Fan Adulation Is Wrong “Funny Girl” Gal Says

June 6, 1965

by Barbra Streisand

Lately I'm often asked, “what does it feel like now that you're a big star?”

That question always stops me dead. My first impulse is to say, “why don't you ask a big star?” Then I realize they really mean me. Well, I don't know how it feels to be a big star. Just how it feels to be happy, to be hungry, to be cold ... to be sleepy.

What seems to have changed primarily is the way people treat me now.

One day I was hailing a cab on a street that was filled with puddles from a recent rain. As the taxi stopped for me, a teenage boy ran over and threw his jacket over a puddle. I was completely stunned and then embarrassed, for both of us.

I stammered, “please, please, pick up your coat. You shouldn't do that for me. Don't do that for anyone.”

This kind of “adulation”—or whatever it can be called—is wrong! It's unhealthy for both the giver and the receiver. How can I repay or even acknowledge that kind of attention?

What I want is to be respected for my talent, to be appreciated for whatever enjoyment people experience listing to a record or watching Funny Girl or a TV show.

No Reverence Wanted

After all, why else should a performer be revered? Am I a doctor who went to school for eight years? Am I a scientist who has discovered some important principle in nature? These are people I admire because of the training and discipline involved in their accomplishments. Since my years of struggling were relatively short, success happened so quickly that I didn't have time to change as a person does who goes through many disappointments.

I'm neither blase nor jaded. Essentially, I'm the same girl who was never in a night club until I was booked as a singer.

On the other hand, success brings responsibility and responsibility brings maturity. I was late 36 times for my first show, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, during its nine-month run. I'm hardly ever late for Funny Girl because being the star of a Broadway show is an enormous responsibility and I feel it.

Success has another effect I've noticed. Not so long ago, I remember when I wasn't treated with normal respect. When casting agents shut the door on me. When, if I wasn't wearing a $200 suit, I couldn't get the attention of a salesgirl in an exclusive department store. This side of the spectrum was not so pretty.

No Time for Leisure

Fame is also having almost no time to read a book or go window shopping; being asked for an autograph in a restaurant when your fingers and face are greasy from spareribs; getting threatened with a lawsuit at the slightest problem—all the pockets of reality that I couldn't know about when as a child I dreamed of stardom.

Without sounding contradictory, I do enjoy my success and I'm immensely pleased and flattered. I love the fan letters that being, “I've never written a fan letter before...” or, when someone comes backstage after a performance unable to speak because he was moved ... that's great! Then I feel I've really gotten through. That something special happened to this person in the theater.

Quite honestly, a “warm” response is rather a letdown. But when they applaud loudly and shout, I work all the harder because I know what's true and untrue in the theater.

Saturday Matinee Best

Matinee audiences are my favorites. Especially Saturday. I think because they pay half the price, they're twice as willing to laugh with half as much to lose. They're already pleased because they've saved some money, so they're in great spirits the minute they hear the overture.

It amazes me that people wait at the stagedoor, but I love it that they do. My fans, as a matter of fact, are an active crowd. They actually participate in my career. For example, I mentioned in my program biography that I collect antique fans—not people. I've received dozens of fans in the past year. All kinds: Japanese, ostrich feather, hand-painted, lace, Spanish. I use them to decorate my dressing room. I also receive poems and beautiful paintings.

It's also very thrilling to receive mail from overseas—from an Army station in Antarctica, a boy in Japan, a Peace Corps worker in Sierra Leone, a government official in Thailand—who also sent a lovely piece of handwoven silk. I've even gotten mail from a convict in a Michigan prison.

But, fame is funny. It's more fun trying to get it than it is to have it.

Recently I watched a rehearsal of the Royal Ballet. Sitting in the audience, I envied— not the exquisite grace of Dame Margot Fonteyn—but any one of the girls in the corps de ballet who dream at night of someday becoming a prima ballerina.


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