and family photos that grandmothers favor...."If I get passionate about something that works out with people who aren't afraid of me, I'll direct another film and I will make more albums. But I don't pursue anything that vehemently anymore....It is true about artists sublimating a lot of their sadness into being busy with work. When you get a happier life, you don't have the need to express yourself in another way. You express yourself with the people you love. Woody Allen asked me about a movie, but I didn't want to give up my summer. I care about my personal life more than my work now. I didn't want to be away from Jim for four months."...Grandma's House, which is her work area, is just 74 steps from her main house, part of an idyllic setting that includes a wishing well along the connecting path. Inside the house, the windows look onto the ocean below, offering what real estate agents like to advertise as a "million-dollar view." Only in Malibu, it's probably a $5-million to $10-million view.
TALENT: The '60s were very good to Barbra. She won every major award there was to be won, often with her first effort in a specific field. For instance, her first Broadway role in I Can Get It for You Wholesale brought her a Drama Critics Award and a Tony nomination. Her first album, The Barbra Streisand Album, won the Grammy as Album of the Year and she was at the time the youngest Grammy winner. Her first TV special, "My Name Is Barbra," took five Emmy Awards and a prestigious Peabody Award. Her first movie, Funny Girl, brought her Best Actress awards at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. In '66 Playboy named her the year's best female vocalist for the second straight year (Petula Clark came in fifth), and the magazine named two of her albums (My Name Is Barbra and People) as the year's top vocal LP's (Help! by the Beatles came in fourth). She was named the World's Film Favorite at the '70, '71, '75, and '78 Golden Globes. Conversely, she's also won a couple of Razzie Awards as Worst Actress for All Night Long and Yentl. It's her singing that first made her a star in the '60s. The pure voice, with its dramatic power and broad range, generated a sound unique then and unique now. It's what has made her the singer most-admired by other singers. Said Dionne Warwick of her voice, she has "a wonderful instrument ... that a lot of people wish they had." She doesn't just sing her songs, she performs them with astonishing emotion and passion. In '76 she displayed her writing talents by co-writing (with Paul Williams) the Oscar-winning song "Evergreen" for the film A Star Is Born. Oscar nominated one of her songs again in '97, "I Finally Found Someone" from the film The Mirror Has Two Faces (another film she produced, directed, and starred in). By the 21st century she had amassed 42 gold albums, 27 platinum albums, eight gold singles, and ten Grammy Awards including a "Legend" award in '92. In 2000 she was ranked #31 on VH1's countdown of the great women in rock and roll history. On February 22nd of 2001 she became the first woman director to receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. "I was not prepared for this," she said as she accepted the award. "I didn't think my life and career could fill a whole evening. I can't tell you how deeply humbled I am to be in the company of the men and woman who have come before me." Finally, she is the only artist ever to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, Peabody, and Golden Globe.
HER '60s LOOK: To her credit, she has never gotten her nose fixed (though she was encouraged to), she's stayed fit, and she's been able to pull off a wide range of styles. Her hair has been short and straight, long and curly, up and down, but always stylish and appealing. Her distinctive features and great style have been displayed on many magazine covers, of course. Most prominent of these in the '60s were her several cover for Life magazine: May 22nd of '64 with the coverlines "Broadway's Funny Girl -- the Flatbush kid who made it big, Barbra, the great new star!" and March 18th of '66 with the coverlines "The Tears of Barbra Steisand -- stricken with phenomenal success at 23, Barbra Streisand is more ridden than ever by self-doubts." In March of '66 she also made the cover of Vogue. Perhaps the one fashion faux pas she made was at the Oscars in '69 when she accepted her award while wearing a revealing, hugely bell-bottomed pant suit (shown at left). For the classic shows at the MGM Grand in late '93 and early '94 she wore a simple, elegant black gown and beautiful jewels. She considers her hands her best feature and gets manicures daily.
LIFESTYLE: After she met actor Elliott Gould during the play I Can Get It for You Wholesale, they were married in '63 and had a son, Jason. Elliott became one of the coolest guys of the late '60s/early '70s with his starring role in M*A*S*H. He and Barbra divorced in '71. In the early '70s she began a relationship with Ryan O'Neal, though he was still married to Leigh Taylor-Young (Barbra and O'Neal starred together in What's Up, Doc?). Later in the '70s she was with Jon Peters, former husband of Lesley Ann Warren (Barbra and Peters produced A Star Is Born in '76). Actor James Brolin was established in the '90s as the true love of her life. Among his dozens of starring roles in movies (Capricorn One) and TV shows ("Marcus Welby, M.D.") was an appearance in Fantastic Voyage, the '66 blockbuster that helped launch Raquel Welch to stardom. Brolin and Barbra were married on July 1st of '98 at her Malibu house, Barbra wearing Donna Karan and the music incorporating themes from "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." "Love is the answer," she explained, "I kind of try to say that in the movies I do, it's really nice to have it not just in fantasy but in reality, it just kind of puts everything in perspective." She counts among her close friends personalities as diverse as Andre Agassi and Bill Clinton.
EXTRAS: Her sister, Rosalyn Kind, is herself an actress and has appeared in several minor movies ... Barbra's son Jason Gould was in The Prince of Tides with her, playing her son ... "I always had a hard time getting anything I wanted to do done," Barbra once said at the Golden Globes, adding, "I think it takes obsession, searching for the details, for any artist to be good" ... she addressed her reputation as a perfectionist in the November 2001 L.A. Times article: "There is a part of anybody who is worth their salt that is very insecure, a part that is lonely and sad. As emotional human beings, we have secrets and mysteries and strange feelings, and that's what comes out in their work" ... more from Barbra at the Golden Globes: "There's nothing better than to know I can be taking a bath at home and at the same time someone is watching me in Brazil" ... among her faves: the color white ... in 2000 the American Film Institute named the hundred funniest films of all time, and Barbra's What's Up Doc? was ranked #61 (Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe was #1) ... fitness guru Richard Simmons has pronounced himself one of her biggest fans, a devotion that has been mocked whenever Richard shows up as a guest on "Late Night with David Letterman" ... she received an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University in '95 ... the Streisand Foundation has directed $10 million towards equality for women, civil rights, and the environment ... her reluctance to discuss her private life (she's never written an autobiography) has led to a dozen unauthorized biographies, plus there are several magazines devoted to her, including one called Just Like Buttah, but she is planning on writing her own account of her life ... Barbra's good deeds have sometimes gone unheralded, but columnist Liz Smith provided "a sweet little ol' Barbra Streisand story" in national newspapers in August of 2001:
"Now here's a sweet little ol' Barbra Streisand story. The divine one and her hubby, James Brolin, came into a posh Italian eatery in Santa Monica recently to find their favorite table in use. They didn't realize it, but management moved the unknown diners to make way for Barbra, Jim and another couple. When this became apparent to Streisand, she picked up the moved party's dinner check and sent them a bottle of Dom Perignon. And you thought she was haughty and highhanded."
...Barbra's final concerts can be celebrated with special commemorative champagne, which can be purchased at her own official Web site: Barbra's Official Web Site.