“Her Name is Barbra”: 2004 Auction Stories from Fans
June 2004, by Matt Howe
It was May 2004 when I visited the "Her Name is Barbra" exhibit at the Takashimaya store in New York.
In 2004, Barbra Streisand worked with Julien's Auctions to take bids on hundreds of pieces of memorabilia from her career. The proceeds went to charities supported by the Streisand Foundation. The auction took place on June 5, 2004 at Astra West in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. Simultaneous bids were taken online.
(Streisand is still auctioning personal items on ebay, with all proceeds going to her foundation.)
I interviewed Darren Julien (founder of Julien's Auctions) in July 2004 after he'd had a chance to collect himself following the auction—which raised upwards of $1 million.
You can read the entire interview in a 2004 issue of All About Barbra magazine. In the interview, Julien spoke about working with Barbra on the auction, visiting her house, and, of course, all the Streisand fans he encountered during the auction.
In writing the story for All About Barbra, I also solicited stories from Streisand fans who won something at the auction. Unfortunately, All About Barbra was only able to print five stories in that issue. There just wasn't room for them all, plus the pictures that people so graciously sent.
On this page I am happy to present the stories that didn't make the magazine. Thanks to everyone who wrote a story, sent a picture, or contributed in any way.
Due to some very unfortunate personal circumstances, I was living with my parents at the time, having separated from my husband. I went to watch the auction to cheer me up. I couldn’t believe how inexpensively some of the things were going for. I thought I had a chance of winning something. I placed a bid on the White Krizia Ensemble, and I won it...... I couldn't believe my luck. I never thought I would have something actually owned by Barbra, and I thank her so much for putting a smile on my face in a dark period of my life.
When I got my package and opened it, I was at first very distraught that it was not the item I won. I have to say that Reid of Julien Entertainment was very efficient and solved the problem pretty painlessly, and efficiently.
I now have my Krizia Ensemble, and love it to bits. The thing I cant believe is how petite Barbra is. I knew she was small, but just how small amazes me.
I want to thank Barbra for putting a smile on my face through a very dark period of my life, and also Julien Entertainment for their speed and efficiency.
Larry Costa is a published author, skincare developer and spa owner in New York City. He sent a copy of his book, “Massage: Mind and Body, The Invisible Person Complex, and Deep Tissue”, to Barbra.
While growing up in the Deep South, I had never heard about Barbra until I was about 10 years old. I heard “My Heart Belongs to Me” on the radio and instantly fell in awe of that voice. The area that I lived in lacked any culture whatsoever. On an 80 mile trip to the nearest Sears store to purchase farm tools with my father, I noticed that they had a record department. I sang the song to the clerk because I didn’t know the name of it or who sang it. He quickly showed me to the Barbra Streisand section and I bought several albums ($5.00 each -- pricey at the time!) I fell in love with Barbra’s early material. It made my heart melt and sent my imagination on journeys.
One day, our local network broadcast FUNNY GIRL. I was hooked for life. I could identify with Barbra, coming from a poor family, etc. I decided I wanted to be a singer just so I could sing Barbra songs. When I was 17 I entered a singing contest in Tampa, Florida. I won and the review in the paper referred to me as a male Barbra Streisand. When I first moved to New York, I drove to the corner of Newkirk and Nostrand Avenue to look at the building that Barbra had grown up in.
When I heard about the auction, I quickly placed absentee bids from my office in New York. I chose the items I wanted to win very carefully. I was determined to purchase the wig from Barbra’s early career and TV appearances. That wig represented the Barbra that I fell in love with years earlier.
When I noticed that I had actually won the bidding war, I couldn’t believe it. I was happy beyond dreams. I waited and waited for my wig to come to me in the mail.
When it did arrive, the box was crushed. My heart pounded as I carefully opened the box. My wig was intact, wrapped in brown paper on the head form that was pictured in the auction catalog. Naturally, I immediately had to try the wig on. I pulled out two wig pins and began to lift the wig off the head. I noticed something odd ...
There was a lump of hair on top of the head under the other wig! My first thought was that it was extra hair from the original wig maker for repairs, etc. I gingerly took out the pins and unraveled the hair.
To my surprise, it was another wig (actually a wiglet). The quality of the wiglet was far superior to the actual wig that I had purchased. It was longer with blond streaks down the front to frame the face and one streak down the back.
I can only assume that this wiglet was from several TV shows that featured Barbra in this type of “bob” hair style that was easily identifiable as “Barbra”.
I had a wig maker come over to inspect both wigs. One had a label inside that said “Barbara Streisand” (with the extra A). It also had several original Bobbie pins in the back that served as a guideline of how the wig was styled and teased.
