Skip to comments.Not such a funny girl (Mean/funny UK anti Babs hit piece!)
Posted on 10/19/2003 7:19:14 AM PDT by kaylar
Sun 19 Oct 2003
Not such a funny girl
THE most horrifying sentences in the English language (in ascending order of terror) run as follows. Your bank card has been withheld. This figure is only an estimate. I have written a novel, would you give it a look? The boss wants to see you. This is going to hurt a bit, Im afraid. Come and see Barbra Streisand sing a song to her dead dog on television.
With huge pictures of her ex-poodle Sammy projected behind her, Barbra Streisand last week launched her 60th album, a collection of film tunes, with a rare television appearance, crooning Smile in tribute to her pet, who had been dispatched to the great kennel in the sky 12 months earlier. Here was a showbiz legend taking us through every furball of her deceased dog. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde on the death of Little Nell: it would take the heart of Carla Lane not to laugh out loud.
Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the day a gawky Streisand made her debut in London. The Daily Mail told its readers to remember the young Americans oddly spelt name. However, their prescience did not extend to telling cabaret drag artistes, nail technicians and comedy writers that a major meal ticket had just arrived. Over the years, satirists and comics have had their sport sending up Streisand. The adult animations of South Park portrayed her as a power-crazed Godzilla monster who crushes everything in her path until slain by the lead singer of The Cure. Yet no one parodies Streisand better than Barbra herself.
Now 61, it has been years since she had her finger on the button marked perspective. For four decades Streisand has been a top drawer star of stage, screen and song, an achievement only matched by her ability to be award-winningly annoying in each artform. She has never been much of a radical in any of them.
When critics hail mush such as The Broadway Album as innovative, you cant help but reflect how safely unimaginative the rest of her overwrought recordings must be. Recently she said she did not listen to any modern music.
It has been decades since Streisand was considered in any way ahead of her time. Latterly she was even behind her audiences, who could see the punchlines for her onstage jokes rolling up on her Teleprompter before Streisand could mouth them.
Not to jar anyones misty, watercoloured memories, but not every Streisand film was well-regarded, even during her heyday. The Way We Were is still loved by grandmothers who sense that Love Story was a little too hard-edged, but Streisand herself is not much of a judge of quality when assessing her movies. She adores the transvestite Fiddler on the Roof travesty that is Yentl, but hates the "infantile" Whats Up Doc, a great screwball comedy where Streisand is genuinely funny, sexy and smart. Now she is solemn and self-regarding to the point that Barry Humphries credits some of her more pretentious pronouncements (she told an interviewer her favourite painting was Munchs The Scream) for some of Dame Ednas blithe affectations. Many see her as a depressing symbol of everything that is wrong, bad and boring with middle-class American culture. While this also applies to Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond, at least they dont angle for B&B at the White House or set themselves up as precious cultural commentators.
Streisands relentless ego seems to propel her towards ludicrously unsuitable star vehicles, such as the thriller where she played a 40-something, cross-eyed, large-nosed, highly-desirable high-class hooker. The film, appropriately, was Nuts. The audience agreed and stayed away. But Streisand wouldnt take the hint. In Prince of Tides, which she directed while co-starring with Nick Nolte, she was a psychiatrist who appeared to be stalked by a lighting man, who shone his most flattering beam wherever she went.
The trouble with Streisands film work, according to Walter Matthau, is that "she became a star long before she became an actress". Working with her on Hello Dolly was a sour experience: "A most unpleasant picture to work on and, as most of my scenes were with her, extremely distasteful. I was appalled at every move she made."
Ryan ONeal wistfully recalls her as "the most pretentious woman in movies". Like Frank Sinatra, Streisand cleverly bartered vocal talent for wealth and power. She acts, she directs, she collects objets, she throws diva fits and she never disappoints a press hungry for diva behaviour. At her last London press conference she kept journalists cooling their heels for hours while the podium was reset to favour her preferred profile. When the chairman finally opened proceedings, she immediately interrupted him to correct his pronunciation of Streisand. Its the compulsive control freakery that grates with the press. Unlike that other gay icon of the 20th century, Judy Garland, Streisand never allows herself to be truly, openly vulnerable. Instead she tries to steer the views her way.
