Sunday, April 24, 2016

Happy 74th, Barbra

I was a huge Barbra Streisand at this point in her career -- 1963.  I played her first four albums, the aptly named The Barbra Streisand Album and The Second Barbra Streisand Album as well as People and My Name Is Barbra, constantly. I was living in San Diego, Calif., at the time. By 1965 I had moved to New York City where Barbra had the city in the palm of her hand as the star of Funny Girl on Broadway. I looked upon the Winter Garden Theater, where the musical was being staged, as a shrine and many was the night I found myself at the stage door just watching as Streisand emerged. I saw the production at least eight times (which, incidentally, is nowhere close to as many times as I have seen Les Miserables.)

Three years later, I saw the film version and absolutely hated it. Mainly, I hated it because Omar Sharif was so badly miscast as Nicky Arnstein, who, as you can tell by this picture, looked nothing like Omar Sharif. But there was also something "off" about Barbra. She came across to me as no longer "a singer"; instead, she had become  "a star".

In the more than half-century since I purchased those first four Barbra Streisand albums, I have only bought two others, Stony End in 1971 The Broadway Album in 1985.

But there was one other memorable Streisand moment during these intervening years. It occurred in, of all places, Tempe, Ariz., during the filming of a misguided remake of A Star Is Born.  There is a sequence in the movie in which Streisand's character is on a concert tour and there are shots of concert goers giving her this incredibly wild reception. The filmmakers managed to get that crowd reaction by staging a rock concert at Sun Devil football stadium in Temple featuring Peter Frampton and Santana. In order to make sure the concert was a sellout, tickets were sold for $1.25. Because a lot of filming for the movie was taking place during the all-day concert, there were several delays between acts. During one of the more lengthy of these delays, Streisand, who had not performed live in several years, walked out on the stage and, with only a piano accompanying her, sang four songs. And she nailed it. She completely captivated the thousands of rockers who had come to see Santana and Frampton. She was spellbinding.

The day after the concert was set aside for us working journalist types to interview the principals involved in the film and during my interview with Streisand I asked her if the reception she had received from that audience had convinced her she might want to resume performing live. She looked at me as though I was crazy, then shrugged and said "Not so much."

Anyway, today Barbra Streisand celebrates her 74th birthday.

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