Basin Street East

137 East 48th Street

New York

May 13—June 1, 1963

Exterior of Basin Street East with marquee

Basin Street East was an elegant nightspot located in Manhattan's East Side. Barbra Streisand played the room in 1963, opening for legendary jazz man Benny Goodman.

Author James Gavin described the “long rectangular room that held three hundred and forty” as located “in the former grand ballroom of the Shelton Towers Hotel, one of Manhattan's first skyscrapers ...”

There is a stereo recording of three of Streisand's songs from this engagement, made in mid-May 1963. Benny Goodman can be heard introducing Streisand. Her first three numbers the evening the recording was made were:

Streisand's admirers were mentioned in Louis Sabol's May 19, 1963 column:

Barbra Streisand now has a fan club of two enthusiastic members—Cecil Beaton and Truman Capote, who caught her act at Basin Street and shouted their enthusiasm. “She's fabulous,” insisted Capote.

(Below: Barbra, backstage at Basin Street East.)

Streisand singing at Basin Street

Theodore Mann, who was the son of Basin Street's owner, wrote about a “bedraggled hippie girl” who auditioned for him at Circle in the Square Theater (for a role she did not get). “But something about her rang a chord inside me. Not much later, I read that the same actress was singing at the Bon Soir and I went to see her. Afterwards, I called my dad to say how wonderful she was and that Basin Street should book her. Dad hired her as the opening act for Benny Goodman's quartet, the star attraction. This young waif who would be the hit of the nightclub circuit wore a red checkered dress she'd designed herself. Her name was Barbra Streisand.”

Basin Street ad

In the October 1963 edition of Sir! magazine, Tom McArdle reviewed the show he saw at Basin Street East:

La Streisand is a top performer and when the mood strikes, a funny one to boot. She even drew laughs when she playfully mocked at upstaging Benny Goodman, who for this man’s money is one of the greatest greats. Tyree Glenn, that indomitable trombone player, would have none of this type of hilarity. This made the unrehearsed bit even more spontaneous and raucous. However, not all of the audience approved of the clowning in back of Benny Goodman’s magic with the clarinet.

Billboard's Bob Rolontz had praises for Streisand's engagement at Basin Street East, too:

A World of Talent and Class

There are few young entertainers who have come along in the past decade with the talent and ability of Barbra Streisand. She can sing a ballad with an emotional intensity that is catching, and she also has a comedy flair that to this reviewer is akin to that of the great Bea Lillie.

Miss Streisand showed all of these facets of herself at her debut at New York's Basin Street last Monday before an overflow audience that included almost all of show business, from singer Georgia Brown and Connie Francis to the town's top agents, bookers, record people and scribes.

[...] suffice it to say that in addition to her performing ability, she also has a fine taste in songs. She did a magnificent job on Who Will Buy? from Oliver!; turned the bright oldie Happy Days Are Here Again into a touching and wistful ballad, and won the hearts of all with her dramatic reading of When the Sun Comes Out. She showed a deadpan comedy style with her riotous straight version of Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? and took the entire folkniks scene for a merry ride with her serious and involved story of the plot of an Estonian folk song, which she never sang. Barbra, you're quite a girl, and all performer.

Streisand's contract with Basin Street was for $2,500 a week. A remark on the actual contract specifies: “...Barbra Streisand is to receive 75% billing of the billing to be given to Benny Goodman, who will be the other performer during the period of Miss Streisand's engagement.

Detail of Streisand's 1963 Basin Street East contract

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