My Name is Barbra (1965)

My Name is Barbra

Broadcast on CBS April 28, 1965 and October 20, 1965

  • Directed by: Dwight Hemion
  • Executive Producer: Martin Erlichman
  • Produced by: Richard Lewine
  • Assoc. Producer: Willard Levitas
  • Monologue by: Robert Emmett
  • Production Numbers Conceived by: Joe Layton
  • Asst. Producer: Peggy Lieber
  • Music Arranged & Conducted by: Peter Matz
  • Audio Consultant: Frank Laico
  • Set Designer: Tom John
  • Set Decoration: Bill Harp
  • Hair Styling by: Frederick Glaser
  • Clothes by: Bill Blass and Emeric Partos
  • Hats by: Halston
  • Furs by: Bergdorf's
  • Asst. Conductor: William Goldenberg
  • Act One

  • My Name is Barbara
  • Much More
  • I'm Late
  • Make Believe
  • How Does the Wine Taste?
  • I Wish I Were A Kid Again
  • I'm Five
  • Sweet Zoo
  • Where is the Wonder?
  • People
  • Act Two

  • I've Got the Blues
  • Monologue: “Pearl from Istanbul”
  • Poverty Medley: Second Hand Rose; Give Me The Simple Life; I Got Plenty of Nothin'; Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?; Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out; Second Hand Rose; The Best Things in Life Are Free
  • Act Three

  • When the Sun Comes Out
  • Why Did I Choose You?
  • Lover, Come Back to Me
  • Funny Girl Medley: You Are Woman; Don't Rain on My Parade; Music That Makes Me Dance
  • My Man
  • Happy Days Are Here Again

CBS slide for the Streisand show

After being the guest star on several variety and talk shows, Barbra Streisand was ready for her own network television special.

Money Girl newspaper article

Barbra made news in 1964 when CBS Television announced a ten-year, $5 million deal with the singer to star in several television specials. (see article, above)

With Barbra the only talent in front of the cameras, her manager Marty Erlichman hired a top-notch team to support her behind the scenes as rehearsals began in January 1965 for her first special. “I was concerned with artistic control only,” Barbra said. “I wanted to produce my own shows and now I can and nobody—not sponsors or advertisers or anyone—can interfere. The people like Dick Lewine, Joe Layton, Dwight Hemion and Marty Erlichman—they are on my team. They're for me and what I want to do.”

She was working concurrently on Broadway, doing eight shows a week of Funny Girl. Barbra also planned to deliver an album (later, two) to Columbia Records to coincide with the broadcast of the special.

Streisand on location at Bergdorfs

(Above: On location at Bergdorf Goodman, Streisand exits the department store in time with the music.)

On Sunday, March 21, 1965 (her day off from Funny Girl) Barbra taped the Bergdorf Goodman scenes. Director Dwight Hemion recalled that “because the first floor was lined with mirrors, the segment was a nightmare to light.”

William Klages, who lighted Streisand's locations for the television special, agreed about how hard Bergdorf's was to light. As for lighting Ms. Streisand herself, Klages said she had “absolute breathtaking skin. It lit so easily. ”

Halston was retained to create the hats that Streisand wore in the fashion sequences at Bergdorf's department store.

Halston Designs Streisand's Hat

(Above: Halston and Streisand play with hats. Photo by: Jack Manning)

Bergdorf’s resident designer, a Hungarian named Emeric Partos, created several furs for use in the fantasy shopping sequence. He wrapped Barbra in a $15,000 Somali leopard coat with a black leather belt. For “Brother Can You Spare A Dime,” Partos fitted her with white mink knickers. When Barbra stomps on her coat during the finale, she is stomping on Canadian wild mink. “I used to hate mink,” she told the press. “But now I appreciate it for its solidity. I really didn’t like boa scarves as much as they say I did. I like simple elegance, neat.”

Streisand applies makeup before shooting a song

(Above photos: Streisand applies makeup before shooting a song; the microphone above her head picks up Streisand's vocalizing on “People.” Photo, below right: Streisand sings in concert for the third segment of MY NAME IS BARBRA.)

