Barbara Interviews Barbra:
DATES STREISAND APPEARED:
Today Show, February 21-22, 1975; NBC [jump]
The Barbara Walters Special, December 14, 1976; ABC [jump]
The Barbara Walters Special, September 13, 1985; ABC [jump]
20/20, November 19, 1993; ABC [jump]
20/20, November 14, 1997; ABC [jump]
20/20, November 3, 2000; ABC[jump]
The Today Show—NBC
In a two-day interview, Streisand sat down with Barbara Walters to discuss a variety of topics. Dressed casually in slacks and wearing her blond hair long and straight, Streisand was open and candid.
When Walters started by asking Streisand about her reputation for being difficult, Barbra said, “I'm amused by it. Also upset by it. It hurts me. I get shocked when I hear stories about myself, that I took a shoe off and threw it across the Beverly Hills Lounge or something. It's totally untrue. It's part of my image, somehow. And journalistically it's probably much more interesting than writing about this nice person, you know?”
Walters: Are you temperamental ? Are you difficult to work with?
Streisand: I would say no. Because I just do my work, meaning I ask questions. And I think maybe some people resent questions being asked. Or I also have definite opinions on the way I want to do things. Although I'm really very open to exploration. I love to explore, I love challenges.
Walters: Do you think that part of it is that if you do it, you're a witch, and if a man does it he has authority? That there's something about it being you, a woman?
Streisand: Yeah. Definitely. Because of the whole male ego, you see, the distortion of most men's ego. I don't think they can cope with a woman who has opinions, a woman who feels strongly about something. It's some kind of threat to their own ego. I have been fascinated by it, you know, but I think it definitely exists. A kind of power play.
Walters: Some day I'll tell you my problems.
Streisand: Well, I can imagine you probably have the same problems.
Next, the two women discussed Streisand's new film, Funny Lady. “I hope [the audience] don't come in expecting it to be Funny Girl because it's not. It's a very interesting story about her and Billy Rose, and this competitive relationship. It's very funny and very charming. I don't try to be light. I don't know if she's likable, this character.”
When asked about whether she will sing in concert more, Streisand apologetically said, “I really don't enjoy personal appearances. They frighten me. They scare me.”
In the second part of the Today Show interview, which aired on February 22, 1975, Barbara Walters asked Streisand about Jon Peters—the man who owned a successful chain of hair salons, who styled Streisand's wig in For Pete's Sake, and who was going to direct Streisand in a film remake of A Star is Born. [Frank Pierson ended up helming the film.] Streisand responded to the Jon Peters controversy by saying, “People get angry at things that have not been done before. It's not that they're wrong, it's just that they're different.”
Walters: Is he a Svengali? Has he taken over your life?
Streisand: That's absurd. I mean, I don't know who's who's Svengali? Maybe I'm his. We are two people who are equals. He is the strongest person I've ever met. I don't mean physically, I mean in his presence, in his sense of self ... I am a professional, I have integrity as an artist. Do people think I would risk all that?
They also discussed how differently Streisand was raising her son, Jason, after meeting Peters. Streisand stressed that Jason lived a “real” life by going, for example, to a public beach and public school.
Walters wanted to know what Streisand could share with her fans. “See, I just don't like them to go to the movies, you know, and be influenced by what they read and think, ‘Gee, I really like her, but I hear she's terrible,’” Streisand stated. “I would just like people not to be confused, to trust their instincts ... they shouldn't be mislead by what they read.”
The Barbara Walters Special — ABC
Barbara Walters moved from NBC to ABC in 1976 and started her tenure there with her first interview television special. “The plan was to do a mixture of political leaders and Hollywood celebrities,” Walters reflected in 1989. “The words of the wary still ring in my ears: Those stars will never sit down for an interview, they said, and they certainly won't let you enter their homes. They will never talk to you, period. But one did. Barbra Streisand. Everything I'd ever heard about her was true. The ultimate professional, she worried about everything—every question I asked, every word she uttered, every note. But she is such a talent, and at heart so vulnerable, that I could forgive her anything. It was our first glimpse at the flipside of stardom.
In a fascinating interview, television viewers saw the Malibu ranch that Jon and Barbra called home. The interview started with Jon addressing the rumors that he was manipulating Barbra. Jon, well spoken and charming, won over Barbara Walters. Next, Streisand and Peters sat down for a chat about A Star Is Born and topics like celebrity, women's rights, and whether they'd get married.
In 1996 (20 years after the interview aired), Walters said, “True, [Streisand] was and still is one of our greatest stars, but I payed a high price. I so wanted Barbra Streisand as a guest on my first special that I did something I've never done before or since. I let her see the tape the same night we did the interview. As everyone knows, Barbra is a perfectionist. She wanted to change almost every line up until the program aired. I never gave anyone else control again. Barbra and I went on to do two more interviews, but this was the first.”
The Barbara Walters Special — ABC
Barbara Walters' 10th anniversary special featured interviews with Princess Caroline of Monaco, Barbra Streisand, and Priscilla Presley. It was the third time Walters had sat down with Streisand.
