The Long Island Newsday Magazine Interview

Oct. 16, 1977

[Note about this interview: Larry Grobel is the author of the famous Streisand interview in PLAYBOY magazine (Oct. 1977). The interview below appeared in The Long Island Newsday magazine. It is new material. Grobel was interviewed by Bruce Mandes for Barbra magazine Vol. 1, No.2 in 1979. Grobel explained that portions of his Streisand interview which were not printed in the PLAYBOY interview appeared in the Long Island Newsday magazine. “It didn't fit the PLAYBOY interview,” he said. Grobel took 9 months to interview Streisand, mostly in the afternoons at her Malibu or Beverly Hills homes.]

Barbra Streisand: ‘I’m Just Beginning To Accept Myself’

The LI Interview by Larry Grobel

From the time she rolled onto Broadway's center stage in a secretarial chair in “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” to her taking almost complete command of the making of her film, “A Star is Born,” (which has so far grossed over $80 million) Barbra Streisand has been one of this country's most versatile and controversial talents. She has been severely blasted and highly praised for her attempts to not only act and sing but to direct, compose, edit and produce her projects.

Born in Brooklyn in 1942, she grew up missing her father, who died when she was an infant, and manipulating her mother, who thought she'd never make it as an actress. After graduating from Erasmus Hall High, she worked at odd jobs and enrolled in acting classes. When her big break didn't happen, she entered a singing contest at a Greenwich Village nightclub and sang her way to the top within a few years.

In 17 years she has made 26 albums and 10 films, including “Funny Girl” and “The Way We Were.” Considered to be the only "bankable" female star in America, her presence seems to dominate the screen even when she plays opposite such stars as Robert Redford, George Segal, Ryan O'Neal, James Caan, and Kris Kristofferson.

In 1963 she married Elliott Gould. That marriage lasted six years. In 1973 she met Jon Peters, a volatile hairdresser who left his business to become a producer. His first two productions were an album, "Butterfly," and a movie, "A Star is Born." His product was Barbra Streisand.

Streisand and Peters spend weekdays at their Holmby Hills estate and weekends at their more intimate ranch complex in Malibu.

Q: Throughout your career you've been subjected to some of the most emotional and often subjective press of any major celebrity. Do you think you've been misrepresented in the press?

STREISAND: Yes. Now, where there's smoke there's fire. But for the most part, I think a lot of people would rather not talk to me because their lies are more interesting than the truth. Or, they think they are.

Q: What do you mean by that?

STREISAND: You can say things about somebody if you've never talked to him, based not on the facts but reporting rumors.

Q: Do you feel most writers who have written about you are unethical?

STREISAND: That's a blanket statement. I couldn't say that.

Q: But you have been reluctant to give interviews. Why?

STREISAND: There are really three parts to that. One is I feel I work enough and I want my own private time, and it takes time to do interviews. Two, when you do give them you find that you were misquoted, or the facts were taken out of context, or some editor decided to cut out one part and leave another. And three, if you do give one and the writer thinks you're really nice, then they don't print it because it’s too sweet. So finally, you don’t give them, and they make it up.

Q: Then why do you react so much to what is written about you?

STREISAND: Because of this craziness I have with the truth. I remember when I first started. It was Arthur Laurents who hired me for "I Can Get It for You Wholesale." Yet, in all the press articles, when they talk about my bio, they say that David Merrick hired me. Because they felt the public knew the name David Merrick and they didn't know Arthur Laurents. But that’s wrong. David Merrick never even saw me until after I was hired.

Q: There's been a lot worse written about you than that. You're aware of the line, “I don’t care what they say about me in print as long as they spell my name right,” aren't you?

STREISAND: You know what I said years ago about that? I don't care what they say about me as long as they spell my name wrong. That’s when everybody was asking me why did I make my name Bar-bra. But believe me, I don't feel that way today. I'm not above it. I really am not. Now that’s an indication of who I am or whatever, bad or good, but it hurts me.

