53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
- Broadcast on CBS November 4, 2001
- Directed by: Louis J. Horvitz
- Executive Produced by: Gary Smith
- Host: Ellen DeGeneres
Invited to close the November 4, 2001 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A.'s Shubert Theatre with “You'll Never Walk Alone,” Rodgers & Hammerstein's inspirational song from their musical Carousel, Barbra Streisand surprised the theater and television audience in the show's closing moments with a thoroughly stirring rendition. She originally recorded the song for her 1997 Higher Ground album and performed it on stage for the first time at the Shubert. The finale segment, introduced by host Ellen DeGeneres, began with the camera focusing on a dimly lit stage adorned with candles and wall of names for those who perished on September 11th. A steady rhythm track and synthesizer created a serious tone, and soon, a calming voice in darkness and then silhouette facing the names sang, “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark.” Turning to face the already appreciative audience and spotlight — “At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of a lark” — it was indeed Barbra continuing her emotional performance, backed by a choir on stage. A rousing climax and poignant ending saw Barbra turning back to the wall of names before receiving a standing ovation as the house lights brightened the theater. Magical moments and a perfectly inspiring finish to the three-hour Emmy show. Barbra had rehearsed the David Foster-arranged number throughout the week and again on stage around midnight the Friday before. In fact, she requested that more camera time be spent on the wall of names and less on her. Immediately after the performance, she admitted being nervous to ET's Mary Hart backstage. “But I love the message of the song. We're all slightly afraid, aren't we?” Inspired by America, Barbra observed, “We at least are united as a people. It's wonderful to feel so much brotherhood...”
After the telecast, in the Chinese restaurant-turned-into-media center across the street, carrying the Emmy won earlier in the evening for Timeless, Barbra chatted with reporters about what brought her to perform in front of a live TV audience again.
“I was focused on my song and my stage fright,” Barbra told reporters about her surprise performance. “I kept thinking, 'How am I going to stop my voice from trembling?' A performance like that with an orchestra takes a lot of work, and we didn't get enough rehearsal. You don't just show up and sing. The song was my priority. I was there to give something, not get something.”
On E! she confirmed that “You'll Never Walk Alone” was the producers' suggestion, and she “couldn't have thought of a better choice” considering the current situation in this country. Asked whether it was difficult to sing on the show, Barbra said, “It's always difficult for me to sing...but there's a sense of purpose.” She explained that since September 11th, particularly having not been asked to join the first televised tribute, she had felt compelled to perform in a patriotic spirit for the nation. Barbra humbly said, “This is just my little way of doing something because I don't enjoy public singing.” In fact, Barbra hadn't intended to attend the Emmys until just recently, having decided “never to do this again” following her 1995 multiple-Emmy wins for Barbra Streisand: The Concert. “I didn't want to go to another award ceremony to compete against my fellow professionals.” But, this year was different. “I'm just grateful we live in a country where we're allowed to sing and have music and express ourselves and our emotions. It's a very sad time in our history, a frightening time, and I wanted to give something back to the people and our country.” Regarding the country's fears regarding terrorism and her own performance anxiety (including a dry throat remaining from the flu), Barbra turned it into a positive. “We need to let our fear make us into better people somehow. Tonight actually had a purpose, so I was a little less afraid actually. It was good that those of us who could came out to honor our profession and make a statement that we go on through our fear.”
She had never performed on an Emmy Awards show, and she last sang for an audience on September 28, 2000 at Madison Square Garden. Her previous live TV performance (actually live to tape) was on ABC 2000 from her Millennium Eve concert in Las Vegas. For Barbra, singing for America was what this night was primarily about, not making sure to arrive in time perhaps to accept an award. Publicist Dick Guttman subsequently explained that she was driving to the theatre when her award was announced. To Extra's Leeza Gibbons, Barbra said, “I came to give a message in song and be part of the patriotism that is overwhelming the country in a positive way.” Of the September 11th events, she reflected, “As they say, we will never forget. This is something that we will live with the rest of our lives.” She acknowledged valuing her time at home with husband James Brolin (who escorted her to the theater, post-show Unity Dinner, and Trader Vic's West Wing party). “I think we have come to a different kind of consciousness, that we really take the time to smell the flowers and treat each other a little more respectfully and feel the power of love. The power of love is stronger than death.” She told Gibbons, “Every day is a blessing. Every day is a gift — the gift of life.” When someone raised the subject of politics and President Bush, Barbra asked the media to visit barbrastreisand.com for her current thoughts.
Barbra Streisand: Timeless had already received three Emmy Awards for the TV special, these coming during the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Creative Arts Ceremony at the Pasadena Civic Center on September 8. The TV special garnered six nominations on July 12, including one for Barbra herself in the category of Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. She won the award, but presenter Debra Messing announced that Barbra was unable to attend, perhaps unknowingly preserving the finale's surprise. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented its 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on November 4, 2001 from LA's Shubert Theatre live on CBS. Originally scheduled for September 16, the awards presentation was rescheduled for October 7, with additional security measures and a more serious program planned. However, the Emmys were postponed again due to U.S. and British air attacks commencing in Afghanistan the same day. Timeless and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band both received the most nominations for a music special (6).
Here is the complete list of Emmy nominations for Barbra Streisand: Timeless.
- Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program — Barbra Streisand (Winner) (Others nominated: Steve Martin as Oscars host, Ellen DeGeneres, David Letterman, Will Ferrell, and Wayne Brady)
- Outstanding Music Direction — Marvin Hamlisch (Winner)
- Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety or Music Series or Special — David Reitzas (Co-Winner in tie)
- Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special — Michael Polito
- Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic, Multicamera) for VMC Programming — Peter Morse and Bob Dickinson
- Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video for a Miniseries, Movie or Special — Several individuals including technical director John Pritchett, 10 camera operators, and 2 video controllers (Winners)
Barbra Streisand has previously received two Emmys for each of her TV specials – 1965's My Name Is Barbra and 1994's Barbra Streisand: The Concert. In May she received a Daytime Emmy for the documentary Reel Models: The First Women of Film. This Emmy for Timeless brings her personal Emmy total to six.
Another Streisand-related Emmy nomination went to Marvin Hamlisch and Alan & Marilyn Bergman for writing the song “On The Way To Becoming Me,” performed by Lauren Frost on AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Barbra Streisand in May. Unfortunately, the song did not receive an Emmy.
[ top of page ]