Barbra Streisand Says:
She's Confident; She's Not a Kook

October 20, 1963


LAS VEGAS — They say Barbra Streisand is the greatest of the new young singers. They also say she's a kook.

Barbra says she's not a kook. But she agrees that she'll probably win: The Oscar for movies, the Emmy for television, the Grammy for records, the Tony for stage acting.

Who is Barbra Streisand?

She's a 21-year-old New York girl who has been capturing fans by the thousands since she started singing three years ago.

Barbra had a good, if small, singing-comedy role in the Broadway musical “I Can Get It for You Wholesale"—some even say she carried the show for its nine-month run.

Then the show closed last December and Barbra plunged into television and nightclubs.

Some who listened called Barbra “the first real challenge to Ella Fitzgerald in 20 years."

Barbra sang in Las Vegas recently, and this is how she is:

She comes onstage with her brown hair falling straight down. She wears a low-cut, ankle-length Mother Hubbard dress of gingham, with filmy sleeves.

Barbra stares fiercely out at the audience with Egyptian-painted blue eyes and launches a vindictive arrangement of “Cry Me a River.” Her phrasing reminds listeners that the words have a meaning.

The star-hardened Las Vegas audience applauds loudly and keeps its respect while the girl starts to clown.

She turns her back to the audience and chats with her pianist.

She fingers her hair in back and muses: “Wouldn't it be funny if I parted my hair and there was a face?"

She sits down on a stool and clutches the microphone stand between her knees. She smooths the checkered dress. “I don't want to wrinkle my tablecloth."

Some more freshly phrased songs and Barbra gets up. “So long,” she pipes softly.

Then she intones her theme-song, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and manages to make it sound like a lament.

Barbra sat in the restaurant of a Las Vegas hotel the next day and maintained that she isn't a kook.

“A kook is a person who puts on things that aren't real.”

But nobody could say she's conventional.

“I knew I had to be a star — famous and wealthy. But I didn't go after it the way other actors do. I pounded the pavement for two days. Then I gave that up.”

How about that Oscar and the other honors?

“I'll win all the prizes. I never think about it.”

Barbra became famous as a singer, but she considers herself “an actress who sings.”

“I couldn't get work as an I actress, so I learned two songs.” That was three years ago. She promptly won a talent contest and soon was singing in New York nightclubs.

It's at this point in the chronicle that some writers like to pin her overnight success. They tell how Broadway producer David Merrick of "Wholesale" came to hear her one night, and arranged for an audition.

That isn't the way Barbra remembers it.

“That's a real beef of mine, those overnight success stories.

“I went down and auditioned like everybody else. I hadn't had much experience. I sang a few songs and they asked me to come back that afternoon. I said I couldn't. I had to go to the beauty parlor.

“They weren't used to that. They liked it. When I did come back, I was wearing a coat. They asked me to take it off. I said I liked it, and I kept it on.

“I learned the song that I had to sing. Then I did it sitting down. I think that's why I got the part. That's the way l sang the song in the show.”

One of Barbra‘s fans is President Kennedy. He heard her on television and invited her to sing at a White House correspondents' dinner.

Barbra says she met the President after the dinner and handed him a card to autograph for her mother. He did, and she said: "You're a doll."

More Streisand-style conventionality:

She made her first record album this year, and it immediately became the most popular girl singer album in the country.

You might have expected it to be called “Kook Along With Barbra," or some such. But Miss Streisand insisted that it be titled “The Barbra Streisand AIbum."

“I can‘t stand those other made-up titles.”

The second Barbra Streisand album is called “The Second Barbra Streisand Album."

Speaking of names, how come "Barbra" has one letter too few?

“I hated the name Barbara. But I could never bring myself to make up a stage name. By dropping the ‘A’ I became the only Barbra in the world."

She begins rehearsal in November for the starring role in a Broadway musical about the life of Fanny Brice.

Barbra has a husband she has seen seldom since they married last March. She married actor Elliott Gould, the leading man in "Wholesale."

Barbra thinks of her stage clothing as "elegant," rather than weird.

About that Mother Hubbard — “I designed it. The epitome of elegance is to wear a long gown, but have it made of kitchen curtain material.

“I'd call it casual elegance.”


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