We talk to ... Barbra Streisand

August 1965

Barbra talks into tape recorder

Why do you appeal so much to our generation?

I guess at first it was my spirit of rebellion, of making what I have work for me rather than trying to change it. It was a strong position to take, and since it worked it was accepted; it gave other people hope that their dreams could come true.

Did you plan anything, or did you just do what you felt?

I have another quality about me, and it's called laziness. It worked positively—| didn't strive for anything, I did what was right for me. The practical affected the aesthetic; I felt it was a waste of money to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes, so l came up with the gingham gown. I thought, why should l wear beads in a night club? They should be coming to hear me sing, and a gingham dress is just as pretty as a beaded gown. I always did what I wanted to do, and the look came after. My hair was my hair—l had it cut by a barber, in a little shop in London, and I told him how I wanted it. I figured out how to do my eyes from studying light and shadows in painting. I had this artist come and paint my face, with brushes, like a picture, and now when the makeup people come in my dressing room with their little tubes, I tell them—Out! Even if it's wrong, it's right for me, and I do it all myself.

Did you ever want to do anything else, besides go on the stage?

I always wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know what l’d want to major in. Somehow, school didn't seem the right place to learn drama; I thought I might major in languages, or science, or biology, or chemistry, or maybe math, but I really couldn't go because I would have been frustrated in any area. College is great, though—you learn so many things forcibly, it really does base your knowledge. Now, when I first found out about books, I spent a whole summer reading Russian literature, but I never read Faulkner or Steinbeck or Hemingway. I could tell you all about French farces, but those others should have come first. There are so many things I'd like to do; the theatre isn't my whole life. I'd like to travel all over the world and just see things, not work or anything, just absorb everything. I want to do it fast before everybody knows me all over. I don't want people to stop me and say, “Aren't you Barbra Streisand?" because that can be a hang-up.

What do you do to escape from the public eye?

I stay home a Iot—that's about the only thing I can do. I turn off my phone and I take hot oil baths—my bathroom is my great place of relaxation. I keep candy by the bathtub, and roses, and books.

Do you feel that interviews represent you as you really are?

Interviews are very strange things. You get an interviewer, and he might say, “My God, you're not as funny-looking as they say," or “Your nose isn't as big," or “You have great legs," or something, and I say, “I hope you're going to write that," and he says, "Oh, sure, I'll be the one to write it"; and then the article comes out and it's just like all the other ones. They write what they think the public wants to hear.

What do you really want to say?

When I was younger, I always had so much to say; I had to express my guts —that's the big thing. I'd see performers, and they'd be singing a love song and pretending to be in love with someone, and you don't know what the hell they're talking about. It shouldn't be like that, it should be inner, you should keep it to yourself. You can sing a love song but you can really be talking about your bird or your dog—it doesn't have to be a literal translation of the material, it's what it means to you.

How do you maintain a strong, gutsy performance, playing a role so often?

It's very difficult to play a part eight times a week. Just the fact that I'm human means I hit different levels. But I like to work that way, I try to keep it so that each performance is a little different from the others—I try to keep things alive. Last night on stage when I was singing my torch song, “Music That Makes Me Dance," I designed a coat, and I figured out a way to have a detachable fur bottom on this dress that goes with the coat—I have a pad and pencil on my dressing table, and when I come off stage I make notes so I don't forget. Your mind is never thinking about just one thing at a time—all these ideas, they fleet in and out. I work instinctively; it's a moment-to-moment kind of work, and you must accept all the realities of the stage and yourself. You can't rely on a technique.

What would you like to do if you weren't on the stage?

I'd like to be a prima ballerina, or a fashion designer, or a biologist, maybe. When the Royal Ballet was here, I was there every day, at rehearsals and everything; and when I was nine or ten I wanted to be a ballerina, I used to come home every day and put on my toe shoes. But that's a dream that really can't come true—I'm too old; it's a physical thing—those muscles have to be able to rotate. Then, designing—companies have offered to produce the Streisand Line, but I don't have the full time to devote to it; it could only be a small reflection of my ideas, so it really wouldn't be fair.

Do you pick up historical styles for clothing?

Well, look, it’s all been done, only better. The Greeks and the Egyptians, they took yards of cloth and just wrapped it around the body, and that's the most flattering thing. If you're ever in a big bath towel, or a big sheet or something, you look great. You can't see every line of the body, but you can see it when you move. I hate clothes that are tight.

What do you think of girls our age?

I can't make judgments on my contemporaries; I don't know what they're like. Performers, people like me, we think we have the best life, but who are we to say we're right? This is a tough life; and it's very tough to be aware of everything and sensitive to things that happen and to the injustices of the world. It can be rewarding; but people who are happy having a baby and raising it and sending it to school, maybe they're luckier.