Town n’ Country
in The Towers
317 Kennedy Street
July 3—16, 1961
Barbra Streisand's first gig out of the country was in Canada. Streisand was still a nightclub neophyte, developing her act and stage presence.
Listen to audio below of Streisand telling Johnny Carson about her gig at Town n’ Country:
The story of Streisand at Town n’ Country goes like this: A Chicago booking agent named Hal Munro booked Streisand into the club for probably $300 a week. The girlfriend of a producer of PM East—the New York-based talk show that Streisand appeared on with Mike Wallace—managed to get her cousins in Winnipeg to look after Barbra while she was working there. “I remember she had her own distinctive style,” remembered one of the cousins, Suzanne Golden, who was a teenager when Barbra visited Winnipeg. “She had this way about her that was striking. I noticed her long fingernails and very expressive hands. Her hair had a Sassoon look. And she had an eclectic wardrobe of clothes from second-hand stores.” They tried to fix her up on dates while she was in town, and also took Barbra to the race track. Meanwhile, the club owner, Auby Galpern, didn't get along with her. Depending on whose story you believe, Streisand was either fired or released early from her contract with Town n’ Country. “Auby might have said he fired her, but he didn't,” said Helen Chandler, who was the club's head girl. “He was always saying he fired people he didn't get along with.”
“Barbra Streisand's Canadian Connection” By Martin Silvert:
... The story begins in the summer of 1961 at the Town and Country supper club in Winnipeg. Streisand was booked by a Chicago agent into the club for a two-week engagement. It was to pay $300 a week — and that didn't include room, board, or transport from her home to Winnipeg and back again.
... And so on the evening of July 3, 1961, Barbra Streisand walked onto the Winnipeg stage for the first time. The Winnipeg Tribune reported: "Miss Streisand is the type of singer you'd expect to find in the Blue Angel or Hungry I. That's why Winnipeggers may find her rather strange ... When she sings her hair flies, her hands twirl, and her whole torso gets into the act." In a television interview some months later she reflected, "I worked in Winnipeg. This was a beautiful nightclub, very posh, except the people wore short shirt sleeves. They didn't wear ties to come to the nightclub". That she should want to recall her appearance at all is surprising, especially given what had happened midway through her engagement. The details vary slightly, but it really happened. Imagine the supper club and cocktail lounge, just a few years away from the 60's music revolution. This 19-year-old girl walks onstage — unusual (for the time) looks, theatrical makeup, vintage clothes, but a confidence and style far beyond her years. She sings standards and novelty songs in a way no one has heard before, and spellbinds the audience with a voice that remains the standard for female recording artists. This was clearly a problem for the club's owner, who misinterpreted the audience's hushed awe as just another failed girl singer. He took a dislike to her off-beat manner and clothes sense and half way through the engagement, he took her to task for it. But it was what he said about her talent that contributed to what would become her credo of success. He told her that he was letting her out of the engagement and that she "would never make it in the business".
“Around the Night Clubs” by Gene Telpner (July 4, 1961):
BARBRA STREISAND, the current attraction at The Towers, is a girl with an unusual singing style that could take her right to the top. Born in Turkey and raised in Brooklyn, she has a semi-Oriental look and a singing manner all of her own. Miss Streisand is the type of singer you'd expect to find in the Blue Angel or San Francisco's hungry i. That's why Winnipeggers may find her rather strange.
But she seems to grow on you after you settle down to listen. Barbra sings songs off the beaten path, such as Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking, which she does extremely well. When she sings her hair flies, her hands twirl, and her whole torso gets into the act. The boys in the band think she's terrific, and musicians are usually good judges of talent. Her closer, Lover Come Back To Me, was really worth hearing.
An excerpt from Gene Telpner's 1984 column about Hal Munro, a Chicago booking agent ...
In a recent interview, Munro said: "I was booking a Canadian club called Town 'n Country Restaurant. It paid $300 a week if the owner didn't know the act, and $350 a week if they'd appeared there before and done wonderfully well."
Munro had contacts for acts all across the country. One of his New York associates told him about "a girl in Brooklyn named Barbra Streisand."
According to Munro, Streisand paid her own way to Winnipeg from Brooklyn plus her own room and board in this city. Munro now says in his interview that he got a call from Auby Galpern about Streisand.
Quoting Munro, "That chick you got here; she's crazy, she bombed bad, but she's going to be great." The Chicago agent said that Streisand must have lost money on the Winnipeg date because it cost her about $450. But most of all he remembers that she forgot to pay him his agent's commission. So he wrote her a polite little letter. Now Munro wishes he'd saved the letter Barbra sent him in return.
As well as he can recall it said: "I'm sorry, Mr. Munro, I forgot to pay you. Here's my cheque for $60. Thank you very much. Barbra."
Two more good articles about Streisand in Winnipeg:
- Babs' big night in the 'Peg by Martin Knelman
- Legendary Babs firing tale just may be early urban myth by Morley Walker
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