Q: Do you think that you excite such emotional criticism against you because critics can't accept that your talents are not limited to singing and acting?

STREISAND: I don't know. I live it, I don't think about it.

Q: After all the negative reviews appeared about "A Star Is Born," people still flocked to the theaters. Do the reviews bother you as much even after the public has made it a hit?

STREISAND: Oh yeah. If the people also agreed with the critics I would never have made another film. I would have hired myself as an actress, but I would never have attempted what I did again. I would have thought I'm not good at this, I better just stick to singing and acting. If they didn’t like the song I wrote ["Evergreen”], do you think I would have tried to write another so fast?

Q: Did you know the public would respond favorably to the film?

STREISAND: When I first got involved with it I was really excited with some of the ideas, but then when I saw it all finished I thought, "God, I don't know if I accomplished what I set out to do." I only saw the flaws. While I was the executive producer, my big decision at the end was should I put the credit on the screen? Some people were saying to me I better not because I would be blasted for it, and I knew I would be - but I wanted to help the cause of women, too. All women have to take that stand – to get into areas that were formerly reserved for men. But that's what I was, that's what I did. Why do I have to be ashamed of what I did? Also, it was because it was me. There are some women executive producers on television and they never get blasted. It's because it was me, and I'm also an actress and singer, and it was, like, too much.

Q: Perhaps it appeared overindulgent.

STREISAND: Why? It’s only because I'm a woman that this issue even comes up. Why do I have to sell what I did down the river?

Q: What was the difference in your role as executive producer and Jon's as producer?

STREISAND: Jon was responsible for the film being made. He dealt with the budget, with all the people, he made the film on a business level. Also, he was my creative mentor. I would test ideas on him. I trusted his taste. Not necessarily did we agree, but most of the time he had great ideas about something which I would use. He had good instincts. And terrific business sense. I was the executive producer because the film was produced by my own company where I was responsible for all final artistic decisions.

Q: Do you plan on being the executive producer of your future films?

STREISAND: If the film is for my own company, yes. If not, probably no.

Q: When you're working with people on a project as complex as making a movie, what do you feel those who work for you think of you?

STREISAND: What do you expect me to say here, Larry? In working through these last few years I've gotten myself a team of people that I adore. We have mutual love and respect for one another. These people I work with time and time again. But in finding new people who possibly give less than they can and I won't use again, they probably hate me. I cannot bear incompetence. You know where I make my mistake? I can't stand to fire people. That's the joke. I get this reputation about firing people and I can never do it. Yet the press says I fire people. My manager has been with me 17 years, my agents 16 years, my press representative 16 years, my lawyer and accountant 10 years.

Q: Your reputation is made on more public people, often having nothing to do with firing. Like hiring, for example. Before you finally settled on Kris Kristofferson to play opposite you in "Star," there was talk of possibly Elvis Presley or Mick Jagger starring in it. Were they being seriously considered?

STREISAND: Elvis Presley was interesting, I enjoyed talking to him about it. But he surrounded himself with a big entourage of people. I suppose he had to - women chasing him and stuff. When I work, I have no one around me. My work is my own; nobody comes with me.

Q: And Jagger?

STREISAND: I never thought Jagger would be right. Jagger is too fantastic. I don't think you would have ever believed that he could be on his way down. He's so powerful. Also, it didn't look right aesthetically, me and him together. Kristofferson was the perfect one. He's an actor. He's beautiful to look at. He can sing and play the guitar. And he's gentile, which seems to work with me: the Jew and the gentile. I prided myself in his performance.

Q: In what way?

STREISAND: I wanted him to be spectacular. He was very insecure. I wanted to give him the confidence to believe in himself. I remember seeing him in 1971 in a little club and I thought he had incredible charisma and I thought he would be very dynamic on the screen, that he could be a matinee idol. I wanted him to be like a Clark Gable. And he had the ability to look at me with love in his eyes. He was very unselfish in that way.

