One Voice (1986)
Barbra’s fear of the world situation was greater than her fear of performing live. To benefit the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee and raise money for six Democratic senatorial candidates, Barbra opened her Malibu ranch to a bevy of guests, press, movie stars, and politicians.
“This is more money than women have ever raised in history,” said Marilyn Bergman to the L.A. Times. Bergman, a member of HWPC, and Streisand’s friend, was an instrumental behind-the-scenes force in creating the concert. The price to attend was $5,000 per couple.
Marilyn Bergman recalled, “When Chernobyl happened, I remember Barbra calling me that morning—I was in New York at the time. She was, as we all were, very upset. It was a kind of a jolt, if we needed any reminder, that we were living in dangerous times: nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities that were like ticking bombs.”
“Anyway,” Bergman said, “I remember it was kind of a wake up call. The election was impending. We decided that we really wanted to be a factor or a force in electing some Democratic Senators to take back the Senate. So the idea of a fundraiser came up and Barbra said that she would sing. We started with the idea of doing it in a bigger venue. [Barbra] was reluctant to do that, probably for a lot of reasons. We ended up building an amphitheater in her backyard [seating approximately 500]. It was like a meadow in the back of her ranch that she had in Malibu.
“I’m so glad that it was documented on record and on video. And I’m also glad that we got the Senate back, and I think [One Voice] was a big piece of that — it was in California, I know that.”
In August 1986 the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee sent a unique invitation in the mail. Inside a paisley-patterned tin box was an invitation and a cassette tape from Barbra Streisand! Marilyn Bergman fondly remembered that “we went down to the Flower Walk in Los Angeles and we bought hundreds of little tin paisley boxes. We filled them with potpourri and Barbra made cassettes—individual cassettes—in which she spoke the introduction to the evening. Then she personalized them and put everybody’s name on them. They were hand delivered. Who could turn that down?”
(Below: The original audio from the cassette tape that Barbra sent to the guests).
Michael Fuchs, head of cable channel HBO, paid $250,000 toward the costs of mounting the concert, plus a very large amount of money for the rights to broadcast the concert on HBO once. Streisand’s manager Marty Erlichman said, “When I first called Michael Fuchs at HBO and asked him if he’d be interested he said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ Then when I told him the total price, he said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’”
The most amazing part of the deal that was struck was that if Barbra did not approve of her performance, then she was not committed to air the show! The expense of videotaping the concert would be lost by HBO.
“Barbra has the right for a few days to look at it,” Fuchs said.
Of course, Barbra did approve the footage, and a television special was assembled for airing in December.
Comic Robin Williams (dressed in white) opened the show with one of his ad-libbed monologues. He was obviously intimidated by the powerful Hollywood stars in the audience. He joked, “I see people out there who can say ‘I don't want him, get someone different!’”
When the concert began, Streisand emerged from a cloud of white smoke as her 8-piece band played “Somewhere.” The fashion theme of the evening was white — Streisand wore a white, knit turtleneck and long skirt.
There were many famous faces in the audience — the cameras captured glimpses of Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Sydney Pollack, Burt Bacharach, Jane Fonda and Penny Marshall.
At one point, after Barbra sang “People,” the camera focused briefly on Barbra’s son, Jason Gould, in the audience!
Producer Gary Smith confessed that different introductions to the songs were staged for the television special — less political and not specifically about Democratic fundraising.
Barbra told Rosie O’Donnell that they used the dress rehearsal performance of “America” in the final version of the TV show. During the actual September 6th performance, the audience stood and Barbra could not see her beloved TelePrompTer so she forgot the words!
Barbra Streisand sang two Judy Garland/Harold Arlen songs that evening, “Over the Rainbow” and “A New World” (from Garland's A Star is Born, 1954).
Another highlight of the evening was the special guest appearance of Barry Gibb. It had been 6 years since their top-selling album, Guilty, had debuted. The two artists never sang together on stage, but took the time on September 6th to remedy that.
Barbra began the first verse of “Guilty” alone on stage, asking the audience coyly, “Wanna dance?” She seemed to be searching for a duet partner. When it came time for the second verse, Barry’s voice can be heard offstage. Barbra acted surprised, then turned to the back of the stage, where Gibb appeared ... dressed in white.
The two dueted on “Guilty”, with Barbra bobbing up and down. Afterwards, she told Barry, “I love your voice, I love singing with you.”
Then they took their places at the stool and sang a dramatic “What Kind of Fool.” At the end of the song (“There was a time when we were down and out...”) they faced each other in profile and let each other’s hands go. “Who’s sorry now?”
Barry left the stage. 19 years later, he recorded the Guilty Pleasures album with Barbra.
On September 7th, the day after the concert, Barbra taped an interview for the Today Show. Gloria Steinem and Barbra toured the amphitheater in Barbra's back yard.
As for HBO, Barbra agreed to proceed with making her One Voice concert into a television special. HBO announced that the special would broadcast on December 27, 1986. Barbra and Richard Baskin began post-production work on One Voice.
Airs on HBO
The One Voice CD and VHS home video were released in April 1987. One Voice debuted on DVD in 2006.
Proceeds from the sale of the CD and the home video of the special went to the Barbra Streisand Foundation.
- 1987 Rose d'or Producer's Prize—Smith-Hemion Productions
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