Barbra: A Personal Scrapbook
In Style Magazine
The child is playing cards. She is unprepossessing, wearing a simple dress, her hair unflatteringly parted at the side. Perhaps there is another player, out of the frame, but the young girl seems quite solitary. This is the earliest of 20 photographs that Barbra Streisand personally selected for an album of meaningful moments in her life. The picture is oddly appropriate. Her game has always been solitaire. Play your cards as best you can and try to win: Your only opponents are yourself and the luck of the draw—doing the best you can with what you're dealt.
Fate dealt Barbara Joan Streisand (she still had the third a then) an asymmetrical face with a distinctive nose. It dealt her a father who died when she was a toddler, a mother and stepfather who withheld the love she craved. And it dealt her a voice, pure yet searing, and an intelligence that cut through everything in its path, even herself. She re-created herself, managing her own rebirth so many times in her three decades in the public eye that today she is the most powerful and accomplished woman in show business: singer, actress, producer, director, legend.
Her new movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces, a story about a woman who makes herself over, has a more than passing relationship to Streisand’s own questions about self-image. When she announced the project, one she produced and directed as well as starred in, she said that the fluffy romance contained “serious overtones about vanity and beauty, the external versus the internal.” Only in art does Streisand restrict herself to two faces; in life, she has had many more, as evidenced in the reflections shown on these pages.
The face changes, from awkward Brooklynite to Cleopatra-eyed siren to the fresh, natural look she has today. She never, however, ﬁxed the nose she was born with—so fearful is she of elective surgery, she says. The hair changes: straggly to Sassoon—shaped to beehive to corkscrew frizz to smooth pageboy. There is always a new hat: a la Jackie, Nefertiti, Annie Hall. She loves clothes, from the thrift—shop duds she wore in her Greenwich Village singing début in the early sixties to the Arnold Scaasi pantsuit she wore to accept her Oscar for Funny Girl in 1969 to the risqué Donna Karan pinstripe suit she wore for President Clinton’s inaugural gala in ’93. She even has designed her own. Thanks to low-fat everything, the slim ﬁgure hasn’t changed. Nor, oh!, those nails.
Her surroundings, too, are reﬂections, changing stage sets for her personal work in progress. With her first earnings from Broadway, she bought an art nouveau desk for $2,800. In 1969 she bought the Holmby Hills estate she still owns in Los Angeles, furnishing it with pieces from Frank Lloyd Wright and other American craftsmen. On 24 acres in Malibu she decorated ﬁve houses, including an art deco cottage with vintage clothing in the closets. Then, in 1994, she auctioned her deco and art nouveau collections for $6.2 million. She donated the Malibu property to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, saying that she needed “a cleansing of my heart, my mind and my soul.” A new reflection.
There have been as many escorts on her arm as there have been award statuettes. The most enduring man in her life has been her son, Jason Gould, now 29. She was married only once, to actor Elliot Gould, but many of her leading men were linked romantically with her name: Omar Sharif, Ryan O’Neal, Warren Beatty. And then there were former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, ice cream heir Richard Baskin, tennis player Andre Agassi, newsman Peter Jennings. Almost every one remains a friend. Jon Peters, a hairdresser turned movie producer, threw her a 5oth birthday party after their breakup, and got Columbia to distribute her movie The Prince of Tides.
The changes have not all been on the surface. Friend Shirley MacLaine, with whom Streisand celebrates birthdays, has called Barbra “a question machine.” Stardom at 2o sent her into therapy. She has sought her inner child, studied dreams in Arizona, meditated in Massachusetts. Recently, Streisand conquered a fear of performing that plagued her since she blanked on lyrics at a 1967 concert. Afterward, she restricted her performances to Democratic fund-raising events. But in a 1994 concert in Las Vegas, she was able to crow, “I did it!” That tour, with tickets going for up to $35o, was a hit: New York’s Madison Square Garden sold out in 20 minutes. Not bad for a funny-looking kid from Brooklyn.
Diamonds she has had in spades; she has also had hearts. But always the child of the card game waited for that other player. The last photograph in this album shows the man she believes may be the one: James Brolin. He doesn’t have her show business stature—no one does—but he has been a successful TV actor for years, in Marcus Welby, M.D., and in Hotel. In September he sustained her as she cranked up for a Bill Clinton fund-raiser, singing her signature tune “The Way We Were.” The way she was is reflected in these pictures. The woman in the mirror now has the face of a woman in love.
(Top Photo, below: “I was really scared to perform that night. I walked on stage with all my lyrics in my hand.”)
—Claudia Glenn Dowling