Often portrayed as a career-driven perfectionist, Streisand prefers to stress that she is shy and insecure, in the same way that Jordan is a reluctant debutante. Aged 18, a not-that-shy Streisand won a talent contest in Greenwich Village for singing. Later she stole the show with a supporting role in the play I Can Get It For You Wholesale, and married the leading man, Elliott Gould. She became a pop superstar in 1963 aged 21 with her debut album, then won an Oscar in 1968 for her debut picture Funny Girl. A few years later she was the highest paid woman in show business. Meanwhile Goulds career dipped deeply. They divorced in 1971 soon after the birth of their son, Jason. Later Streisand was romantically linked with Liam Neeson, Omar Sharif, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Steven Spielberg.
To say Streisand had been unlucky in love would be untrue - after all, it takes an act of will, not luck, to date Don Johnson, a man who married Melanie Griffiths twice. In 1993, she hung around tennis courts mooning after Andre Agassi. But she had virtually given up on the idea of a permanent relationship when she met actor James Brolin on a blind date in the summer of 1996. The former star of titanic entertainments such as Marcus Welby MD, Hotel and Night of the Juggler bowled her over, perhaps because she had not seen any of these z-list productions. They wed a year later. "We talk deeply and we feel deeply," enthused the second Mr Streisand. "Weve been known to wake up and suddenly its dark again." Either this is love, or they live near the Arctic Circle.
A new family life has not diminished her controlling instincts however. When her new stepson Josh Brolin got engaged to the British actress Minnie Driver, Streisand steamrollered Drivers plans for a quiet wedding in favour of a lavish formal affair. The nuptials were eventually called off for good. Her relationship with her son Jason Gould, who appeared under her direction in Prince of Tides, is more positive after Goulds belligerent and turbulent adolescence; part of her interest in gay rights stems from the issues her son has faced coming out.
Some actors suffer from the "why me" syndrome. Streisand, however, deludes herself with a condition called "why not me?" Self-reference has become self pity. Why is she not recognised as a great beauty? In more than one interview she has complained that reporters compliment her on her looks but do not record these remarks in the finished article. Why is she not more widely praised for her liberal principles and democratic acumen? Possibly because Barbra likes poor people provided they dont get in the way of her Malibu beach front home. Why is she not given the same respect for her musical accomplishments as, say, the Beatles? "Im paid more. I get as much for me, one person, as all four of the Beatles." Today, she is said to have a clause in her £37m Sony contract that guarantees her a royalty rate higher than any other performer on the company books. She has always had to be the biggest and best.
Unkindly known as "Barbra Strident", she gives the impression that she has two huge chips on her shoulder because we do not think of her as a hottie, and we do not take her seriously. But when she harps on about her looks, it sounds like relentless narcissism. And anyone who has been lectured about her sincerely-held political beliefs will confirm that when Streisand gets on her soap box, shes a bore.
She has been a generous donor to good causes from Aids to conservation charities, to her favourite politicians. But rather creepily, she also spent most of Clintons administration around Washington and chumming up with Clintons mother Virginia. Streisands need to be in charge is often ascribed to the death of her father when she was a year old, an event that left her "desperate for love". Mothers and mother figures feature heavily in Streisands last film, The Mirror Has Two Faces, and some of the lines that are said to Streisands character are lines her real mother inflicted on her. "Once I asked my mother, Was I a pretty baby? and the first words were all babies are pretty. Whats pretty anyway. Look what good it did your sister."
Her attempts to win over her stepfather were unsuccessful, she felt. He preferred her stepsister, Rosalyn. Before her death from Alzheimers, Barbras mother Diana lived off a pension and a modest allowance from Streisand but also lived with Streisands endless complaints about Dianas inability to pay tribute to her daughters qualities. By the time of Mirror, she was running out of collaborators. One of the reasons she directed the film was because she approached others, including Robert Zemeckis and Herbert Ross and was turned down. Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall asked pointedly: "Are you going to tell me where to put the camera?"
Despite overcoming a long period of stage fright, nowadays Streisand performs about as often as JD Salinger goes on a book tour, and she says she has given up live performances altogether, bored of her own repertoire. When she did sing, her tickets excelled in the can-you-top-this field of concert extravaganzas. Streisand didnt see a problem. "I think this price is fair," she said about a £200 ticket 10 years ago. "If you amortise the money over 28 years, its $12.50 a year. So is it worth $12.50 a year to see me sing? To hear me sing live? I'm not going to do it again."
Instead, she does the odd album before retreating to the other life where she potters around with Brolin, politics with well-known Democrats - she recently unsuccessfully urged California against recalling their last governor - and collects antiques enthusiastically. "I love ancient myths," she has explained. "I love things that have survived."
Bwaaaaa. Great article. Thanks for the read. :)
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