Book Review: ‘My Name is Barbra’, by Barbra Streisand | ET REALITY

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MY NAME IS BARBRA, by Barbra Streisand


Hello, huge.

Of course Barbra Streisand’s memoir, which was 10 years in the making if you don’t count the chapter she hand-scribbled in the 1990s and then lost, was going to approach “Power Broker” proportions.

On the one hand, she is—despite her bouts of insecurity—a true power broker: breaking down barriers to and between Broadway, Hollywood, the recording industry, and Washington, DC, like Robert Moses on a demolition spree.

On the other hand, as Streisand writes in “My Name Is Barbra,” a 970-page victorious tour of everyone who ever doubted, belittled or belittled her, with persistent high-fives to her many followers, she tends to agonize over the editing process.

After adding material to his version of “A Star Is Born” for Netflix in 2018, “I think I did better. But I did it? I’m never sure”: She fantasized about new, fuller versions of “Funny Girl,” which made her a movie star upon her arrival, and “Yentl,” her directorial debut. When planning her wedding to actor James Brolin in 1998, she tried to select a long list of desserts before deciding.”We will have them all… why not?

You don’t have to be a psychiatrist (although Streisand, 81, has consulted many, played one in “The Prince of Tides” and even incorporated the therapeutic framework into a concert tour) to figure out why she’s been bitten. so big to life. As recounted before in a flotilla of biographies, none authorized (and at least one that says it all for one of the first roommates, who was quickly deceived), grew up deprived both financially and emotionally in a Housing project in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Instead of a doll, he carried a hot water bottle (“I swear she looked more like a real baby than a cold doll”), for which a sympathetic neighbor knitted him a pink hat and sweater.

These details may be familiar to fans, but for the most part they resonate most resonantly in Streisand’s loquacious, ellipse-filled narration. She may have a megawatt reputation (“an empty trophy,” she assures us), but between these covers she is nothing more than Bubbe Barbra sitting at the kitchen table, talking about fabrics and types that were renewed and “my first coat.” of fur, which they sold me as ‘Zorina,’ also known as ‘Alaskan sable,’ but actually… skunk.”

Her father, an educator of Orthodox Jewish origin, died at age 35 after a head injury when Barbara, as they wrote it then, was 15 months old and her brother was 9. (She still has a copy of Shakespeare’s Tales.) his father). for children on their nightstand: “Who knows? Maybe he had bought it to read to me.

Her mother remarried a man named Kind who was the complete opposite, gave birth to another girl and had a distinct Madame Rose undertone, crooning into a broom microphone and such. “Where are they my Gifts? she shouted at a Christmas gathering in 1964, when his eldest daughter had released the Top 40 hit “People” and appeared three times in Vogue. “I am the mother! She’s nothing without me!

That the film rights to “Gypsy” slipped out of Streisand’s hands after prolonged provocation seems like one of showbiz’s indictable crimes. (He even devours egg rolls, Mr. Goldstone!) Another: This book, which is adorned with more boldface names than sequins on Arnold Scaasi’s pantsuit he wore to the Oscars in 1969, has no index. You want to resurrect Spy magazine to make one, like did for “The Diaries of Andy Warhol.”

Little Barbara suffered from undiagnosed tinnitus, possibly a bug that God planted in her ear urging her to flee her family’s dysfunction. She vowed to become a performer after seeing Susan Strasberg, the daughter of method guru Lee, in “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Cort Theatre, and then engineered a meeting with Strasberg Sr., who did not intimidate her in the least. . (“He reminded me of my Uncle Irving.”)

She would also pass out at the movie theater near Erasmus Hall High, where she was an honors student; Her schoolmate Bobby Fischer, the future chess prodigy, “looked like some kind of deranged pilot from a 1940s movie,” she prophetically noted.

Streisand gathered mentors who introduced her to books and records, and raised money for acting classes, pantomiming chocolate chips and reading Jean Anouilh’s “Medea”: “Why Have You Made Me a Girl?” Although she hates flying, she longed to escape and would become an expert at crossing centuries and centuries. cultures on the screen.

But it was his brilliant, almost entirely intuitive singing, first at a gay bar and then at Greenwich Village nightclub Bon Soir, that would first dazzle audiences. She found the spotlight “warm and comforting,” quickly cut the second “a” from her name and now reminds us that the second “s” in Streisand is soft, phoning Tim Cook to correct the pronunciation on Siri.

The author releases “My name is Barbra”, her recycled title 1965 television special which in turn copied the name of a song by Leonard Bernstein, with Yiddishisms: trinkets (he likes pork ones); gonifor thief (her ex-boyfriend Jon Peters); fakakta (what his then-agent David Begelman called the Isaac Bashevis Singer short story that was the basis for “Yentl”).

Then there are the generous portions of audacity. In addition to sassing Strasberg, he somehow managed to resist all the advisors who told him to wag his long nose, ditch thrift-store clothes, and choose more standard numbers than, say, Harold Arlen.a sleeping bee”, with lyrics by Truman Capote.

No one cornered Barbra. He clashed from the start with the prickly playwright-director Arthur Laurents, insisting that he perform secretary Miss Marmelstein’s eponymous solo in “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” from a swivel chair. “You’ll never make it, you know?” he growled at her, although the audience went crazy for the sequence. “Never!” (They would reunite later, in the hit film “The Way We Were”).

Many men seemed to resent her impulse. “I have more talent in my farts than you have in your entire body!” Walter Matthau told her on the set of “Hello, Dolly.” Mike Wallace called her “totally self-absorbed” and made her cry on “60 Minutes.”

But many more fell at his feet, including Marlon Brando, who rubbed them. The King of England has sipped Constant Comment from his cup. Pat Conroy, the author of “The Prince of Tides,” compared her to the goddess Athena. (Athena on Conroy’s dance: “Wow, he could really throw that ass!”) Stephen Sondheim rewrote the lyrics for her.

Tabulating all the boyfriends and admirers (“I thought we were going to have an affair,” married Mandy Patinkin tearfully implored during “Yentl,” she writes) might require a second index.

Although she has a reputation for being controlling (basically the definition of being a director), Streisand here emphasizes, convincingly if somewhat exhaustively, her spontaneity. Contra Ethel Merman, who declared herself Miss Bird’s Eye when she was presented with the new lyrics in rehearsals for “Call Me Madam”, she believes that “to freeze something is to kill it.”

He wanted to print the words “this is a work in progress” on the back of his 1976 lieder album. Glenn Gould loved it.! – An example of his stubborn refusal to stay in a lane. “Now that I think about it, I should put it in this book too…”

Therefore, future editions could eliminate some of quotes of praise from his peers in long blocks, like the one supposedly from Tennessee Williams picked up by a interviewer whose veracity was questioned By Helen Shaw in The New Yorker. I don’t want to upset Laurents too much, but Streisand could perhaps have used a trusted collaborator, a JR Moehringer or even a JJ Hunsecker, to curb some whims, such as long lists of risqué friends at his post-career concerts.

Yet there is something lush and glorious about Streisand’s collection of self-portraits and party photographs. In fact, especially this long banquet of a book. You may not feel like sticking with the whole thing, but you’ll find something worth eating.

There are so many brilliant Streisands to behold over so many years: singer, actress, director, producer, philanthropist, activist, lover, mother, wife, friend, autobiographer. “That would be a really good review,” she suggests at one point, and as I struggle to put a button on this, all I can respond is: Barbra, make me a guest.


MY NAME IS BARBRA | By Barbra Streisand | Viking | 970 pages | $47

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