April 1965

The Person Who Changed My Life

by Barbra Streisand

Almost everyone, during his teens, is greatly influenced by one individual. Isn't there someone, right now, who means this much to you?

Brooklyn is said to have the largest population of the five boroughs of New York. As a teen, Brooklyn seemed to me the smallest, most nowhere town in the United States. Brooklyn meant Erasmus Hall High School, a neighborhood called Brownsville and neighbors who knew your name, your business and what you were thinking—because they all thought the same way.

I was a misfit in school—Brooklyn's original beatnik. You should have seen my wild get-ups: orange lipstick, purple sneakers, black leotards—ugh! But I wanted to be different. I didn't want to dress, think and talk the way everybody in my neighborhood did. I hated the regimentation and ritual that seemed meaningless to me.

Streisand, star of Broadway's FUNNY GIRLI was fifteen when I met Anita and Alan Miller—the two people who changed my life. I had a job at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village moving sets and painting scenery. Anita was featured in the play; her husband, Alan, was an acting teacher. To them I brought my problems. The Millers had an apartment littered with books, records, pictures and children. Along with the litter was love. So what if the dinner dishes weren't done that night? The Millers were happy.

I baby-sat for the Millers. In return, Alan gave me a scholarship to his school. Thus I spent even more time with them. I'd browse through their library, discovering that the world of literature is larger than Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe — the authors assigned at high school. I also discovered that people can eat when they want to rather than at an appointed hour. I discovered that kids can be put to bed when they are tired rather than at seven-thirty sharp and still be healthy. The Millers had no routine. They just had happiness. I decided my life would have no regimentation or meaningless boundaries—that I'd do the things that would make me happy and fulfilled. Thanks to the Millers, I'm enjoying myself. Can anyone ask for more?


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