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Barbra Streisand: Facts And Stories About Hollywood's Do-It-All Prodigy

Entertainment | October 19, 2020

Barbra Streisand in 'Funny Girl,' and 'The Owl and the Pussycat.' Source: IMDB

From her 1968 film debut Funny Girl through such major '70s hits as The Owl And The Pussycat, The Way We Were, and A Star Is Born, Barbra Streisand became an elite movie star of the era, and that was just one side of her multifaceted career. She was also recording chart-topping albums and performing on her own acclaimed TV specials. How did Streisand, the anything-but-typical "nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn," become such an entertainment juggernaut?

That's Her Real Name, Almost

Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied for 1969 Oscars. (newstatesman)

Born Barbara Joan Streisand, the renaissance woman nurtured an absolute commitment to being true to herself, with the minor move of changing the spelling of her name to Barbra in order to stand out more. Thanks to her otherworldly talent, going from Barbara to Barbra wasn’t strictly necessary. Even from an early age, her talent was as plain as day.

Streisand Sang For The Parent-Teacher Association

Streisand in 'Hello Dolly' (1969). Source: IMDB

Streisand’s first performance came at a PTA meeting, during which every parent but her own witnessed the birth of greatness. Her mother was famously hypercritical and even jealous of her daughter’s prodigious talent. Despite losing her father at the age of 12 to an epileptic seizure, Streisand became the pride of an especially talented class from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. Her famous classmates included Neil Diamond and Bobby Fischer, who she found "peculiar and sexy."

A Spectacular Talent & Trailblazer

The supremely talented bombshell, who changed for no one. (vintag.es)

Not only was Streisand gifted with an incredible voice and acting talent but she was brainy from the beginning. She graduated from high school, fourth in her class, at the age of 16. She also attended two other acting schools while babysitting to earn a scholarship to one of them!

Of course, many people show extraordinary promise and flame out before that potential is realized. Streisand, on the other hand, accomplished so much that her Wikipedia's list of honors is 1,250 words! The highlights include an EGOT, (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award) 5 #1 Billboard singles, and the National Medal of Arts, which is the highest honor for the Arts. She’s also won every lifetime achievement award in existence, recognized as a spectacular talent by every publication on Earth. Streisand, of course, was also the first to write, produce, direct, and star in a major studio film. That film, “Yentl” also went on to win two Oscars. 

A Persistent Genius

In her breakout Broadway performance “Funny Girl.” (tribecafilm)

In 1963, Streisand appeared on “The Judy Garland Show” with Dorothy Gale herself. At the time Garland was 41, 6 years away from a tragic death; Barbra was just getting started. The two starlets, almost 20 years apart, sang in perfect harmony. After the show, Garland told Streisand, “Don’t let them do to you what they did to me.”

Thankfully, the girl who enraptured America in “Funny Girl,” “Hello, Dolly,” and “The Owl And The Pussycat” owned a sense of self that could not be corrupted by the siren calls of Hollywood. Perhaps no better example is her distinctive nose, which she resolutely refused to taint with plastic surgery. In an era where many Hollywood ladies succumbed to outside pressures, Streisand didn’t budge. 

Uncompromising In Love

The trailblazer who navigated Hollywood unapologetically. (foreveryoungnews)

Often, the leading men of Hollywood are praised for their long list of high profile lovers. Streisand ranks as one of the few ladies who took her pick of handsome men and never apologized for it. Among her conquests were Elliot Gould, Pierre Trudeau, the former Prime minister of Canada who asked her hand in marriage, and Andre Agassi when she was 28 years his senior!

The flashy tennis star described Streisand as “Hot Lava.” Other unconfirmed flames included Warren Beatty, Ryan O'Neal, Steve McQueen, Kris Kristofferson, Don Johnson, Jon Voight, Richard Gere, Omar Sharif and Liam Neeson. One other powerful man was wildly obsessed with the multi-talented star but not in the romantic sense. Hilariously, Richard Nixon put Streisand on his list of “political opponents and enemies,” along with Paul Newman, Jane Fonda and Carol Channing.  

Surprising Streisand Facts

Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in “The Way We Were.” (pinterest)

One would think that a woman who could silence thousands with just the sheer beauty of her voice must be utterly at home on stage. However, since 1967 when she forgot her lyrics in front of 150,000 people in Central Park, “I always got frightened when I had to perform live.” It also may have developed her habit of never singing a song the same way twice.

That peculiar habit earned her stinging criticism from famous Broadway director, Arthur Laurents. According to Streisand, “He said: ‘You’re never gonna make it in showbiz. You’re too undisciplined. You never do it exactly the same way.’” Not long before Laurents died, she asked him, “‘Arthur, what do you feel now about the way I work? Do you understand why I change things, or had a hard time freezing the same thing?’ He said, ‘I absolutely do understand.’ That was very rewarding for me.”

Over the years Streisand passed on many well thought of projects like “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,” “Klute” and “Julia.” Naturally, the self-assured woman did it for her own reasons, “The thing is, I was always kind of lazy. On the one hand, I am — or I was — ambitious. On the other hand, if I was having a great love affair or something, I’d say, I don’t want to do anything else. I mean, searching for personal happiness was more important.” As the Hall of Fame actress deadpanned to the New York Times, “I made Jane Fonda’s career.”

Tags: Barbra Streisand | Ladies

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!