After a tour of Streisand's Malibu ranch, including her Art Deco home, Walters showed rare footage of Streisand recording her Broadway Album in the studio (the footage later became part of an HBO special).
Sitting down in Streisand's living room, Walters asked her how she knew her instincts were right. “Well, that's a complex thing,” Streisand responded. “I am filled with self-doubt, so even though I feel like I'm right, I am very doubtful at the same time. You know, ‘Maybe they're right.’ But it never stops me. It's an internal inner voice that says ‘This feels right.’
Walters: Are you sometimes wrong? Very wrong?
Streisand: Sometimes. When I haven't trusted my instincts I've been wrong.
Streisand discussed her tinnitus with Barbara Walters—a ringing in her ears that she's had since childhood. They also talked about the Oscar snub for Barbra's 1983 directing debut, Yentl. “At first I think, well, they just didn't like my work,” Streisand explained. “Then I think, I was kind of amused by it. It doesn't matter to me. The point of it is the film exists, the film was made, the film speaks for itself.”
Walters pressed Streisand about Yentl's Jewish themes maybe being the reason for its snub.
Walters: Is your being Jewish very important to you?
Streisand: It's very important for me to be who I am, and I am Jewish. So, I'm proud of that. I'm proud of having that heritage inside me.
The discussion moved next to Streisand's childhood, how she was brought up and how that effected who she is today.
Walters: Why didn't you have your nose fixed? Everybody must have said to you, Have your nose fixed. How did you know it was going to be right?
Streisand: Well, first of all, I didn't have the money to have my nose fixed, even if I had thought about it—which I did think about it. But the real reason was that I didn't trust the doctors to make my nose right ... I thought my nose went with my face. You know, it's all a little odd.
Discussing the effects of fame, Streisand explained, “I was a personality before I was a person.”
Streisand looked uncomfortable when Walters brought up Jon Peters.
Walters: Do you want to be married again? It's been a long time?
Streisand: Do you?
Streisand: You do? I'm not quite sure. I'm not quite sure.
ABC rebroadcast the Streisand interview (slightly edited for length) September 3, 1986, billed as The Barbara Walters Summer Special.
20/20 — ABC
Produced by: Ene Riisna
Edited by: Kathi Black
Barbara and Barbra visited Christie's Auction House together and looked at the furniture and collectibles that Streisand had put up for auction. “I'm trying to simplify my life,” Streisand explained.
For their sit-down interview, Christie's decorated a hotel room in early American antiques.
Streisand explained how she had changed since their last interview. “I'd rather read newspapers now than scripts,” she said. “I'm more interested in the real world rather than the world of make-believe.”
Barbara Walters was anxious to know why Streisand was planning on returning to the concert stage in Las Vegas for two shows at the end of 1993. “There are many reasons,” Streisand responded. “I think it's a challenge. I think my fans, the public, they want to see me perform. It's almost like it's something they feel I withhold from them, and, in a way, maybe I was. I've also given up a certain part of my perfectionism. In other words, I cannot be perfect.”
As for a world tour, Streisand said, “I wanna see how I like doing this, take two nights at a time. If I like it, I might do that, because it's a way of touching people and have them touch me.” [Note: Streisand went on a North American concert tour and also performed in London in 1994.]
Walters: Do you think you're good looking?
Streisand: At times I think I am.
Streisand: At times.
Streisand: Mmm, at moments.
In the second half of the interview, Walters asks Streisand again about her reputation for being controlling. “I think that because I can't control life, I can't control people, I can control my art,” Streisand explained.
Walters asked whether Barbra would like to be married again. “You know, why do you keep asking this question? You asked me this in 1985,” Streisand laughed. Then she said, “I think all people, including me, want to connect.”
Walters: So the answer is yes, maybe?
Streisand: No, it's not a maybe. The answer is ‘of course.’ I believe in marriage and the institution of marriage.
Walters: You've waited a long time.
Streisand: It hasn't been right yet.
The two women talked about Streisand's childhood next. She told a story about her step-father coming to see her on Broadwayin Funny Girl. Barbra dedicated the performance to him. For twenty years Streisand kept a box of candies that he gave her. She threw it out—“Why am I keeping this from this man?”
Walters: How do you want to be remembered? Director? Actress? Singer?
Streisand: All of the above.
Walters: What would you like it say?
Streisand: “She contributed something to the world.”
In 1997, Streisand sat down with Walters to publicize her new album, Higher Ground. Streisand brought Jim Brolin along and appeared on camera with him.
First, the two ladies addressed the inspiration for the new album. Barbra, over footage of her 1994 Las Vegas concert, said: “Virginia Clinton Kelly was an incredible support system for me. I told her I was frightened to sing and I asked her which night she’d like to come, Friday or Saturday, and she’d said, ‘Well, I’ll be there both nights’ she spent the last weekend of her life with me.”