Q: Many women live out some of their fantasies through you. You once said that our society is based on the make-believe world of films, which is why psychoanalysts are so popular here. Could you elaborate?

STREISAND: What I meant was, when you kiss in the movies and they score it with violins, people then go around measuring their emotions by hearing violins or not. Our psyches are put in shock, we can't seem to deal with the reality of there's no violins. I'm finding it fascinating now to enter into a second phase of my life and get behind what's really happening in relationships with people and in the awareness of what's going on.

Q: What about what's happening in the reality of films? You're a romantic in "A Star Is Born."

STREISAND: That was that movie. But look, I did a movie I really liked, "Up the Sandbox," and nobody bought it.

Q: Why?

STREISAND: I don't think people wanted to see me play a housewife who wasn't funny. It was very discouraging. I remember taking a friend to the theater in Westwood and there were four people there. It sure made me feel bad.

Q: Do you differentiate film from reality? When you're making a film, are you there to encourage fantasy life?

STREISAND: I don't have these intellectualizations going on. I don't operate that way. I might want to do that movie to make everybody cry, with the violins when they kiss. But two months later I might be interested in making a totally realistic film with no underscoring. I'm many, many people. So my next project, what may interest me might be the very opposite of "A Star Is Born": the dead, harsh reality of life.

Q: How many of your movies are really concerned with social issues, social causes, have a message?

STREISAND: Not very many.

Q: Your films are more escapist.


Q: Do you see yourself staying in that genre?


Q: Do you want to get into social realism?

STREISAND: I do, but not to the exclusion of all fantasy films. There's a place for both.

Q: Are there any scripts which you turned down that have gone on to be made into movies you've admired?

STREISAND: A couple, but nothing that I felt, “Oh, God, I wish I played that.”

Q: For instance?

STREISAND: "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" "Cabaret." "Dairy of a Mad Housewife." "Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore." "The Exorcist." "Klute." "The Devils."

Q: Three of those films won Oscars for the actresses. Most of them were strong roles.

STREISAND: They weren't really when they were written. "Klute" was a silly script, plus there was no director attached to it. If I had known it was Alan J. Pakula, I would have done it. In "They Shoot Horses," the other part appealed to me more, the Susanna York part, the blond, crazy girl. And Jane Fonda, who had only done sex movies, playing a kind of straight part was a big hit. I might not have got the New York Critics Award as Fonda did. Also, I remember thinking I couldn't dance that long. I'm very lazy. Very, very lazy. When I look at certain scripts I think, “Oh God, she's got to dance a lot.”

Q: You say you're lazy and then you put three obsessive years into "A Star is Born."

STREISAND: Right, It’s a very erratic laziness. It's not normal.

Q: A creative laziness?

STREISAND: Yeah. You have to push me into something. Once I get there, I'm totally committed. It becomes my life. That's why it's so hard to get me there.

Q: How well do you know yourself?

STREISAND: I'm beginning to really know myself. It’s amazing how much you don't know yourself. I'm just beginning to accept myself, to understand who I am and accept certain things that I know I can't change. And work on things that I think I can change.

Q: What things do you think you can't change?

STREISAND: Certain creative habits. There are certain things that I thought were awful about myself, that I felt guilty about. I'm beginning to accept them now.

Q: What about your reputation for being late?

STREISAND: Yeah, I have a problem, I’m always late: I'm late to my doctor's appointment, to my dentist. I'm always late. I don't mean to be. It’s aggravating. A terrible psychological fault. It keeps me in a state of anxiety all the time. That's a problem I'm working on - to keep me out of this anxiety-ridden state. And it's self-induced, I'm sure. I think about it all the time.

Q: Getting back to roles you've turned down, why did you reject “Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"?

STREISAND: Because at the time I should have been older to have a 12-year-old son. Also, the script wasn't as good, again; and Martin Scorsese wasn't involved with it. Also, she was a singer in a club and I had to be bad. I didn’t feel people would really believe me playing that part. You believe Ellen Burstyn, she was wonderful - and sang just right. I would have botched up the screenplay if I played it.

