The Cocoanut Grove
Los Angeles, California
August 21—September 8, 1963
Located at the Ambassador Hotel, the Cocoanut Grove was a lavish and legendary Los Angeles nightspot (now demolished). Its very chic interior was straight out of a Hollywood movie: tables were situated among a literal grove of cocoanut trees. Many Academy Awards ceremonies were held there in its day. The Grove was also seen in Judy Garland's 1954 film, A Star is Born.
The Cocoanut Grove was a very important milestone for Streisand. It was her West Coast debut. Thankfully, her entire three-week run was sold out. Streisand sang at 10:15 during the week and then performed two shows on Fridays and Saturdays—the first at 9:30 PM and a second show at midnight.
“Just think,” Streisand told Variety, “one year ago this month I was earning $400 weekly, and making $108 per week a few months before that. Today, I am turning down offers up to $15,000 a week for nightclubs because they conflict with [Funny Girl], which I start rehearsing Nov. 15 for Broadway opening at the Winter Garden.”
For her opening night, Streisand wore a sailor top she designed herself.
Columnist Hedder Hopper wrote about Streisand's opening night:
Anyone who tells you there are no star-hungry fans left should have been at the Cocoanut Grove for Barbra Streisand's opening. The place was packed with cheering fans who were still waiting for another glimpse of their favorites at 1:00 a.m. Everybody from Gracie Allen to Natalie Wood was there to see the girl who'll play Fanny Brice ... Barbra uses her extraordinary voice range beautifully; bats out a high note with full power and makes the next a whisper without straining a muscle. As relaxed as a cat on a hearth rug, she makes old songs sound new. Her hands are beautiful, but Barbra's no beauty. Has a sense of humor about it though: “If I'd known the place was going to be so crowded, I'd have had my nose fixed.”
Sat beside Sammy Cahn, who had just regretfully signed divorce papers. Before the show, he went up to Barbra's suite and found her drying her hair with one of those hand machines ...
Many Hollywood stars attended Barbra's opening night at the Grove. Following her sensational debut, celebrities joined Barbra at a reception. Streisand changed into a red gingham dress (which she also designed) to greet them.
After the show, Hollywood's brightest stars hobnobbed with Barbra ... Natalie Wood, Henry Fonda, Edward G. Robinson, Judy Garland, Tony Bennett and many others ...
Newsreel footage from the evening shows Streisand taking bows on stage in her midi blouse, then (accompanied by manager Marty Erlichman) making her way to the after-party and hiding her face several times from the cameras.
Another columnist wrote about Streisand's debut:
Brightest and biggest new talent I've heard in years is singer Barbra Streisand, who had a fantastic opening at the Cocoanut Grove, with the largest start turnout in a long time.
When Barbra really let go with a song, some compared her to Judy Garland, but to me, she is completely individual. She has an amazing change of pace and a terrific flair for wacky comedy. She's not pretty. Her nose just won't stop. In fact, she told the audience:
“This is a strange room. So wide. If I had known you were going to be on two sides of me, I would have had my nose fixed.”
Barbra already has been signed to play the Fannie Brice story on Broadway. She'll be perfect for it.
During Barbra's run at the Cocoanut Grove, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen (Sinatra's go-to songwriting team) “tried out” their song “Love Is A Bore” for Barbra one night after her show. She loved it and recorded it for her People album. Also, Barbra's future boyfriend and creative partner Jon Peters actually attended one of Streisand's Grove shows with his then-wife Marie Zampitella. “When Barbra sang,” Peters recalled, “whatever it was, the power she had—the magic in her fingers and face—controlled the entire room.”
Liza Minnelli brought mother Judy Garland to see Streisand at the Grove, too. “I said to my mom, 'You've gotta hear this singer, she's just great; she sings in a key nobody's ever sung in.' Liza recalled. “I took my mom to the Coconut Grove to hear Streisand and there were all kinds of people at the table saying, 'Well, we don't know if she's any good or not; she's funny looking.'
“She (Streisand) walked on the stage, she sang the first eight bars of her opening song and my mother turned to the people around the table and said, 'You're all crazy, and I want her on my show.' I felt so great because my mom knew talent.”
A month later (October 4, 1963), Streisand was singing with Judy Garland on her television show.
When her successful run at the Grove ended, Streisand quickly relocated to Nevada where she was due to begin a two-week engagement at Harrah's.
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