The Friars Honor Barbra Streisand
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
May 16, 1969
Harold Arlen, Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne, Cy Coleman, Jerry Herman, Harold Rome, and Burton Lane all paid tribute to — and had a few laughs with — Barbra on this evening. The testimonial dinner was hosted by Danny Thomas at the Friars Club in New York City. Streisand was awarded “Entertainer of the Year” by the Friars, making her the second woman to be honored in the theatrical organization's 65-year history! (Lucille Ball was the first).
Barbra wrote, “For them to sing me their songs, with special lyrics written by Sammy Cahn (Richard Rodgers wrote his own), was an unforgettable honor.”
Variety reported the details of this historic evening:
As the N.Y. Friars entertainer of the year, [Streisand] drew a record breaking 1,200 at the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria Friday (16). At $100 per ticket, it's not likely that this organization will exceed this gate for some time ...
Probably one of the most touching was the who's who of ASCAP paying tribute on stage to the star. This segment, toastmastered graciously by ASCAP prexy Stanley Adams, had some of its top roster doing parodies especially written for the occasion. Richard Rogers, who closed this portion, got a standing ovation. The others, Jule Styne, Cy Coleman, Harold Arlen, Burton Lane, Harold Rome and Jerry Herman, ivoried and sang humorous tributes to Miss Streisand. A couple of them had to do with the unreleased version of “Hello Dolly” awaiting settlement with the show's producer David Merrick, who was present on the dais and seemed to enjoy this bit of kidding on the square.
There were other excellent comedic efforts as well. Rodney Dangerfield ... pulled a lot of laughs with his observations on how to be a hit in the mountains. “Just sing anything from ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’”
... Gene Baylos ... was widely appreciated. Also Flip Wilson came on with the observation that nobody up to this point made a serious effort to be funny and neither would he. He kept his word — unwittingly.
The Friars' Abbott Joe E. Lewis gave his greeting. “Nice to have you B.S.” That stands for Barbra Streisand, he explained. William B. Williams contributed a couple of lines.
It really must have been amazing for Barbra to sit there and listen to those musical-comedy titans serenade her with newly written lyrics to their songs all about her. (Eli Basse, Hal David, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn did the special material).
Streisand included several of the Friars Club tributes on her 1991 box set, Just For the Record. One can hear Harold Arlen, Jule Styne, a hilarious roast by Don Rickles, and Richard Rodgers on the CD.
Columnist Joyce Haber wrote that Streisand accepted her award wearing a black organza Dior gown. “Miss Streisand designed the hooded cloak she wore over it specifically for the Friars' do...”
“The evening was capped by Miss Streisand herself,” Variety wrote, “who stopped the orchestra in the middle of a passage, and asked if she were getting the entertainer of the year award all by herself, a reflection, of course, on the Academy Award in which she shared the accolade. Added to her brilliant singing was a specially written version of ‘People’ in which she distributed her plaudits to those who made the evening possible.” Variety said that the Friars booked “a huge band, much larger than that which usually plays the Friar events, and there was a bank of flowers that would have done credit to a Prohibition funeral.”
Upon accepting her statuette, Barbra kidded: “I'm just waiting for the other winner to be called up.”
Then Barbra told the crowd, “Ten years ago I could've used a dinner like this. It was delicious.”
Below: Streisand received an expensive Piaget watch and the Friar's Oscar.
Below: Streisand and infamous producer David Merrick.
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