Streisand sings in concert

My Name is Barbra continued taping segments on April 12 and 14 in a CBS soundstage a few blocks from Funny Girl's Winter Garden Theater.

Director Dwight Hemion remembered that the segments which were videotaped in the studio were “done without an audience. We rehearsed a little bit, as I recall, in the rehearsal hall. But only rehearsed the music and a little bit of the staging. Then we went into a studio, with the scenery and everything, no audience, and started to tape. [Barbra] sang to tracks. That is, we recorded everything so there was no orchestra there much of the time. She sang to tracks and we taped. We taped each [segment] until we were all enthused about it. Each number — we did each number on tape, never done as a full show. We had as close to perfection as you can get and Barbra, being a perfectionist — even at that time — she wasn’t a director yet, that came later …”

The concert portion of My Name Is Barbra was taped in front of a small audience at the old Ed Sullivan Theater, now used by David Letterman.

Eric, a Streisand fan, attended the concert taping in 1965. He told “The Barbra Archives”:

“I got the tickets through the fan club I had joined. Since I was such an early member, and it had to be one of the first, if not still the only, Barbra Fan Club at the time, they seemed to have an inside track on lots of things.

“The taping for My Name is Barbra was at least 2 hours. It was a smallish TV studio, so I don't think there could have been more than 200 people, if that much. It certainly was a very enthusiastic audience: literally everyone there could have only been there through a keen interest in Barbra (or their date!) I remember an announcer telling us what we could expect, like telling us what we were about to see on the monitors, and that we should applaud and otherwise react like a good audience.

“The only thing that wasn't pre-taped for the Bergdorf sequence was the VERY end, where you see her at a kettle drum, singing ‘...because the Best Things In Life Are Free!’ They taped that bit live in front of the audience. I do believe it took more than one take, and she lip-synched.

Christopher, another Streisand fan who was at the taping, recalled: “Synchronizing the kettle drum roll and those few lines of song required take after take after take, and was very frustrating, though it does not show in the finished segment.”

Eric, again, recalled: “There was an elation that we had not only been part of our idol's historic first TV special, but that she delivered such a tour de force it was clear we had witnessed something truly sensational.”

Christopher: “The live portion of this show was recorded on a Sunday evening, after she had done a matinee and evening performance of Funny Girl the day before, and a full dress rehearsal of this show in front of a live audience just a few hours before this final taping.”

Streisand watches videotaped performance on monitor

(Above: On a break from taping the show, Streisand reviews a take on the on-set television monitor.)

Christopher also remembered the hard work Streisand and crew put into the show, especially the last, tricky shot:

“‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ was sung live, he said. “Unfortunately, the placement of the closing credits and breakaway shot required some reworking due to technical reasons. So, the number was sung live over and over and over again, until it was decided that Barbra would be on the far right of the screen, and the triple break-away shot was finally decided upon, etc. By the time the final version of the song was complete—there are some people who will never admit it—but they walked out on Barbra Streisand singing live. I can't be sure, but I'm thinking the song was done perhaps seven times or more, with wait time for playbacks. Here the frustration does show in the final product. Look at her face after the last note!”

Streisand sings Happy Days

Tom John set design for childhood segment

Above: Emmy Award-winning Set designer Tom John's rendering of the set for the childhood segment of the show, and a photo of Streisand, dressed as a girl, on the actual set.

Roger Perry and Johnny Melfi are actors and songwriters. They’ve written a Broadway musical “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” … One hit from their proposed show, “A Kid Again,” received a breakin by James Darren in his Cocoanut Grove act. Barbra Streisand sat in the audience that night. She’ll record the same tune as well as two others from the show, “Can I Keep Him Happy” and “I Like Him.”

(From Barney Glazer’s column, “Out of This Sho-World”)

NY Times ad

(Above) The New York Times ran a full-page advertisement the day Barbra's television special aired.

