Broadway For Bella

Madison Square Garden

Felt Forum, New York

November 1, 1970

Broadway For Bella poster

Streisand singing

In 1970, Bella Abzug decided to run for a U.S. House of Representatives seat, representing Manhattan’s Upper West Side and running on an anti-Vietnam war platform that also incorporated her feminist views. Abzug's campaign slogan was: “This woman’s place is in the House … the House of Representatives!” In the general election, Abzug ran against Republican Barry Farber, a radio talk show host, and garnered 52% of the vote. Eventually, Abzug defeated the seven–term incumbent, Leonard Farbstein.

Barbra Streisand supported Bella Abzug's campaign for the Democratic seat in Congress. Streisand held a fundraiser for Abzug in her New York home, and also rode around New York in a flatbed truck, campaigning for her.

Newspaper announcement of show

Madeline Lee produced the concert (her husband was Jack Gilford, from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). Lee told author Anne Edwards that, originally, Streisand was booked to perform an entire concert for Abzug until her commitments to fulfill her Las Vegas hotel contracts interfered. “Marty Erlichman met with me, the director, Stanely Prager, Hal Prince who was guiding the event and the rest of the executive staff,” she recalled. “We just couldn't afford to lose Streisand's name value. Bella had been under vitriolic attack. Rocks were thrown through the windows of her campaign headquarters by militant supporters of Israel who thought she was anti-Israel. We were rather desperate. I came up with an idea called Broadway for Bella, where in the first half top Broadway stars would sing and perform numbers from current hit shows.”

Streisand closed the show, hitting the stage around ten o'clock p.m.

“The place was jammed,” Lee stated. “The first half was sensational. Then Barbra appeared in a slim-lined, black evening gown with spaghetti shoulder straps. Her hair was simple and back in a plain little chignon and she had a red chiffon scarf. She looked stunning ... We had a twenty-three piece orchestra and she sang seven songs and an encore, I believe ... Much to our horror people ran up the aisles wanting to touch her. She looked terrified. I think it was Alan Alda who came out on stage and helped her off.”

(Photos from that evening's performance, included on this page, were taken by Bob Scott.)

Streisand at Ahmanson Theater

On an audience recording of the event, one can hear how exuberant the audience is for Streisand.

One Abzug supporter recalled, “that twenty minutes was a lesson for me in the meaning of talent. There were thousands of people in the house and she rocked, she killed, she absolutely blew the house away and me with it.”

Streisand's set list that night:

Broadway for Bella

Above: Hirschfeld caricatures of Joel Grey (Cabaret), George Segal, Jack Gilford, and Streisand were featured on the advertisements for the show.

Click the button below to hear an excerpt of Barbra singing the opening song, "Somebody Come and Play":

Streisand on the stage

Ticket order form for Broadway For Bella

Streisand fundraising with Abzug

End.

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