Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Thursday Thirteen #358

13 facts/observations from Barbra Streisand's autobiography.
It took 25 days to finish My Name Is Barbra. Her book is a best-seller, capping off a career brimming with success.
Do I recommend it? Oh hell, I don't know. I'm a superfan, so I came to it with distinct bias in her favor. On the other hand, there are times I didn't like her very much, and that surprised me. I think it's because she's meant so much to me for so long, I was disappointed when she wasn't who I wanted her to be.
But over the last 25 days, I was never bored by her. I understand her better, and at 81 -- after six decades of stardom -- she's a woman who still desperately wants to be understood, so that's important. 

Without further ado, here's my ridiculously high-level overview of My Name Is Barbra.

1. Good goobies, it's long! 992 pages in hardcover, nearly 49 hours on audio (read by the author).

2. We have something in common. We both suffer from tinnitus. Hers is a constant clicking. Mine is a forever whoosh, like I always have a shell to my ear.

3. She hates royal blue. How can anyone hate blue? It's the most glorious color ever! It reminds Babs of the uniform she had to wear as a little girl when she was sent away to a much-hated health camp in the Catskills. (If she were to read this, I imagine she would prefer I use this color for highlights. IYKYK.)

4. She loves to eat. This is a great book for when you're hungry but don't know what you want to eat. Babs loves food and describes her favorites with gusto. Everything from Campbell's tomato soup to Oreos (but just the cookie, not the center) to grits with cheese to cha siu bao. She remembers who served her what and appears to have never had a bad meal in more than 80 years.

5. Elliott Gould seems adorable. Streisand's first love and first husband, the father of her child. He seems colorful, idiosyncratic, sweet and supportive.

6. Apparently Pierre Trudeau wasn't so great in bed. As well as being powerful and brilliant, The Prime Minister of Canada was a very romantic man. Yet Barbra -- admittedly lonely after her divorce  -- didn't allow the relationship to go to the next level because something was missing. She and Pierre remained friends for the rest of her life.

7. Jon Peters must have been great in bed. There's no other explanation for why she kept him in her life and her career as long as she did. He went from styling her wig to co-producing her movies and albums. What he actually contributed to her films and music is debatable, but its unquestionable that he picked fights (often physical) with coworkers, friends and strangers and helped himself to Barbra's money and her land.

8. She won't say "I love you" if she doesn't mean it. Not even to a hunk like Ryan O'Neal or Don Johnson, two old boyfriends who seemed to throw the phrase around more casually than she does.

9. She and husband James Brolin inspired an Aerosmith song. What? You never mention Streisand and Stephen Tyler in the same breath? In 1996, when her love affair with James Brolin first began, she recalled that one night in bed he said he didn't want to fall asleep. When she asked why, he said, "Because I'll miss you." Songwriter Diane Warren heard the story and it inspired Aerosmith's hit, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."  Don't want to close my eyes, don't want to fall asleep, because I'd miss you, baby, and I don't want to miss a thing. 

10. It amuses me that Christian Conservatives despise her so. Here is a woman who has seriously studied her Jewish faith and lets it guide her life. Who waited 25 years between marriages because she takes the institution so seriously. Who seldom uses vulgarity, and never takes the Lord's name in vain. Who generously supports causes championing women's health, children's education and the environment. Yet they demonize her and blindly support Donald Trump, who has five children by three different wives, misused money raised for sick children, joked about grabbing women "by the pussy" and is currently on trial regarding hush money to a porn star. Really, you can't make this shit up. (Unlike Barbra, I am fluent in vulgarity.) Is it antisemitism? Are they just pathetically triggered by opposing points of view? Is it because there isn't an equally successful Conservative performer, and they're jealous of her fundraising ability? To quote another Barbra superfan, Linda Richman of SNL's Coffee Talk, "talk among yourselves."

11. My two heroines knew one another! In the mid-1980s, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis tried to convince Barbra Streisand to write her memoirs. They chatted over tea at Barbra's NYC apartment. At the time, Barbra (then in her 40s) thought she was too young to look back, but Jackie's words about how the process of writing would be as rewarding for her (Barbra) as her readers always stayed with her. Barbra was impressed by Jackie, and she doesn't impress easy. Years later, Barbra was about to go onstage when she learned Jackie died. She was so emotional she felt she had to tell her audience the news.

12. She makes friends carefully and keeps them forever. She worked with, laughed with and dined with Marvin Hamlisch beginning in 1963, when he was was a teenaged rehearsal pianist, continuing until his death in 2012. Her best friend seems to have been Cis Corman. Cis was a 32-year-old mother of four when she took an acting class alongside 16-year-old Barbara (still with three a's) and they bonded instantly. Cis was married to a psychiatrist, and they became her surrogate parents. When Barbra became a star, Cis became her collaborator and casting director. She died in 2020. As one who recently lost two of my closest friends after decades of devotion, my heart breaks for Barbra. Some things are universal.

13. She would rather have control than cash. In negotiations, whether for her singing or acting or directing, she consistently accepts a lower a salary in exchange for more power behind the scenes. I kinda sorta get it, since she's a perfectionist. On the other hand, I'm lazier than she is. When I was a writer, I longed for more control, but since retiring from advertising, I'm content working at the card shop, where I just play my role behind the register and then go home. 

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.