Q: Are there any straight dramatic parts you're considering?

STREISAND: One part I’m thinking of playing is a woman in the 20’s, an absolute totally opposite of me. A kind of southern belle, ultra-feminine woman who commits murder.

Q: Like a Tennessee Williams character?

STREISAND: Yeah, like that. She's a really conniving, manipulating killer. Her name was Ruth Snyder and it's a real person. She's the first woman ever electrocuted in the electric chair. Her trial, with her lover – they killed her husband - took about a year and was covered every day in the New York Times. What fascinates me about it is the psychology of certain killers, like political assassinations. People kill, sometimes, to have some omnipotence, to have some immortality, to be something more than nothing, to be somebody. Everybody wants to be somebody.

Q: Any other films you're considering?

STREISAND: "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy." And I'd like to do a film about a brother-sister relationship.

Q: Speaking of brothers, you have an older brother who lives in Great Neck, don’t you. What does he do?

STREISAND: Yeah. He had an advertising agency for many years and he's now in real estate.

Q: Any relationship with him?

STREISAND: Yes, we're actually getting closer in our older ages. We were never close because we're 8 ½ years apart. He was a grownup when I was a little kid.

Q: And what about your half-sister, Roslyn Kind? Have you helped her career as a singer at all?

STREISAND: I've tried, yeah. But there's a certain limit to what you can do. If an artist makes a record, there is just so much a record company will do to promote it. That’s what Jon does half his time, to get the record company to stay on top of "Star Is Born." Before I had Jon, my records weren't promoted. Before "Star" I never heard my last few records on the radio. I never heard, not once, a song from "Butterfly" or "Lazy Afternoon" or “Classical Barbra." So what is there to do? I was able to get her a record contract but I can't make them play the record.

Q: Is her voice similar to yours at all?

STREISAND: She has her own wonderful voice. Beautiful.

Q: Since we're on the subject, did you ever take singing lessons?

STREISAND: I once went for singing lessons, like two times. I didn't find it natural so I stopped.

Q: Your choices of songs have often seemed eclectic . . .

STREISAND: I am eclectic! I like all kinds of music. I once had a big fight on television with David Susskind, when I was 18 and we appeared on the old PM East show with Mike Wallace. He said to me, "Why do you sing these obscure songs? How come you don't sing like ‘Night and Day’ and all these great songs by composers?" It was very accusatory.

Q: What did you answer?

STREISAND: I wanted my own identity. I wanted to be associated with songs that people really weren't familiar with. Why would I choose a song that they already associated with another performer? I don't think I answered your question.

Q: Are you bored with singing certain songs that are now associated with you, like “People,” “The Way We Were,” “Sleepin' Bee,” “Happy Days Are Here Again”?

STREISAND: It is boring to hear myself sing the same song over and over. And it's hard. You have to remember all the time that these people come to see you sing, they want to hear that song. But for me, as a performer, it’s very boring. I bore myself. I have to go on to other things. When I opened at the International Hotel in Las Vegas in 1969 I sang all new songs. Part of me knew that people are going to want to hear the same old songs; on the other hand I thought, as a performer, an artist, I want to grow, to expand, do new things. I got absolutely attacked for it. That’s when I decided I'm going to give up performing.

Q: Do you think you might ever sing again in Las Vegas?

STREISAND: If I could bring myself to tour - which, in theory I'd like to do - I would break it in in Las Vegas. I used to love it, when I first came there I was fascinated by the fact there were no clocks. Time stood still. Some people don't come to really hear you; most do, but there's also those who just lost $100,000 at the gambling table that are seated up front and you see these glum faces. Concerts, on the other hand, are a very satisfying experience because the people just come to hear you sing. Someday I'll perform live, but it scares me.

Q: Why haven't you done an album of your own music?

