69th Annual Academy Awards
Broadcast March 24, 1997 (ABC)
The song Barbra Streisand co-wrote for the 1996 movie she directed in starred in, The Mirror Has Two Faces, was nominated for an Oscar.
Streisand declined to sing “I Finally Found Someone” on the telecast. Singer Natalie Cole was asked to sing it instead. But then Cole became sick at the last minute. Streisand offered to step in for Cole and sing the song herself, but the Oscar producers had already asked Celine Dion Sunday morning before the show to perform the song and she had already been in rehearsal for it. (Dion was already booked on teh show to sing “Because You Loved Me,” which was nominated, too). The show director Louis Horvitz told the press “Barbra called us after saying no several times, but the ship had sailed.”
Meanwhile, Streisand and her boyfriend James Brolin flew in from San Diego by chartered jet where he was filming his TV series Pensacola: Wings of Gold. Streisand told the press that Celine Dion will “be wonderful,” and that “She can have the butterflies, not me.” Brolin added: “She [Streisand] wrote it; let somebody else sing it.” Brolin added. “We really didn't plan on coming until the last minute—look, he's not even wearing a tux,” said Streisand, who was dressed in a metallic Donna Karan dress. Barbra said she came to “honor Betty Bacall [nominated] and the picture I made.”
When host Billy Crystal introduced Madonna—was starred in but was not nominated for Evita—he took what appeared to be a swipe at Streisand. “Even though [Madonna] was not nominated and there was a lot of speculation that she was going to be,” he said, “she called the show because she wanted to sing and come here tonight. And I thought that was showing a great deal of class.” The Oscar director then cut to a shot of Streisand in the audience.
When it came time for “I Finally Found Someone,” Billy Crystal explained to the audience: “Graciously stepping in with just one day's notice to sing ‘I Finally Found Someone’ with brilliant trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Miss Celine Dion!”
Singing from a stool, with the lyrics on a music stand in front of her, Dion did a wonderful job interpreting the song.
But Streisand was in the bathroom while Dion sang her song.
“Ms. Streisand definitely was looking forward to seeing and hearing Celine Dion, one of her favorite singers,” publicist Dick Guttman said Wednesday after the show aired. He explained Streisand “went to the ladies room and was very pained to find out when she returned that she had missed the song.”
Streisand explained the situation later that year to Barbara Walters during an interview: “They don't have it printed in the program when the songs are. And so I went what I thought was during an intermission, come back, and the song's over. Now, I was heartbroken. Because I knew that this would be a wonderful moment on television. To have her singing, flash to me next to my love, Jim Brolin, of a song that I wrote called ‘I Finally Found Someone.’ This is a wonderful moment to capture on tape, right? Why would I miss it? Is the press this cynical? To make up a story that I would have deliberately done this to her?”
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