I plan on having both wigs styled the original way that Barbra wore them. I will put them on display at my parlor spa in NYC for a while then I will be buried with them when I die. I also purchased a beautiful settee from “The Concert”. This settee does not have the same impact on me as the wigs do, but it is a beautiful piece that I will cherish and put on display at my spa and sell at a later date.
What items did I win at the recent "Her Name is Barbra" auction? None. However, I am now blessed with being the caretaker of six pieces of history. These pieces span the full spectrum of an unprecedented career, which I pray is far from over. The pieces of history, now in my care, cover her triumphs on Broadway, in television specials, in movies and her unwavering commitment to social justice. As soon as it was available, I purchased the catalog for the auction and went on-line to see what would be available. Of course I wanted everything. How was I ever going to narrow down the dizzying array of things available to what was precious to me? I made a list of items I wanted, which was rather lengthy and put them into categories. I was determined to have at least one 'signature' piece. One of my pre-bids was successful. It is arguably one of the most memorable costumes ever worn by Barbra. It's one of those images people conjour up when they think of her and moistens the eyes of all her fans. I am honored (or whatever word would be stronger than honored) to be the caretaker of the infamous cape from "A Happening in Central Park". Yes, THE cape. The seminal image of her spreading her arms in front of the microphone with the breeze billowing the cape. It is indescribable what it feels like to have the actual costume now in my home.
But I wanted to ensure I had different genres covered. On to television ... I was beginning to panic when not one, but two of my pre-bids for 'Barbra Streisand and Other Musical Instruments' costumes won. I won the white jacket (which she wears while singing with the little boy) and also the 'gypsy' outfit from the African segment.
My checklist was still in full swing. Concert, check. Television special, check. Now movies. I was determined to have something from my all-time favorite movie, FUNNY GIRL. I cannot begin to tell you what it meant to my soul to see this film at the theatre when I was 10 years old. It, quite literally, changed my life. I tried valiantly to outbid others for one of those costumes, but was shut out by the truly ugly "auction closed" message. I was heartbroken. The costumes came and went in the auction without me winning a single one. I knew I had one chance left at the very end of the auction, but thought it was a long shot. But a movie costume was still a "must-have". Of course, some of the most beautiful shots of Barbra were from the Melinda sequences in ON A CLEAR DAY. The beaded gown from the dinner went well above my bid, but somehow the fates were with me as I battled another and won the memorable red gown/hat/muffler costume from the trial sequence. It's actually orange in person, but looks scarlet (nothing metaphorical, I'm sure!) in the movie. It's the costume where she's superimposed on herself just before waking from her hypnosis, being on trial for her 'witchcraft' in her husband's insurance affairs. The costume actually appears on the cover of "Planet Collector" magazine announcing the auction. Many, many more items continued to go above my pre-bids. I was holding out for two more. I wanted something associated with Barbra's personal side. I already own items from her homes, but wanted something closer to her heart. I know from the contributions her foundation makes (NEVER reported widely enough) and from her 'political' statements how she values social change and social justice. I was fortunate to have the winning bid on the stool she sat on to perform for the Presidential Gala for President Clinton in Los Angeles. Being a big Clinton fan, this was a double joy. It is touching how lovingly Barbra spoke of Clinton's mother before she passed. My final item now rests next to my heart every day. It's where it belongs as my heart was forever changed when I first saw FUNNY GIRL. Close to the very end of the auction was a pendant designed by Barbra and given to her castmates in the original Broadway production. It's her design of the FUNNY GIRL logo, the upside-down roller skater with "Funny Girl" as the 'skirt'. I was too young to see the Broadway show. Hell, my family had probably never heard the word 'Broadway' in tiny town Tennessee, but when I saw the movie at age 10, I knew what the word "talent" truly meant. I knew that this performance was something extraordinarily special. It was magic, it reverberated in my soul and is still awe-inspiring to this very day. I'm having a special case built for all the costumes with mannequins ordered to display them. I'm having photos of them from the various productions blown up to poster size to put in front of the costume. I've shown them to various friends, several whom have teared up just by viewing them. I can't wait to have the complete exhibit done. To those who love Barbra's talents as much as I, please know these pieces of history are in good hands. I honor and revere their importance in our lives and in the history of recorded talent.
Lou Papalas designates himself as having amassed the largest collection of Streisand memorabilia worldwide. A gallery of international Streisand posters are presently displayed at his “Barber/Barbra shop” which will have its official opening this fall in Palm Springs. Lou hosted an exhibit at the Caucus Club in Detroit, Michigan to celebrate Barbra's 60th birthday. For the “Her Name Is Barbra” auction, Papalas hosted the gown exhibit at Takashimaya in NYC, assisted the Julien Entertainment staff with the catalog, and organized fan events in L.A. to support the auction activities.
