The Trouble With Not Being Ingenue

The Trouble with not being ingenue

San Francisco Sunday Chronicle

April 7, 1963

By Joan McKinney

Photo of Barbra Streisand

She's been called “kookie” and a “fresh brat” and has earned a reputation for being able to hold her own with such practiced “needlers” as television's Mike Wallace and Jack Paar.

But basically, declared Barbra Streisand, pushing an overhang of tawny hair away from one lambent blue eye, “I'm really shy.”

“No, honest,” she said, noting a faint look of skepticism across the luncheon table at Bardelli's. “I am. Outwardly, no, because my shyness makes me aggressive or defensive, whichever way you like to put it.

“When I started appearing on Mike Wallace's P.M. East show, he used to be fresh with me, so I talked back to him.

“From the response we got, I found that a lot of people just adored the way I spoke my mind, and was not sweet, and others despised me and thought I was a fresh brat. I was only 19 then.”

Barbra (who is currently packing 'em in at the hungry i) has aroused these kinds of reactions — violently pro or con, but never indifferent — ever since she hit the New York night club circuit as a singer less than three years ago.

They say she's 21 now, but she says she's 20, and just married to actor Elliott Gould, who's appearing in the London company of “On the Town.”

As a matter of fact, she never intended to hit anything as a singer. The daughter of a doctor of English literature, born in Brooklyn, her aim was to be an actress.

“But I couldn't get work in the theater, because I wasn't the ingenue type,” she said.

“Nobody would give me a chance, and I didn't want to go through the routine of knocking on doors and all that stuff.

“So I learned two songs and entered a talent contest at a little place in the Village. I won.”

This led to her introduction at the Bon Soir (she'd learned three or four more songs by then) in New York, and after that, she admitted, “everything came to a point on a national level.”

She made a record for Columbia but recording is another medium —“I'm not with it yet” — was wildly successful in her first real acting job as Miss Marmelstein in David Merrick's production of “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” (where she met her husband) and has been signed to play the title role in a forthcoming dramatization of the life of Fanny Brice.

There was, however, a short period, before all this when, Barbra admitted frankly, “I didn't have work and I needed money.”

That was when she made the contact with Enrico Banducci reported recently in the Sunday Datebook. She called him “that moron in the black beret” and predicted that he'd be down on his scabby knees begging her for a contract before the year was out.

Does that sound like a shy girl?

“Well, really, I was scared to death,” she insisted. “But since I really didn't want to be a singer, anyway, I decided to approach it as an actress.

“And we clicked. Enrico is an absolute doll.”

Enrico, by this time, returns the compliments in spades as he rubs his hands over the nightly crowds cheering this strange, contradictory young girl.

She's sophisticated in appearance (the clothes are self-designed or from name couturiers via a second-hand shop) and naive in some aspects (didn't know that the Beatniks were “out” in San Francisco) sings only what she likes (and why does she like “Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”?) and is simply dying to get her hands on a big old West Side apartment in New York and fill it up with Victorian furniture.

Only one thing about her is predictable — she certainly will never be dull.


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