Streisand on “Oprah”
(1996, 2003, 2009, 2010 appearances)
Oprah Winfrey's hour-long talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011 and was the highest-rated program of its kind in history with a range of 7- to 13-million viewers tuning in each day over the various years it ran. Winfrey, of course, is a media powerhouse: beyond her talk show host duties, Oprah is an actress, producer, philanthropist, and —most recently—the Chairwoman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Creative Officer of The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
Streisand's four interview episodes aired [jump links below]:
Barbra's 1996 interview with Oprah Winfrey was taped in Los Angeles at CBS Studios on November 1, 1996. Barbra was there to promote her movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces. Besides showing clips, treating the audience to a screening, and giving away soundtrack albums, Barbra also commented brieﬂy about each of the cast member of Mirror, and about the auction of her possessions at Christie’s (“simplifying my life”). Below are some excerpts from the hour-long show.
“There is celebrity and then there’s a class all by itself,” Oprah said while introducing Barbra Streisand in 1996. “On my list of celebrities, you’re number 1.”
“ I think you are the world’s greatest star . . . because a star is what we want to reach for, and watching you over the years be your best, has inspired me to want to be my best. And I think that is what a true star does. It makes you want to reach for it, it makes you want to reach for that which is impossible. That’s it for fawning for me,” Oprah said to Streisand, sitting in brown leather, comfortable chairs.
Oprah: Does this make you nervous, being in front of an audience now like this?
Barbra: No, I like audiences actually. After my tour I just did—an experience of love and sharing and that’s nice.
Oprah: But it used to make you really afraid?
Barbra: It still does if I have to sing. I don’t have to sing today, do I?
Oprah: No you do not. (audience sighs) ...so talking wouldn’t bother you?
Barbra: Well, it is a little more nerve-racking, but in a sense, I like the feedback from the audience.
Oprah: So, what does make you afraid, Miss Barbra?
Barbra: Not much these days. Actually there is something—plastic surgery would frighten me. (Audience laughs) I don’t even have my ears pierced.
Oprah: I don’t either!
Barbra: You still have screw ons, too?
Oprah: Would you say you are tough and controlling?
Barbra: Yes! But lets talk about what it really means. Because what it means is to be responsible for one’s work. And that means that I want the best product for my audience, and if I don’t care 100%, who will? It’s my name, my likeness that goes out there. It’s very interesting. I was actually talking to my manager Marty, whose been with me over 30 years, [about] my ﬁrst television show when I was 22 years old the only thing I wanted really, I wasn’t concerned with money and anything like, it was just artistic control. At that time, nobody went remote, they had guest stars and I decided to do this one woman show with three acts. They could not have the right to stop me I remember the night before it was shown, the head of CBS took Marty aside and said you have single handedly ruined this girl’s career, because how did you let her not have guest stars and, you know, do a traditional show, and it went on to win ﬁve Emmys.
Oprah: Do you resent or are tired of critics who label you bitch? When Martin Scorsese could direct the same ﬁlm and ﬁre 25 people and it would never be in the news.
Barbra: It’s also lies about the amount of people that get ﬁred. They say thirty when there were two ...It’s like they said I was pelted with eggs on the streets of New York. New York is my city. You think people are going to throw eggs at me? No, they didn’t throw eggs at me. The point is, there is a need to diminish the accomplished woman I don’t think I’m tough in a so called tough way. I’m tough on myself.
Oprah: Are you tough on the other actors?
Barbra: It’s not tough. I want their best. I want them to do their best work and that doesn’t mean tough in what we think of as tough you don’t get the best work out of people if you yell at them. You have to inspire them, you have to nourish them, you have to love them.
Oprah: So you only let two people go on this ﬁlm and it’s gets printed 15?
Barbra: Two people that were not competent enough... they weren’t experienced enough, or were wrong for the part or whatever.
Oprah: How’d you meet James Brolin?
Barbra: A friend introduced us.
Oprah: What are you feeling for him now ?
Barbra: Do you think that I’m going to publicly display my feelings for this man?
Oprah: No, I’m thinking you will at least let us know ...
Barbra: He’s great. He‘s absolutely divine. He’s really a special human being.
Oprah: Are you surprised to ﬁnd this now?
Oprah: Did you think you wouldn“t ﬁnd this?
Barbra: Yeah. for a while I didn't think I would, I thought well maybe you know, God gives people certain gifts and they say you can’t have everything.
Oprah: There are rumors of an engagement, would you tell us that?
Barbra: (coyly) No.
