Streisand “Happiest She's Ever Been”
June 27, 1974
By Joyce Haber
How does it feel to be awakened by Barbra Streisand? I found out two days ago when the telephone jarred me out of my sleep. Immediately, I knew it was new Barbra. The voice was soft, apologetic: “Listen, I'm sorry to wake you, but I have to go to work,” she said. La Streisand, of course, is finishing up Ray Stark's Funny Lady for Columbia.
“Why don't you go splash some water on your face?” the new, warm Barbra suggested. By that time, I was awake and aware that she must be calling about my Tuesday column. I had printed, as reported to me by three sources and double-checked, that Columbia Records called in a special, veteran engineer to work on Barbra's next album, Butterfly. I had quoted the engineer, Al Schmitt, at some length, including Schmitt's statement that Barbra's beau and the LP's producer, Jon Peters, a Beverly Hills hairstylist, is “not a record producer.” Peters is producing the album.
“Is Schmitt trying to imply that I've given up my career for Jon Peters?” Barbra asked. “I don't even know this Schmitt. The only thing he said that's true is ‘Barbra has this thing of knowing exactly what's right for her.’” With that I must agree. “This is possibly the best singing I've ever done,” Barbra added. That's what Al Schmitt told Jon. It's the most open, the most free, the most happy.”
Gravitating Toward Butterflies
“I'm an artist. Jon and I have to deal with ourselves on two levels—as creative people and as lovers. The reason we're calling it Butterfly is that when we first met he said I reminded him of a butterfly. He gave me this 100-year-old Indian butterfly. Both of us gravitate toward butterflies.
“Jon designed the album cover. For the first time in my life, I'm the happiest I've ever been. My work has become fun for me, and it used to be a drag. My attitude has changed towards people. I'm less afraid. That's Jon. It kills me to have him put down more than to have me put down.”
According to Barbra and Columbia Records VP Charles Koppelman, Mr. Schmitt was “fired”: He didn't leave. “He's being vindictive,” says Miss Streisand. Adds Koppelman: “Under no circumstances would Columbia sanction an album with Peters and Barbra unless I was convinced it was absolutely right. I've had about 10 meetings with Peters. He's an immensely talented man.
“Schmitt went in to listen to the album. He came out and said it wasn't right. He told Jon he wanted to coproduce it with him. Obviously, he was upset because he was going to be on the gravy train. He told Peters, ‘I've been in the business 25 years and you've been in it 25 minutes.’ (Koppelman laughed.) It just sometimes happens that 25 minutes produces genius.
“This album is not only one of the best, it'll be one of the biggest Barbra's ever made. She wouldn't be closing our convention in August singing songs from it if I didn't think so.”
Barbra went further, explaining that “from a sound point of view, Columbia may have wanted more amplification. You can have 100 mixers on one song. Schmitt did three cuts. I didn't like them. I wanted this soft, then rising.”
From the sound point of view, La Streisand is indeed a new woman, which she attributes to Peters (he's estranged from Lesley Ann Warren, who has “no comment”). Barbra is soft, and still rising.
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