Successful, Yes—Famous, No
June 17, 1962
Barbra Streisand admits that she used to be “a character.” Whether or not she still is—well, that's for you to say.
Miss Streisand, at 19, knocked them dead this season in I Can Get It For You Wholesale on Broadway. Her triumph led to things like The Garry Moore Show, as well as numerous appearances on PM, and most people say she's off and running to a smash career.
She says, however, that the belief that an actor who gets rare reviews is automatically flooded with tremendous offers is —“a great big lie.”
“There was no great flood of offers,” she says. “Why do they always print that I've gotten so many offers? They print such rotten things—like they wrote that I was smooching at the Harwyn Club. It was 21.
“Actually, that Garry Moore Show I did. That wasn't because of the reviews. That was because my agent dragged Garry's producer in to the theater to see me, and he liked me.”
Barbra, a Brooklyn girl, doesn't consider herself a success—yet.
“I'm not a success,” she says, “because I'm not famous. Yesterday I went shopping at Bergdorf Goodman. And I couldn't get anybody to wait on me. If I was famous, they would have waited on me. But I looked to young, I guess, and too—I don't know, like I couldn't afford to shop there. I'll be a success when I'm famous enough to get waited on at Bergdorf Goodman.”
Barbra Streisand's real name is Barbara Streisand. She refused to change her last name, but did drop one “A” out of Barbara because she hates the name Barbara.
“In school,” she says, “I was a character. I was the wise guy. I always got good marks, so I was never in what you'd call real trouble, but everybody looked on me as the odd one. I used to dye my hair platinum blonde and wear strange color lipstick and eye-shadow.
“I once won a prize in Spanish class and the teacher said, ‘Well now you won't have to wear blue eyeshadow anymore.’”
Her big success in I Can Get It For You Wholesale is as a comedienne, but comedy is not what she went in for originally. In fact, she was never particularly interested in anything except singing.
“Comedy,” she says, “is just another form of acting. I happen to have a good sense of comedy timing, that's all. But I never knew it.
“They used to say that I couldn't retain things,” she says. “I'd do something funny and they'd say, ‘That's good, keep it in.’ But I'd forget what I had done, so they figured I couldn't retain things and almost fired me. Even nowadays, I do the part differently every time.
“What does it matter if I don't stand in exactly the same spot?” she asks. “They say I'm undisciplined as an actress—nonsense, it's just that I believe in being a person.”
Miss Streisand grew up, she says, with a compulsion to be the best. She had this craving to excel at whatever she did—school work, singing, dancing, acting—and it is still there. It has given her some troubled times, but basically, she has survived because frequently she was the best.
She says that her aim in life isn't merely to be happy, because that's a passing thing.
“I'm happy from day to day,” she says, “and I have new goals from day to day. Just now my goal is to learn some new songs for a club act. If I do this, I'll be happy. Little things make me happy—if I get a good malted, I'm happy, if my boyfriend brings me flowers, I'm happy.”
Are all these the ingredients of a character?
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