Oprah: What’s your favorite thing to do? I read you like to put on your pajamas. Are they cotton?
Barbra: I don’t wear pajamas.
Oprah: You don’t wear pajamas ...well, see I read that.
Barbra: No. (teases) Don’t believe-all you read girl! (laughs)
Oprah: And I thought, “Aw, she likes to wear pajamas, like I do!”
Barbra: I wear nighties.
Oprah: Silk or cotton?
Barbra: Well, depends on what season. In December I like cotton.
Oprah: What is your favorite thing to do?
Barbra: (grinning) Actually, stay in bed with just the things ... .the things I like.
(Audience laughs and cheers)
Oprah: Ok, I guess you don’t mean ice cream, either, huh?
Barbra: I mean it all, our favorite thing—we usually stay in bed every Sunday. Yeah, with the newspapers and videotapes and food and each other. That’s all we need.
Oprah: Do you listen to your own music?
Barbra: No, because it takes so much work again to get it right, to strive for excellence, to be responsible and in control of the product, that once it’s done, I’ve listened to 16 mixes I’m sick of it by the time it’s released.
Oprah: Do you ever play yourself?
Barbra: No it takes me about 10 years to appreciate what it is I’ve done.
Oprah: So now, “Evergreen” sounded good to you?
Barbra: Pretty good. Pretty damn good.
Oprah: What kind of mom are you?
Barbra: I wish I were a better mom. I mean, you know, I made mistakes, probably, you know as a young mom. But I never left Jason. I always took him with me. I didn’t ever go away to make a movie until he was ﬁfteen.
Oprah: Would he say it was tough having Barbra Streisand as a mom?
Barbra: I would think so, yeah I think it’s very difficult for children of celebrities.
Oprah: What is your proudest accomplishment?
Barbra: It was having him to be pregnant—to create life—nothing compares to that.
Oprah: What are you most proud of him for?
Barbra: His character. You know, he is just a great person, kind and generous and smart and sensitive, and just a beautiful soul.
Oprah: Do you think you will remarry?
Barbra: It’s possible. (and a southern twang) Within my realm of possibilities.
Oprah: What is your relationship with the president [Clinton]?
Barbra: I know him. I think he’s swell. He’s a great president, and I think historically he’ll be remembered in the books as a great president.
Oprah: So have you been to the White House and slept in the beds there?
Barbra: I did sleep in the Queen’s Bedroom. It’s a beautiful, beautiful room with the most exquisite antiques ... it was wonderful ... it is awesome to be in this great, great historical house, you know, with so many incredible people.
Streisand was on the Oprah Show a second time in 2003, to promote her new album, The Movie Album.
When Oprah asked Barbra if she ever listened to her own albums, Barbra answered: “I've just finished this album. And I have to listen to it over and over again. How does it sound in a car? How does it sound on a good stereo? How does it sound on a cheap stereo? I'm so sick of it by the time I put it out.”
They talked about food (Barbra doesn't like to cook, but can make a “mean chocolate souffle”) and Barbra shared a dieting philosophy:
Barbra: Let's say I want pizza. I love thin crust pizza. You buy the whole pizza. You eat as much as you want, and you know what happens? You get a bit sick. And now, you don't want pizza for six months. One night I had a pecan ring with coffee. Or bread with a good sour dough bread with coffee. And you dunk.
Oprah: You can't do that often and still look like this.
Barbra: Why do you think I'm wearing a big sweater?
When Oprah mentioned the road trips that Jim Brolin and Barbra like to take in their truck, Barbra confessed: “We've got a great Ford pickup truck, the most beautiful color: Burgundy. And guess what? My toenails are the color of the paint on my pickup truck. I'm a little eccentric, but ...”
After a commercial break, Streisand explained to Oprah her interior design philosophy:
Barbra: I believe the exterior of a room should coordinate with the interior of the room. So, therefore, outside my living room/dining room, which is burgundy and a gorgeous color green—an old green with some yellow in it—and off-white and pink—shades of pink in old tapestries, needlepoint, roses. When you look out the window, you can't see an orange flower, you can't see a yellow flower. So the colors of the flowers outside of these three rooms are only burgundy, shades of pink, and white. I don't like the color orange, so there is no orange in my garden.
Speaking about Barbra's houses, Oprah asked, “Is it true that you and James go to your little cottage sometimes, like as a little retreat?”
“Yeah,” Barbra said, “we go there for the weekend. It's a hundred yards away (laughs). We call it Grandma's House, actually. Jim named it Grandma's House because it's a green pasture. I sing in that little bedroom overlooking the ocean.”
