The Caucus Club

150 W. Congress Street

Detroit, Michigan

March 2—April 2, 1961

April 6—15, 1961

July 17—August 12, 1961

Entrance to the Caucus Club

Head shot of Barbra Streisand at Caucus Club

The Caucus Club, located on the ground floor of the Penobscot Building in Detroit, had dark paneling and brass sconces. Streisand—18 years old at the time—began working with a manager (Ted Rozar) in November 1960 (they signed a three-year contract). Aso around that time, Barbra secured a talent agency and agent (Irvin Arthur of the Associated Booking Corporation).

Les Gruber, a restaurateur in Detroit, recalled, “Back in early 1961, Irvin Arthur, a New York agent called me. He said, ‘I’ve just heard a girl at an amateur show at Bon Soir and I think she'd be good for you.’ I have a lot of faith in Arthur’s taste. He knew what we were looking for in youngsters to work the Caucus Club. Everyone he sent me was what he said.”

Ross Chapman, publicist for The Caucus Club, remembered what he described as the near fiasco of hiring Streisand: “We told her she had four spots to do at the Caucus and she'd need at least 11 numbers. I asked how she was going to learn seven or eight numbers by nine that night—her first show. She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘‘I’m a fast learner.’ Matt [Michaels, pianist] rehearsed her until eight, when he had to go to work. He got her up to 10 songs. By the time she left Detroit, she knew 80 songs.” [Note: this sounds like a publicist's exaggeration.)

When Streisand returned to Detroit to perform concerts in 1994, Caucus Club pianist Matt Michaels told a journalist his memories of Barbra in 1961: “We worked three or four hours every day until we had a repertoire going. She worked hard. I cannot say she was not one of the most ambitious girls I'd ever met. She was. She'd work in front of a mirror, developing her performing style. She was going to do whatever it would take to make it.”

“She was like a ten-year-old in Detroit,” said her friend Bob Schulenberg to biographer René Jordan. “She went to see Mae West and she went horseback riding and took her first driving lessons.”

Years later, in 2013, Streisand confessed: “I just found the letters that I wrote my mother when I was 17, 18, my first job away from New York City after the Bon Soir. So I was 18 years old, and I was giving her a list of songs to get the sheet music to, some—you know, Harold Arlen, I loved Harold Arlen.”

(Below: Streisand poses at The Caucus Club for the press during her 1961 gig there.)

Photos of Streisand at the club

Barbra, who was housed at Detroit's Hotel Wolverine during her run at the Caucus Club, added “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” from the Broadway musical The Fantasticks to her repertoire.

At the Detroit nightclub Barbra got her first taste of life on the road outside the comfort zone of New York.

Caucus Club ad

During her Caucus Club gig, Barbra flew to New York to appear on The Jack Paar Show (hosted by Orson Bean). On air, she thanked her Detroit friends Dick Sloan and Bernie Moray for clothing her. Moray told the Detroit News in 2000, “We'd always invite Barbra over to the table, and we'd feed her,” he said. “She was just a child! She was 16 (actually 18), and I was 36. But we got to know her very well, because we were there all the time. We'd even critique her clothes. I gave her some fabrics from the store, and she'd make skirts and dresses out of them.”

It was while Streisand was working at The Caucus Club in Detroit that Marty Erlichman began acting as her agent. He told Vanity Fair in 1991:

She was playing some club in Detroit and was only making $150 a week. She wanted $200 a week plus dinners. Her agent wasn’t helping her out, so she remembered I wanted to represent her. She called and told me her problem. ‘But I can’t pay you any commission,’ she warned me. I got on the first plane to Detroit and worked out a deal. The owners— a pair of brothers—only offered her $175 and no dinners. I told them behind her back I’d pay them the twenty-five-dollar difference if they’d throw in the dinners, which is what happened. The brothers said to me, ‘Let us get this straight. You flew here at your own expense so you could pay us twenty-five dollars and you’re not even her manager? You must really believe this girl is going to be a star.’ I sure as hell did.

It's interesting to look at the contract between Streisand and the restaurateur Lester Gruber for her gigs at the Caucus Club. It's on an AGVA (American Guild of Variety Artists) Standard Form of Artists Engagement Contract form.

On one of the contracts, dated March 1, 1961, Streisand's manager at the time (Ted Rozar) signed it with a salary for Barbra of $150 a week.

Caucus Club contract

[Note: Whoever typed up this contract ... oy! Barbra Streisand's name is spelled “Barbara Striechsand”!]

Later, when Streisand appeared at the club in July 1961, her salary was upped to $250 a week.

Caucus contract for June engagement

The Caucus Club closed in October 2012; but Streisand fan B. Johnson snapped a photo of their Streisand tribute wall before the venue shuttered its doors forever.

Streisand tribute wall at Caucus Club


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