New York cover 1968

New York Magazine

September 9, 1968

Lively Arts : The Truth Game

Barbra Streisand Talks to John Hallowell

Illustrated by Bob Schulenberg

[Barbra Archives Note: Barbra fans, Schulenberg was an early friend of Barbra's during her Bon Soir days.]

... Meanwhile, writer John Hallowell was trying a different interviewing approach in his story on superstar Barbra Streisand. In "The Truth Game," Hallowell captured some of the spontaneity and fresh imagination that are as much a part of the star of Funny Girl as her striking physical appearance. (See page 40 for the results.)

What's it like to interview La Streisand, we asked.

"She's a writer's dream," we were duly informed. "The greatest quotes I ever heard. You can't make up lines that good—or true." Hallowell and Streisand originally taped an interview of about 10,000 words, most of which they edited out. They didn't ring true enough to Barbra.

"She's tough," says Hallowell, "I'm sure that's why she's had such bad publicity. She won't gush or play the game and be nice to get a great story. She hates all faking."

Hallowell has interviewed Streisand several times in the past: first, when, as an entertainment correspondent for Life, he did an article on Broadway stars in long runs. "I was petrified of her," he says. But he survived to write a long study of her work with William Wyler on the film of Funny Girl ...

Schulenberg illustration of Streisand

Hallowell: Let's start with something different. There's this game called "The Truth Game" and I'd like to play it.

Streisand: Okay.

Hallowell: If you were a car, what car would you be?

Streisand: Well, at times I'm an Excalibur. At times a 1925 Rolls ... and at times I'm a broken down Ford.

Hallowell: What about — what animal?

Streisand: My husband says I'm a hamster.

Hallowell: If you were a color, what color would you be?

Streisand: I think ... wine.

Hallowell: What bird?

Streisand: (laughs) Tweety bird. No, I'm some exotic jungle bird. And maybe an ordinary — not a pigeon — a little sparrow.

Hallowell: What century?

Streisand: I think the 19th, and the 15th, or is it the 14th? — Oh, Christ! Oh yeah! B.C.

Hallowell: What composer?

Streisand: Bartok ... a little strange and dissonant ... maybe I'm mauve.

Hallowell: What article of clothing?

Streisand: A crepe black satin slip.

Hallowell: What painting by a famous painter?

Streisand: This is a good game. I like it. It's great for an interview, because it's sensuous and the only things that are important are the five senses. What painting by a famous painter? A Woman Bathing by Rembrandt.

Hallowell: What city in the world?

Streisand: Well, I've hardly been anywhere, so it's hard for me to say.

Hallowell: What famous historical character?

Streisand: Hmmm. I don't really identify with anybody.

Hallowell: What drink?

Streisand: Tab.

Hallowell: What period furniture?

Streisand: Louis XV, XVI, Victorian, and at the moment, especially Art Nouveau.

Hallowell: What flower?

Streisand: Gardenia.

Hallowell: What astrological sign?

Streisand: A Taurean, who likes Virgos, Pisces and Aries ... Actually, I'm a mixture of heliotrope, burnt orange, fuchsia and gray — with a little dab of taupe on the side.

Hallowell: What other singers?

Streisand: Ray Charles and Florence Foster Jenkins.

Hallowell: What thing that can be bought at a soda fountain?

Streisand: Seltzer.

Hallowell: Now, let's talk about the press.

Streisand: Gee, from seltzer to the press.

Hallowell: How do you feel about some of the terrible press?

Streisand: Captured ??? (She laughs) Slaughtered, barbecued, pickled!

Hallowell: How do you think the public interprets what has been written about you?

Streisand: Well, I think most people believe what they read, because of the power of the printed word. I only wish they would stop and think — hey, what about the personality of the person doing the interview? Maybe he didn't have enough sleep last night — maybe he has indigestion— maybe the laundry put too much starch in his collar. You know, we subjects have a lot to put up with! I wonder if the readers realize that each personality is being seen through the writer's eyes, neuroses, sensitivities, intelligence and perception — or lack of each one of these things.

