Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Great Magazine Reads: Giving some thought to Barbra Streisand for the first time in decades

Sure, I’ve always known the song “The Way We Were.” And I dug “Guilty” and “Woman in Love” since they were from her album of duets with Barry Gibb back in my wild-about-the-Bee-Gees days. But I’ve never really dug into Barbra Streisand’s musical catalog. Not something a self-respecting indie rocker would do, right?

But now that I’m older and presumably wiser - with the occasion of the 81-year-old, Malibu resident, and mass icon having just published her autobiography, My Name is Barbra - now seems like a good time to assess what all the hype has been about.

On the surface, going over old photos, Babs is undeniably gorgeous and completely mesmerizing. While I can’t confess to having read the nearly-1,000-page book, here is what I’ve learned about her in the November cover story of Vanity Fair:

  • Streisand turned down Jackie Onassis’s request for her to write her biography for Doubleday in 1984 (Onassis worked at the publishing house then). But that’s when she slowly started taking notes that would turn into her 2023 book. 
  • Babs’ mother wanted her to become a school administrator!
  • In 1966, Marlon Brando propositioned her at a party, with his wife in the next room. She declined but they remained friends and talked frequently on the phone. He told her she was great in Funny Girl but that she runs funny.
  • She dropped the middle "a" in her name at age 13 to make it more unique.
  • She has crossed many types with the men she has dated over the years, including former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Ryan O’Neal, Elliott Gould, Don Johnson, her longtime current husband James Brolin, and possibly even tennis legend Andre Agassi
Vanity Fair offers an excerpt from Streisand’s book on her work making the movie The Way We Were with Robert Redford:
  • Behind those blue eyes, “Bob” was such a great actor because nobody could ever tell what he was thinking, which gave him an unusual complexity. The two stars found each other to be pretty exotic, with Redford wondering what it must have been like growing up in Brooklyn and she thought the same about him and sunny California.
  • He inspired her to learn how to ski and she rode with him on his motorcycle.
  • But some of her favorite scenes were cut from the final edit of the movie. She has been working on updating it, possibly to release soon, with the crucial scenes back in place.
Bottom line: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen The Way We Were, but I’m definitely planning to go back and revisit it, now that I’ve done a deeper dive on Babs and realized she’s a pretty great artist. After all, the American Film Institute has called it the sixth best romance movie. 

Pro tip: Along with the other songs mentioned above, you can't go wrong with these other Streisand tunes: "Memory," "Evergreen," "No More Tears," "What Kind of Fool (again with Gibb)," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "People," and "It Had to Be You."

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