A pet-project of Lou’s is establishing a Barbra Streisand Legacy Group, comprised of collectors and owners of important Barbra career pieces. The group will selectively loan Streisand items to not-for-profit organizations desiring to raise funds. Thus far, Lou has the consent of eight major collectors for potential future exhibits.
At the “Her Name Is Barbra” auction, Lou won the “My Name is Barbra” gown, as well as the Donna Karan “Concert” gown. He related his auction experience to “All About Barbra” ....
I had very mixed feelings about this auction. The thought of witnessing the breaking up of a very important collection of gowns almost made me ill. At the same time, I was happy that Barbra was secure enough to let these items go, to share them with fans and collectors, and to resource her foundation so she could continue to expand her societal contributions.
The MY NAME IS BARBRA gown, which Barbra designed for her FIRST, Emmy Award winning TV special, is iconic, magical and classically Barbra. Millions of people were introduced to and fell in love with Barbra wearing that gown on that very first TV special. The gown took on a life of its own during “How Does the Wine Taste”, and many people have vivid memories of Barbra’s stellar performance as she was introduced to the world on that first special! She was gorgeous, elegant and triumphant!
Furthermore, when Barbra won the Emmy for that first special, she stated during her acceptance speech that it would have taken her 58 years on Broadway to play for as many people who had viewed the television special. Although I loved and wanted the "People” dress from the Broadway production of FUNNY GIRL, having not seen it on stage, and considering I (and millions of others) saw her perform in the MY NAME IS BARBRA gown nearly 40 years ago, the MY NAME IS BARBRA gown appealed to me more. Those factors, coupled with the fact that nearly everyone who viewed the Takashimaya exhibit loved the sailor gown and remembered it, plus the fact that she designed it herself and it was classically Barbra, as well as Barbra’s own words from that Emmy acceptance speech echoed in my mind when the gown was offered in the final exciting moments of the auction. My auction paddle flew up on its own.
I had the MY NAME IS BARBRA gown in my possession only one week before I loaned it for exhibit. It is presently on loan to Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, being featured in a collection of famous entertainment costumes along with the famous white Elvis suit and Madonna's gold bra/boustiere. It will remain there thru August ... just in time to return to Palm Springs to be featured as part of the "Grand Opening" festivities of my Barber/Barbra Shop this fall.
I am most excited about the establishment of the Barbra Streisand Legacy Group Collection. Like Barbra herself, her true fans have been inspired by her to commit themselves to helping others as we create some “ordinary miracles” ourselves.
As for the auction experience, it was a thrill of a lifetime. From the day I met Darren [Julien], learned of the upcoming auction, toured the warehouse and, with his great and friendly staff, helped identify gowns, and provided photos to be used in the catalog ... to hosting the 2 week New York exhibit at Takashimaya, to organizing fan events to support the auction activities, then attending the pre-auction gala reception and meeting and enjoying the friendly company of Roslyn Kind and Marty Erlichman ... and finally experiencing the drama and emotion of the live auction (including the purchase of two special gowns), not to mention meeting wonderful new lifetime friends (yes, Devin, Pam, Laurie, Steve, Katherine and Stan) ... Can I say any more??? It was GREAT!
I've been an admirer of Barbra Streisand since I first heard the song "People" on my parent's radio one afternoon.
The auction was terrific fun. Some friends and I had seen the items as they were being assembled the weekend before. Darren Julien and his auction crew were just great, professional and friendly.
The night of the cocktail party we took another look at the wonderful items that were on the floor. Once again, I was amazed by Ms. Streisand's unbelievable generosity and her ability to "let go" of these emotional items from her storied career... and all for charity!!
I had a mission. I wanted the Nefertiti "hat" from Streisand's early television special COLOR ME BARBRA. Since I share the same natal day with Barbra (and the mystical Shirley MacLaine), an item used in a segment highlighting the theme of reincarnation with the song standard "Where Or When", was just too personal not to give it a try. But I had no idea of how high the item would run... so I ran through my head some bidding figures that I could be comfortable with (and still manage to pay my mortgage).
The day of the auction my friends and I sat on the aisle about a third of the way back... and the bidding started out fast and high. Down through the hours, I tried to content myself with the fact that the money was going to charity, as my tension built. Finally, it was time for Nefertiti. And I surrealistically raised my bidding paddle into the air... and kept it there, as the figures hit, higher, and higher, and still higher... but I won, and I was thrilled ...and I must say, just a bit stunned. Mission:accomplished!!.
Now happily, I have to figure out a way to best display Nefertiti, and keep her safe, while I personally ponder the fact that there isn't an entertainment museum in our Los Angeles filmmaking capitol for items just like these.
Maybe, one day, slowly, but surely, the items will find their way back to Hollywood to highlight the "new" Barbra Streisand wing. One can indeed dream of where or when!!
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