STREISAND: I don't know if I could. It would take forever. Maybe I will one of these days. I always wanted to learn how to read music. Play the piano. Because I hear sounds in my head. I say, "It sounds like a waterfall, or it sounds like a Beethovian or Bartokian chord. If I could only say, "It's an F-sharp minor with a flatted fifth." That's my fantasy, to be able to say that. I'd love to study music. I've always wanted to score a film.

Q: You've been preparing an album called "Life Cycle of a Woman" for six years. It’s supposed to be the first musical drama attempted on record. Why is it taking so long?

STREISAND: I'm already not going to make it. Sounds too impressive. I must pick that up, though. I did one session with three songs and they're quite beautiful. I have more of them.

Q: How often do you just record songs and then forget about it?


Q: You once sang with Judy Garland. How was she when you worked with her?

STREISAND: She was divine. She was kind, sweet, frightened, clutching my hands, holding onto me. We became friends. She was a very sweet, vulnerable lady.

Q: Did you ever study her version of "A Star is Born"?

STREISAND: I've seen it several times. I thought she was extraordinary. All that emotion was so real. She was wonderful.

Q: Did you worry much about doing a remake of the movie, obviously opening yourself up to comparisons?

STREISAND: No. I knew I would be, but I never thought about it.

Q: How is acting like music?

STREISAND: In music there are climaxes, there are decrescendos and crescendos, soft parts and loud parts, you can make a sort of total picture of it. I don't approach acting the same way, although I heard Laurence Olivier does. He breaks down a part in terms of this kind of thing: Here we’ll climax. It’s like an intellectual study of the music, but then he is talented enough to fulfill his structure. I don't operate that way. I operate totally instinctively, because I don't have that much technique. I'm very disciplined in terms of I always know my lines, I can move and talk and do seven things at the same time well. Which I love doing. I find it a challenge, it’s too easy just to act. My directional talents get in the way of my acting. I don't feel that I'm that good an actress. Although I know I'm pretty good because I can get to that raw emotion; when I get to it it’s got to touch people because it's totally true, I'm not faking it. I don't know how to lie.

Q: If you had to choose between singing and acting, which would you choose?


Q: Based on what's available?

STREISAND: You mean from my past? That’s a hard question. I was always in more control of my singing. I could be more responsible for what I did to a song, in a sense, then being part of a film.

Q: How do you feel when you hear remarks that go: It doesn't matter what she acts in, get her to sing six songs and the picture will make $60 million.

STREISAND: I don't like it.

Q: What do you think about the gay impersonations of you?

STREISAND: I wish they would be a little better.

Q: Why do you suppose you're so attractive to gay imitation?

STREISAND: I can be imitated. Although, when they make fun of me, sometimes they make me cross-eyed. I'm not that cross-eyed, I just have a little astigmatism. And they don't even care that I have no nails anymore, they make long nails. Also, I have a slight Brooklyn accent, that's very imitatible.

Q: What do you think about Anita Bryant?

STREISAND: I think Anita Bryant is very dangerous.

Q: Are you aware that in the Hollywood social pecking order, if you go to a party, that party is considered a success no matter what you do or how long you stay?

STREISAND: Isn't that a drag? Ooh, God, that sickens me. I'm aware of it now. I don't like it. That’s why I don’t go to many parties. But sometimes I like to go to parties, 'cause I like to talk to people and find out what they do, how they think.

Q: How do people who know you see you?

STREISAND: People who know me seem to say I'm unaware of who I am. But I'm in the process of finding out. I remember going on the subway with my friend Susan Dworkowitz, who looked like a pixie with white makeup, and I saw all the people looking at her, not at me. I never felt anyone was looking at me. But I knew when I was singing or acting, hey were looking at me.

Q: Speaking of being a child, how is your relationship with your son, Jason?

STREISAND: I'm so proud of my son and of our relationship now. Up until three years ago I related to him like my mother related to me. The image of The Mother. But what does being a mother entitle you to? I never talked down to Jason. I used big words, so he had to ask me what I was saying. Then I would have to explain it to him. Usually I found that he understood most concepts.

Q: What would you like to see Jason become?

