Barbra Bemoans Her Bad Press

September 29, 1968

“I never did prepare myself for this”

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.— A red, blue and yellow steam engine huffed and clanged its way into the Poughkeepsie railroad station, where billboards advertised the latest 1890 products and a large cart held the most modern turn-of-the-century wicker luggage and steamer trunks.

Over all Barbra Streisand's voice rang out singing “Just Leave Everything To Me” as the lady herself led a group of dancers across the station platform where she boarded the train in a puff of steam.

The Hello, Dolly! company, led by Barbra, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford and director Gene Kelly, had come to New York's scenic Hudson River Valley to turn four locations (the small town of Garrison, Cold Spring, the Poughkeepsie station and a scenic knoll on a point west of the Hudson River) into Yonkers, N.Y. and environs, circa 1894.

Papers had already reported that Matthau and Barbra had had a blow-up on the set and were not speaking. Word in the industry also says that Barbra's opening words to an interviewer are often less than cordial.

The Barbra who threaded her way through the crowded platform, holding a small electric fan under her chin, had obviously not been listening to industry word. She shook hands and, in a soft voice, said, “I'm sorry to keep you waiting.”

After watching her at work for two days, and only once hearing her speak, it was the quiet surrounding her that was most surprising.

“Sure, you've been reading the papers and you figure I'm temperamental,” she said. “It's the power of the printed word. I wish I could build a defense. But the criticism makes me more vulnerable instead of hardening me. It saddens me to read it. So much that is said is untrue. It's bad not just for myself but also for the public who reads it. It seems symptomatic of the sickness around today.

“I never did prepare myself for this. I guess I'm very naive. It always seems so incomprehensible to me. I don't understand it — when it's bad, I mean,” she added quickly and with a laugh.

“There was one article about me recently by a woman who never interviewed me and she printed out-and-out lies. Now the article shared a page with an article Abbe Mann wrote about Dr. Martin Luther King. I'm not putting myself in Dr. King's category, but there was a line in that story that applied. It said ‘America's favorite pasttime is to destroy today the hero they made yesterday.’

“People expect a star to act like a star. If they don't, if there are no limousines and the other trappings, they are disappointed. They need the limousine to vent their feelings.

“If I say, ‘'Where does the camera cut in this scene?’ and the line is taken out of context and printed, then somebody who has read everything else about me can read this and say, ‘See, she's directing again.’

“I wouldn't be where I am if I didn't have full involvement in my craft. The amount of carats in the gold in the ring on my finger affects my performance.

“Is there anything I can do to counteract the bad press? Almost nothing. I don't believe in being falsely sweet. I have to act natural. And I'm here to work, not give interviews. It's something professionals understand more than nonprofessionals.

“I guess lots of actors love to be looked at and asked for autographs. I'm totally opposite. I know what is in the fans’ heads. They don't want to be disappointed in anyone and reality is always disappointing. I don't like anyone to get too close. You become a celebrity and an image and not a person. People ask for my autograph and then say to someone I'm with, ‘Are you anybody?’ I don't relate easily.

“What is frustrating is someone who meets me, then goes on TV and talks about me. People hear this and think he's an authority on me. He's someone who has been with me 20 minutes. If I don't like someone, I keep quiet.

“Anything that is true about me I'll gladly admit. I DON'T like to sign autographs. I think interviews ARE unnatural.”

The real Barbra Streisand is somewhere between the monster who chews out and chews up people and wants everything her own way, and the gentle, retiring creature she can appear to be if she wants.


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