Hallowell: Your critics say —

Streisand: What critics?

Hallowell: Some of the gossip columnists —

Streisand: Oh, you mean the yentas.

Hallowell: (laughs) Forget that question. Compared to you now at 26, what were you like when you were eight?

Streisand: Smaller.

Hallowell: No, I mean what kind of kid were you in school?

Streisand: I got A's in all my subjects and D in conduct. See, I haven't changed at all! (She laughs) I remember at Yeshiva, they used to tell us that we couldn't say the word 'Christmas.' So as soon as the teacher went out of the room I'd say 'Christmas, Christmas, Christmas,' and be frightened to death that something would happen to me.

Illustration of Streisand as a fish

Hallowell: When you were a little girl, did you play with dolls?

Streisand: Didn't I ever tell you about my doll? God, I never had a doll, so I used a hot water bottle. I had this hot water bottle ... filled with water ... and I swear it felt real ... you know it was like a rubber tummy. And I had this pink sweater on it, 'cause the lady that took care of me was a knitting lady ... so I had this sweater on it ... and I had a hat covering the screw part of the top. That was my doll.

Hallowell: Were there any special movies that you liked as a kid?

Streisand: It didn't matter what the movie was — as long as it was in Technicolor.

Hallowell: Now that you're in your second "Technicolor" film — and a movie star — has your dream come true?

Streisand: Well, you see, I never really wanted to be a movie star in terms of signing autographs. I only wish they would stop and think — hey, what about the personality of the person and being recognized and all that. I really wanted to be the character in the movie. I wanted to be ... not myself. I wanted to be Scarlett O'Hara ... not Vivien Leigh.

Streisand illustrated as a chair

Hallowell: If you were a reporter, what question would you most want to ask Barbra Streisand?

Streisand: By the way, you say my name wrong. It's Strei-sand. Sand. Like sand on the beach.

Hallowell: How is it ... Streisen?

Streisand: Streisand.

Hallowell: Oh, Streisand.

Streisand: Yeah, but it's Strei-sand. On the first syllable. Barbra Streisand. How can I be famous — nobody pronounces my name right ... you never heard anybody say Bette Davis.

Hallowell: Okay, another one. Do you ever worry about losing your voice?

Streisand: Of course not ... I think worry makes you lose your voice! No kidding, I don't believe in indulging my vocal chords. Mostly what makes me sing is my inner self and my acting. And if I want to hold a note because I think it's right at the moment, I hold the note, and if I don't want to, I really can't. I never sing in the shower ... I never sing by myself ... my voice comes out awful. When I had a sore throat as a kid, my mother used to put a woolen sock around my neck (preferably used!). I still do that ... with a safety pin. One day the safety pin is gonna open in bed ... Ahhhhgh! Puncture my vocal chords! That I worry about!

Hallowell: You love to eat, yet you have to discipline yourself as an artist. How do you handle the struggle between the two?

Streisand: How do I handle it? I'm eight pounds overweight, that's how I handle it! I keep on justifying it by saying I want Dolly to be a little Victorian. You know, a plump, Victorian figure? Sort of adds to my character. I'm a complete hypocrite about food. What I do is have chocolate souffle for dessert, and put Sucaryl in my tea!

Hallowell: Have you ever encountered prejudice?

Streisand: I don't know. I never applied to a country club.

Hallowell: Do you always love to laugh?

Streisand: Well, I think a lot of things are funny.

Hallowell: What would you do if the bottom dropped out of the Barbra Streisand market tomorrow?

Streisand: Look. Everything is momentary. You do a good picture, great; you do a lousy one, nobody wants you. That's why you have to have a husband, children, and antique furniture.

Hallowell: What is it like way down there, inside Barbra, where the singing comes from?

Streisand: Well, as somebody once said to me — 'There's a whole area inside you that has never been touched.' I guess it keeps people interested because I have secrets ... and I won't tell.

Hallowell: Finally, Barbra, are you happy?

Streisand: Are you kidding? I'd be miserable if I was happy!