Oprah: Are there moments when you step back yourself and you are amazed by your own ...
Barbra: ... Achievement? I do it every day, and that, I think, is wonderful about growing older, is appreciation for the miracle of existence, of life. I thank God every day. I also do believe that belief and imagination manifests reality. And therefore, even though it took twenty-five years, I did find the house, eventually, and the man I could live with.
Do you know what happened to me once? Deepak Chopra once gave me a book that I didn't get a chance to read. And I come to New York, and the New York apartment had boxes of flowers. My bedroom was pale blue with off-white. So the flowers that I planted outside this room could only be powder blue, off-white, and there were many pink touches—pink with the blue and white flowers...
Oprah: I know there was no orange there.
Barbra: No orange! So I called up the girl who used to get flowers for me when I arrived in New York, and told her to plant the flowers on the terrace, right? I come to New York, and the flowers are rust-colored mums, and yellow.
Oprah: (joking) Oh my goodness. Where is that girl today? (audience laughs)
Barbra: Well, it was awful. How do you look out the window? Rust and yellow mums outside this pink and blue room, right? I couldn't kill them, I couldn't destroy them, I couldn't throw them out. So I just closed my lace curtains so I didn't have to see them. So, my friend Cis was sitting in the chair and she peeks through the lace and she says, ‘Oh, you changed the flowers.’ I said, ‘No I didn't.’ The flowers—the rust color had faded to pink, the yellow had faded to white. So, now I call up the girl who planted them and I said, ‘What is this, a new variety of mum that changes colors?’ She says, ‘No they're just ordinary mums.’ And I called Deepak. ‘How is this happening? What happened? How can this be possible?’ He says, ‘You haven't read my book yet. Look at chapter fourteen.’
Oprah: Don't tell me you manifested the color?
Barbra: Well, the chapter was called “Desire.” And I knew I had a strong will-power, I have a strong will-power. He said, Because you wanted it.
Oprah: You don't think maybe the sun had something to do with it?
Barbra: Probably. Whatever! I think there's something so powerful about the will, about desire. And it's not ruthless. It's not where you hurt somebody to get what you want. It's very quiet. It's very inner. It's a strength that's deep in the core of your being.
Another break, then Streisand addressed those rumors that she's retired.
Barbra: By the way, I did not retire. You know, I made an album and I read, ‘I thought she retired.’ Whoever said I retired? I didn't retire from making records, I didn't retire from making movies. I retired from doing those very big productions, where I enjoy being the creator, the director, and conceiving things and having it be—but then you have to do it every night? Sing thirty songs a night, you know, you get tired. And your feet hurt in these high heels.
And on her renowned stage fright:
Barbra: Yes, I had palpitations. But I didn't realize they now have a pill for it. So, it's a great thing. It actually stops the adrenaline from flowing so hard.
In the next segment, a Streisand fan named Valencia and her daughter Streisand (yes, she was named after Barbra!) gave hugs to Oprah and Barbra. “God, you do wonderful things. You make so many people happy,” Barbra said to Oprah.
After Barbra sang a lovely version of “Smile” (dedicated to her boy dog, Sammy, who she had to put to sleep the day she recorded the song), Barbra's new dog came out on stage. Streisand explained: “I went into an antique store, I didn't know when I could get a new dog. And my friend had this little dog. This is a coton. My husband saw how much I loved this little dog that my friend had, and he bought it for me for our fifth anniversary. And she's a girl named Samantha, after Sammy. She's my new little girl Sammy.”
An additional hour with Streisand, called Oprah After the Show, was broadcast on the Oxygen Network. After changing from heels to boots, Streisand was asked questions from audience members.
Six years after her last appearance, Barbra Streisand returned to the Oprah show in 2009. Oprah split her hour-long show in half with rap artist Jay-Z apprearing first, and then Streisand's pre-taped appearance after.
The 20-minute segment began with Barbra sharing photos that she took of her meals from a recent vacation in Spain.
Streisand told Oprah that, fundamentally, she is still the same person she always was—Success “doesn't change you, it just makes you more of what you were.”
“I still can't believe when I go on a boat or something that I could afford it,” Streisand said, “because when you grow up poor, you're always poor, in a sense. There's always part of you that always stays that little girl who never had a doll.”
