An American Reunion: The 52nd Presidential Inaugural Gala (1993)

  • Broadcast on CBS, January 19, 1993
  • Directed by: Dwight Hemion
  • Produced by: Smith-Hemion Productions
  • Executive Producers: Gary Smith, Harry Thomason, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason
  • Producers: Gary Smith, Dwight Hemion
  • Writer: Buz Kohan
Streisand in pinstripe suit

CBS broadcast this all-star Gala for President Clinton's Inauguration. Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow and Michael Jackson contributed their talents. Performed at the US Air Arena in Landover, Maryland, Barbra closed the show with a mini-concert.

Producer Gary Smith (who was a creative talent behind the scenes on previous Streisand television specials) remembered that “Barbra was the first person I called to be on the Gala. Saying that to her and also asking her to introduce the President prompted an immediate “Yes.” This was a key booking for that event, since knowing that Barbra was going to appear prompted most other performers to also agree. She was clearly the highlight of the show. At the very last minute, Michael Jackson called and asked to appear, and could he introduce the President, or certainly close the show. I had to indicate that it was too late, but as it turned out, he came aboard anyway.”

Smith explained that Streisand would “rehearse at the arena but also attended the orchestra rehearsals off-site at a recording studio. There were originally to be four songs, but we cut one.” [Note: Streisand originally rehearsed “Some Enchanted Evening” for the Gala before cutting it.]

“Barbra needed a lot of attention during the rehearsals of the Gala,” Smith said. “For instance, we would tape rehearsals for her and give her an opportunity to look at them each night. Many rehearsal hours took place over a period of three days. Also, deciding on wardrobe was a big item.”

(Below: Producer/Director Gary Smith watches Streisand in television monitor.)

Gary Smith watches monitor

On the evening of the actual Gala, glamorous couple Warren Beatty and Annette Benning introduced Barbra, who was greeted with a standing ovation. She wore what New York Times' writer Anne Taylor Fleming called a "peekaboo power suit" by Donna Karan.

Peekaboo Power Suit article...the costume that really got to me was worn by Barbra Streisand at the gala. It sent a disturbing signal to—and about—American women.

...There she stood in an outfit much in evidence in fashion magazines and ads: a three-pieced pin-striped male power suit, with a feminine touch. Instead of pants, she wore a skirt that was slit from ankle to thigh, while above a definite hint of cleavage poked over the form-fitting vest.

As gorgeous notes sent chills through the crowd, one couldn't help notice her flesh—clearly the point. This was not role reversal, cross-dressing. This was a mixed metaphor—a woman letting us know that underneath her peekaboo power suit, underneath all her bravado and accomplishments, she is still an accessible femme fatale.

Barbra sang three songs: “Evergreen” (dedicated to President and Mrs. Clinton), “Children Will Listen” (with a spoken bridge), and “God Bless America.” The audience gave her a standing ovation after each song!

Clintons and Streisand

Barbra introduced Bill Clinton, then hugged him as he took the stage.

Barbra gave an assured, incredible performance ... and her appearance in front of so many people for the inauguration was also a preview of Barbra's return to the concert stage at the end of 1993.

End.

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