A Tribute to Alan and Marilyn Bergman For the Benefit of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California

Streisand on stage

Los Angeles Music Center

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Los Angeles, California

June 1, 1980

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California planned a tribute to Barbra's friends, Alan and Marilyn Bergman that would raise money for the organization. Planned as an all-star concert followed by supper at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Los Angeles Times reported: “The Pavilion holds 3,200 seats but there will only be 60 tables of 10 for the post-concert supper party.”

The ACLU Foundation's executive director, Ramona Ripson, said at a luncheon planning event that the ACLU “protects the Bill of Rights. We act in times when people are acting in less than a rational way,” she said, naming the 1940s Japanese-American internment as well as the Scopes trial in Tennessee as examples of causes the ACLU participated in.

Barbra Streisand's live performances, at this point in her career, were rare. In Los Angeles, Barbra last appeared live on stage two years before when she sang four songs for Israel's 30th anniversary. Before that, Streisand sang at one-off concerts built around her movies Funny Lady and A Star is Born. And before that, fans had to fly to Las Vegas and catch her act there.

Mostly because of Streisand's star-power, and because she performed so rarely live, the $50 general admission tickets sold out in the first two hours of availability. More expensive tickets priced at $150 and $250 also included the dinner following the show.

“It's difficult for me to sing in front of a live audience,” Streisand explained in her liner notes for Just For the Record in 1991. Recalling this concert, she wrote, “but sometimes the occasion is more important than the fear. I wanted to take part in an evening honoring my friends, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, not just for their talent but for their concern about civil rights.”

A few years after this concert, she told Chicago Tribune writer Gene Siskel, “I actually had a yogi backstage with me to help me calm down.”

Barbra’s love for her dear friends helped her overcome her fear of performing, and her vocals from this show are marvelous.

Bergman program

Credits: A Tribute to Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Starring their friends

  • Bea Arthur
  • Joel Grey
  • Jack Jones
  • Norman Lear
  • Melissa Manchester
  • Carmen McRae
  • and Barbra Streisand

Produced and Staged by Joe Layton

Musical Direction Peter Matz

Streisand on stage with the Bergmans

Streisand and Bergmans on stage

Streisand sings on stage

Journalist Wanda McDaniel described Barbra’s entrance in her review in The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner:

The show limped off to a 20-minute tardy start, but when the curtain finally went up, complaints turned- shrieks flew to the rafters. Standing at center stage, nervously toeing her mark, was the warm-up act. No introduction necessary. Barbra Streisand. The roaring ovation, (several minutes long) virtually made it impossible for Streisand to launch into her dreamily hummed introduction to ‘The Way We Were.’ If you can imagine Frampton at the Forum multiplied by four, that was what happened in the sedate Pavilion when Streisand stepped into the spotlight for an exceedingly rare concert appearance.
Streisand singing on stool

After singing “The Way We Were,” Barbra asked the audience to be quiet — “I can’t hear my intro.” Then, acknowledging all the love she felt from the audience, Barbra sang an exquisite version of “After the Rain.” She must have been nervous, because she sang an incorrect lyric near the end of the song, but covered her mistake well. Barbra promised she’d be back and then left the stage.

Jack Jones sang “Pieces of Dreams” and Melissa Manchester entertained with “I Believe In Love.” Composer Michel Legrand played an up-tempo “Summer Me, Winter Me” and then Barbra appeared on stage again to more cheers from the eager audience—and a costume change.

“Alan and Marilyn give so much emotion to a world that so desperately needs it,” Barbra said. “I'd dedicate a song to them, but this whole evening is dedicated to them.” After Barbra sang her special version of “Summer Me, Winter Me” —holding the sheet music while she sang — she began to loosen up. She joked to Legrand: “Michel, you write the most extraordinary melodies. If you were only Jewish, they’d have an evening like this for you, too! I think secretly you are!”

Streisand delivered another indelible live performance of the Legrand/Bergman tune, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”

Then she introduced the alternate version of the song, “The Way We Were,” which she called “The Way We Weren’t.” The audio of this was included in the 1991 Streisand box set, Just For The Record. During the live performance, however, Barbra seguéd into an eager reprise of the well-known melody, the orchestra filling the auditorium. It's really a lovely rendition of the Hamlisch/Berman song. Click the player below to hear it:

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Streisand reads sheet music on stage

Next, Barbra teased the audience with the first few bars of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” Neil Diamond was in the audience that evening, but not listed in the program. Again, journalist Wanda McDaniel described the performance:

The balcony contingent fairly lost their composure as Streisand went on to encore the show with the first lines of ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ ... it came to the point in the song for Neil Diamond’s vocals and the audience — in unison — slid to the edge of their seats, anticipating the improbable. When the spotlight hit the harmonizing Diamond, rising from the choice orchestra seats and making his way to the stage, the musicmania thundered through the hall, shaking the chandeliers ... The songstress waited for the clamor to subside. Teased Streisand, ‘I don’t think they recognize you, Neil.’
Diamond and Streisand

After the show, Barbra changed outfits and celebrated with Jon Peters and the Bergmans.

The Bergmans, Barbra and Jon Peters

Streisand had taken the first step toward conquering her fear of public performing. It would be six years until she sang in public again.

End.

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