More on her poor beginnings: “At first I grew up in Williamsburg, till I was seven. That was a $40 dollars a month apartment. I lived in one room with my mother in the same bed, and my brother had a fold-away cot in the same room. And my grandmother and grandfather, and we had one bathroom. Then when we moved to the projects—that was, like, hotsy-totsy, ya know? I remember it was $105 dollars a month rent.”
After a commercial break, Oprah showed Barbra the new Mattel Barbra Streisand Barbie Doll. “I worked on this doll very hard,” Barbra shared. “The slit was on the back, had to go on the side, the fabric, the bow, was limp, had to go straight ... actually, the hair is a little too silver....”
Barbra took the stage next and sang “Make Someone Happy” from the album she was promoting, Love is the Answer.
(During the taping of the show, she also sang “Evergreen.” Unfortunately it was cut due to time constraints. Oprah.com streamed Barbra's performance of “Evergreen” online.)
Oprah Winfrey surprised Barbra Streisand by showing clips of her past costars, including Jeff Bridges, Mandy Patinkin, Nick Nolte and Kris Kristofferson.
Jeff Bridges (The Mirror Has Two Faces):"So Barbra, she's like a diamond, this woman. She's got so many facets to her. Of course she's got the wonderful instrument of her voice and she directs and, you know, acts and all of this. But she's also got a very down-home side to her.
"My favorite scene that I did with Barbra was a dance scene at the end of our movie, and it wasn't in the script, so that last scene is a dance improvisation that we did. We had a ball doing that."
Mandy Patinkin (Yentl): "I remember Barbra wanted our characters to kiss in the end, and I felt that after he has been through all of this and been betrayed that he couldn't get past that that quickly to kiss. So we had a bit of a disagreement about that. In the end, we came nose to nose and then parted. Now, I wish I'd kissed her."
Nick Nolte (The Prince of Tides): "We definitely had some physical contact in these scenes, and if it got too real because she had the power, she would yell out in a smothering kiss, 'Cut, cut, cut.' I'd say, 'Barbra, you can't direct and act at the same time.' She said, 'Yes, but it's getting a little too hot in here, you know? I said, 'Well, it's supposed to get that way.'"
Kris Kristofferson (A Star Is Born):"I felt that we had a very good chemistry. A very nice relationship that worked on a lot of different levels. We battled a lot before the film started, but once we were into it, I think we trusted each other's instincts.
"The bathtub scene was probably the sexiest scene that I did in any of my films. I've been in a lot of films, but that's one that always brings a smile to my face. I think of it often."
Robert Redford (The Way We Were): "I remember the fun we had. I remember liking her energy and her spirit, it was wonderful to play off of. I also really enjoyed kidding her. She was fun to kid."
Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford reunited on the Oprah Winfrey Show 37 years after starring together in The Way We Were. This is the first interview the pair have given together since making the film.
Oprah hadn't told Barbra that she was planning on bringing Redford out, and the 68-year-old singer was delighted to see him. After giving each other a warm hug, the pair sat down to talk to Oprah. When Barbra asked Redford why they had never done an interview in all the years since they made the film, he joked: 'Because I never thought I'd get a word in.' 'True,' responded Barbra.
The pair went on to talk about making of the film, and why Redford, 73, turned down the roles several times before finally accepting it. He said: 'I thought it was a good script. I thought it was great for Barbra, but the character in the initial script was, I felt, one-dimensional. 'He seemed more symbolic, a model for her to fall in love with, but I didn't believe he had a flaw. If he had a flaw that might be interesting.'
But Barbra didn't agree, and claimed she wanted Redford and only Redford in the part. She said: 'I wanted him in that part so badly. I was hoping and praying, but it didn't look good. 'Then I was in Africa, making a movie, and I get a telegram that said, "Streisand/Redford." I knew that he signed on.' But Redford has no regrets about not making a sequel. He said: I just felt certain things should be left alone, and this was one of them.'
At the end of the show (and since Oprah was due to stop making more shows and go off the air in 2011) Streisand announced “a little token of my appreciation and affection for you ... I'll say it in song.”
To the tune of “The Way We Were”:
Oprah lights the corners of the world
Who we are to one another
And the way we were
Just imagine all the people that we’ve met
And the soul to soul connection
All because of her
Building dreams and opening so many doors
Changing minds and lives along the way
Offering a chance to those the world ignores
And if she can, then we can
Memories of so many of the years
They felt safe to tell their secrets
Along with her, we shared the tears
Thanks, thanks for the memories
Of always knowing
The perfect way of showing
The way we were
The way we were ...
* The song was cut and did not make the final airing of the show.
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