(Below: A CBS publicity photo and local newspaper article for MY NAME IS BARBRA)

CBS publicity photo

(Below) Here's another local newspaper ad for Barbra's first television show.

full page newspaper ad for MY NAME IS BARBRA

(Below) And here's one more ad ... this time for the October 1965 rebroadcast of My Name is Barbra. Bottom right: cover of TV Magazine for the issue that came out during Emmy Night (courtesy of George Schubert, from his collection.)

Rebroadcast ad for My Name is Barbra

The Soundtrack Albums

My Name is Barbra soundtrack albums

The My Name is Barbra soundtrack album was released May 1965.

My Name Is Barbra, Two..., its sequel, was released October 1965 to coincide with the rebroadcast of the special on CBS.

The Chemstrand Commercial

Frames from the Chemstrand commercial

Barbra filmed a commercial for her first television show.

In the 1960s, it was common practice for a corporation to sponsor a television show. Barbra’s sponsor was Chemstrand (which later became Monsanto). Chemstrand manufactured fibers which were used in rugs and action-wear. They paid for Barbra’s special and received on-air mention (which was edited out of the home video versions of Barbra’s specials but was included during the actual airings in the 1960’s.)

The commercial was not shown on network TV. Instead, it was a promotional piece meant to be shown internally at Chemstrand. It was probably shown at a Chemstrand convention.

In it, Barbra addressed the camera directly. She was in her Funny Girl dressing room (or a set meant to suggest that). She spoke about her upcoming television special, “The Barbra Streisand Show” then told viewers about how she and husband Elliott Gould had been choosing carpet for their new home. She even rattled off some Chemstrand carpet brand names. They had to re-record some of the dialogue at this point. The tongue-twisting chemical names appeared to have challenged even the nimble-tongued Streisand — “nacrylic fibers” !

At the end of the promo, the camera focused on Barbra’s dressing room door and she declared, “Roll out the carpets.”

(Watch the commercial on YouTube ... it's possible it may have been taken down, but check here >>)

(Photo below: Here Streisand poses in a store window next to a mannequin wearing a leopard coat similar to hers.)

Scenes from My Name is Barbra

Awards

Barbra Streisand's first television special garnered several awards and nominations.

1965 Emmys Awarded:

1965 Emmy Nominations:

1966 Directors Guild of America Award:

Streisand holds her Emmy Award

MNIB On Home Video

My Name is Barbra was first released on home video in 1981 by Reel Images. The VHS contained a kinescope of the 1965 television special, complete with commercials. Around the same time, All Star Video also compiled My Name is Barbra onto a VHS tape entitled “The Barbra Streisand Story”—Streisand sued them for $11 million in damages.

Reel Images VHS

It wasn't until 1986 that CBS/Fox officially released the TV special on VHS and laser disc (pictured below).

front and back of laser disc

Ed Green—the original audio engineer for the special—remastered the home video version. Billboard reported that “there were four of five versions of audio for each show” that Green had to work with. Streisand's manager Marty Erlichman coordinated the release of Color Me Barbra and My Name is Barbra to VHS.

Countertop display of Streisand television specials

As a bonus on the VHS tape, Streisand filmed an introduction (pictured, above left) to her first television special in which she briefly recalled making it.

It wasn't until almost 20 years later that My Name is Barbra was released on DVD. This time, Rhino Home Video produced a 5-DVD set called Barbra Streisand: The Television Specials which included all five of Streisand's CBS programs. A year later, Rhino released each special as an individual DVD. The Rhino version of My Name is Barbra contained an animated menu and several audio mixes of the sound, as well as Streisand's 1986 filmed introduction.

It should be noted that the 2005 DVD version of My Name is Barbra has been altered. “Love, Come Back to Me” is an alternate take of the song that was not included on previous VHS and laserdisc versions.

You can read more about the 5-DVD Streisand Television Specials here.

‘My Name is Barbra’ Trivia

Barbra's dress auctioned in 2004

Streisand singing in sailor dress

End.

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