STREISAND: A doctor, like every other Jewish mother. That's a very respectable profession.

Q: Not an actor?

STREISAND: I wouldn't like it, but it's for him to do. I don't think anything is wrong, right, worse. Actors live in a kind of fantasy world. It's a kind of escape from reality. I would hope Jason doesn't have to be an actor. Usually actors have to be actors. That's where their psyches lead them to.

Q: And do their psyches need awards and recognition to keep them going?

STREISAND: Awards don't mean that much to me. They never did. Although they meant a lot on my last picture. Every year they give me an award in some country. Usually Italy. Donatello Award, best actress . . . But they only will give it to you if you come and get it. So I've never gotten it. It's like a publicity stunt. I don't want it. I'm not interested in those awards. Like the year I got the Oscar with Katherine Hepburn. I was embarrassed to get that award. Because there were five great performances I that year and I felt that, first of all, it's all unfair, because one year there might be two good performances, one year there might be none. One year there might be seven. Why is it limited to five? Art doesn't have those kinds of limits. And I thought each one of those performances was extraordinary. Now, the year I was nominated for 'The Way We Were," I felt I deserved that award. I felt was the best of those five for the year.

Q: Are there any other stars who you think could duplicate your grand slam - winning the Emmy, the Oscar, the Grammy and the Tony?

STREISAND: That's a terrible question to ask me, Larry.

Q: Do you feel that you deserve whatever you have?

STREISAND: I didn't feel it for the longest period of time. But I'm beginning to feel it now. I was much more selfish, self-insulated, I only saw my own little world. Now, it’s like I'm letting the people in. And they reach me, they touch me and I feel good about what I do for them. So I feel like I deserve it now.

Q: What do you think your audience expects of you?


Q: What is the most frightening thing about being a star?

STREISAND: It’s just the vulnerable position it puts you in, to be constantly attacked, to be the object of envy, to be not regarded sometimes as flesh and blood. Also, one negative thing about being famous is you’re a target for lawsuits. People see dollar signs when they look at you and justice goes right by the wayside.

Q: Does other people’s envy really bother you?

STREISAND: I feel bad when people envy me, because I feel guilty about a lot of my success. I look around at the misery of the world, at the prices rising. I get shocked when I go into a market and try to buy a loaf of bread. I find it outrageous. My mind always goes to the people making $100 or $150 a week, what do they do? I feel terribly guilty.

Q: Have you ever read any of the books about you?

STREISAND: No, they don’t interest me. What would I learn? That would be like an ego trip. But I heard that there were some terrible things in one of them and I don’t want to read it and be upset because there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t want to have the pain of it.

Q: Henry Moore told me he won’t read any books about him that psychoanalyze his work because he doesn’t want to know what makes him tick.

STREISAND: I don’t find that to be true. That’s the same theory about actors who go to be psychoanalyzed: The art is based on the neurosis and if you clear the neurosis there’s no more art left. I think that’s a lot of crap.

Q: What do you do during the day when you’re not making a film or recording?

STREISAND: Would you believe I sit with contractors for six hours talking about waterproofing vinyl and moisture barriers and who does the caulking, the painter or the roof man? Trying to figure out who does what. That’s why I loved living in an apartment. But you want to hear something? My apartment in New York is totally full of leaks.

Q: Do you keep a journal or a diary?

STREISAND: No, and I really should. Every year I buy little journals, pretty books; now I buy tape recorders, and I never use them. It’s a shame, too, because I do want to write a book some day.

Q: It might be interesting if you tried to write a movie. Maybe you aren’t fully cognizant of all your talents.

STREISAND: Maybe not.

Q: What are your current goals?

STREISAND: My goals now are to grow as a person, an unmarried wife, mother, friend. Learning more about all the crafts that interest me. Having the time to read a book and look upwards.

Q: So, here you are, at a place which is considered by many to be the top, and you’re seeing it as, if this is the top, there’s so much more to go.

STREISAND: Absolutely. Exactly.


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