Singer's Success Story

September 16, 1963

A Near-Legend at Twenty-One

by Rona Barrett

Around the country people are talking about Barbra Streisand, the inimitable comedienne, tragedienne and song stylist who played a secondary role in Broadway's I Can Get It For You Wholesale and stole all the reviews, who turned Mike Wallace and the Tonight show inside out by saying and doing exactly what she wanted, and who made a cheery song, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” into a pocketful of tears!

The stories range fromt eh ridiculous to the sublime. She is said to be anywhere from 18 to 35. It is said she really comes from Madagascar, not Brooklyn. It is said she is a beatnik and a kook.

I was even told recently that her manager, Marty Erlichman, got her by purchasing her contract for $100 from an “unmentionable” hood.

The stories are becoming legendary. But only once in a generation does a talent like Streisand come along; the last was probably Judy Garland.

Barbra recently played the famous Coconut Grove here while also taping Chryler Presents a Bob Hope Special for airing September 27. Her opening night at the Grove will go down in show biz annals. It was a “Who's Who” night and a dream come true for Streisand.

“I used to read about Hollywood and all the stars in the movie magazines while I was under the hair dryer,” she said in her nasal tone.

“But I don't think I want to meet too many other stars. It's a disillusion when suddenly you see they have spaces between their teeth.”

Barbra was sucking on a chicken bone while we chatted in her suite at the Ambassador. She wore a pair of bell-bottom white sailor pants and a white blouse. Her hair hung down straight. She had no make-up on except for eyeliner around her blue eyes. She wore a simple gold wedding band.

Contrary to most rumors, she is still married to actor Elliott Gould, whom she starred with in Wholesale.

She recently rented a six-room duplex apartment on Central Park West. During our conversation she said, “Two careers in a family is rough, but I'll let nature take its course. I don't plan to have any kids yet, but the producers of my new play, Funny Girl, have insurance on me in case I get pregnant.”

Apartment Thrills

“This new place is wild. It's got a winding stairway. I always wanted to make a grand entrance. You know what I mean? The movie kind. I like antiques. I'm going to furnish the place with them.”

Barbra Streisand's beauty is unique. She is as beautiful in her way as Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor are in theirs. Though her Semetic nose is slightly too large for her well-defined facial bone structure, it give her that distinguishable look you'll never forget.

My meeting with Barbra went like this:

“Hey, yeah ... we met before. Sit down. Wanna piece of chicken? A drink? Hey, where do I know you from? ... Just a minute I gotta make a phone call. ...Hello, Jack. Like what do I have to do to keep some silverware and my silex machine in the room. Every time they clean the place I can't find a fork or a knife. Should I hide the stuff? I had to bring my own barbecued chicken in tonight. The only thing left I had was my hands. Okay. I'll talk to ya later.

“Now where was I? Oh yeah! How I was discovered. Well, I was playing this place in the Village called the Bon Soir. I was singing for a gag. I couldn't get a job as an actress. So I figured I'd sing till I could get a part on Broadway.

“I was hired for two weeks, but I had no contract so they could fire me any time they wanted. I lasted eleven weeks. I probably would still be singing there if they hadn't booked another singer in the spot.

“So anyway, this guy came into the club one night and introduced himself as the only gentile manager in show business. Who knew from managers? I signed with him. The creep. I had to pay him off to get him out of my hair. He owns real estate now. Maybe I should have taken a percentage of him. Anyway, when I played the place for a second time, Marty came to see me. He looked like the manager type. He was like the same kind of person I was. So I signed with him.”

Had To Be A Star

“But I had to be a star. I never could have been in the chorus. I was the most hated girl on Broadway. I think that's why I married Elliott. He was the only one in the show who liked me.

“Like no one could understand how a girl like me could suddenly come off with all those raves. Everyone expects you to slave in 70 plays before you make it.

“My new album is called The Second Barbra Streisand Album because that's just what it is. Why should I give it some fancy name that no one remembers anyway?

“You know people watch me sing and they think I'm putting 'em on. I'm not. This is me. Maybe I'm stupid, but I live by that old fashioned rule: To thine own self be true.

“People think I'm a beatnik. I'm not. I never even hung around with poets and I hated the Village. I never even had any friends. I was always skinny and people used to make fun of me. But I always sensed things about people. You know what I mean?

“You know Playbill won't print my bio any more? They think I lied to them when I told them I came from Madagascar. I wasn't trying to be flip about making up stories about myself. But you know how people are.

“You know I gave up walking the pavements after two days. I had too much pride to beg for a job. I'd cry hysterically every time an agent or producer wouldn't let me see him.”

Too Proud To Beg

“When I finally got a job at the Bon Soir, I never ever had any dressy dresses to wear. I think that's where I got the reputation of being a beatnik. I also hate the cold. I'd never walk out of the house in the winter time unless I had long stockings on, boots, three sweaters, a scarf and an overcoat.

“I know what a song is going to sound like before I hear it. After all, I've been singing most of these songs way before I could afford a pianist, let alone a violinist.

“Do I like being successful? Yeah. I do. I think I'm becoming a nicer person. I'm learning to accept myself. I used to be on the defensive all the time and that's bad!”

Bobby Darin once said that, by the time he was 25, he would be a legend. And Barbra asks in her charming Brooklynese, “So what's a legend?” At 21 she is close to really being one.