Kelly passed away two days after the concerts. “When I went to her funeral,” Barbra said, “I was sitting in this room with hundreds of people paying tribute to her, and all of a sudden this girl started to sing a song called ‘On Holy Ground.’ The music uniﬁed us and I said, I must sing this song.”
They also discussed the Academy Awards, when Celine Dion stepped up to sing “I Finally Found Someone” and Barbra had left the auditorium. “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?”
Walters: In this album, what is the message that you’re trying to bring to people?
Barbra: What the world seems to want now, which is coming together, they want to unite, they want to love one another.
While walking the grounds of Barbra's homes, she and Barbara Walters roamed through the rose garden. “We’re looking to try to cultivate a rose that has a great smell, and is strong, and vibrant and good color,” Barbra explained about a possible “Barbra Streisand Rose.” [Note: They succeeded!]
Talking about love, Streisand revealed: “I think for the ﬁrst time in my life I’m not afraid to love. You see, what Jim does with me too in my life is, he ﬁlls a void that I never thought could be ﬁlled. Not having a father it was this kind of deep hole that could never be ﬁlled. Not only is he my lover and my friend, my best friend, but he ﬁlls the role of my dad at times, you know.
After a commercial break, Jim Brolin joined the interview. Walters asked him if their relationship was “50-50” and Brolin replied, “It’s a hundred—a hundred.”
The couple were coy about revealing an actual wedding date.
Walters: Did you ever think that this would happen to you in quite this way?
Brolin: No. I know you’re talking to her, but, no.
Barbra: No, you can’t imagine it. You’ve imagined it all your life, but then you can’t imagine it cause it’s never happened. And then it happens and then you can’t imagine it. But then you imagined it all the time, but now it’s here, so it’s hard to imagine.
Walters concluded the broadcast with statement from Barbra: “The stories about postponing my wedding for a world tour are ridiculous. That presupposes that I can’t get married and sing at the same time. Jim and I want to tour the world, but alone. If I sing, it will be to him privately. If I tour at all, it will probably be in the year 1999. What people don’t understand is that my personal life is far more important to me than my professional life.”
20/20 — ABCProducer: Alan B. Goldberg
Editor: Joe Schanzer
Barbra Streisand invited veteran ABC journalist Barbara Walters to her Central Park West triplex for their sixth interview in 25 years. They first talked on NBC's Today in February 1975. Since then, Walters has held interviews with Barbra exclusively for ABC in 1976, 1985, 1993, and 1997. On November 3, 2000, with the general election just a few days away, politics was Barbra's major concern but Walters also wanted to discuss why Barbra had ended her public concert career in September and other topics.
The 15-minute 20/20 feature, A High Note, began with high praise from Walters, who said Barbra is considered by many as the greatest entertainer in the world today. Launching into rarely seen "Something's Coming" footage from Barbra's September 27, 2000 show at Madison Square Garden, Walters asked Streisand why she was so adamant about no longer performing in concert. Of course, Barbra answered honestly, echoing sentiments she has previously expressed about live performing being tough work, uncomfortable (she loathes high heels), and causing worry about her appearance and voice (which she's never pampered). "I like the idea that I could go out on top," Streisand said, implying that it's wiser to quit while she can still deliver the goods. Of course, her audience has always had high expectations, but she told Walters that she has felt good enough about her performance quality of late. An admitted Streisand music fan, Walters wondered, "Don't you think you're great?" Barbra humbly replied, "I don't know if I'm great; I'm very good." Nevertheless, she assured Walters that her concert days were really over, despite what cynics may say — "Why should I do something I don't enjoy doing at this stage in my life?"
Wisely, Walters gave us an overview of Barbra's future plans, which clearly do not include retirement from being an artist and entertainer. "I like recording. It's very private. I love singing with an orchestra," Streisand answered when Walters inquired about future albums. In addition to acting, directing, and producing films, Barbra confirmed that an upcoming Barbra's Boutique will present a self-designed clothing line.
As in many of Barbra's recent interviews, her fatherless childhood was explored a bit, Streisand describing it as a "complete void" whose shoes no one can ever fill. They briefly discussed the three-page poem on the power of love, which Barbra's father sent to his girlfriend years before marrying Barbra's mother and which plays a major inspirational role in Barbra's Timeless concert. Streisand's memorable and frightening 1979 experience with a New York psychic was also recounted. She believes that her father communicated with her, spelling out his name on a Oujia board presumably - "Manny," followed by "Sorry" and then "Sing" and "Proud."
Considering the absence of her father, which clearly still affects her deeply, Streisand said she's "doing well with what I have," which Walters segued into a discussion of Barbra's marriage to James Brolin. Pleased she didn't have to ask again about wedding plans and that Barbra wasn't overly concerned about the furniture and lighting for their interview, Walters inquired as to whether Jim has changed Barbra for the better. "I think I'm probably still controlling," Barbra candidly admitted (but that's not always a negative if her control is positive and productive). In a blissful marriage at age 58, Barbra said, "It's easier to live in your own skin" and believes that "opposites do attract." Perhaps the couple will join for a movie. "We read scripts that are sent to us for the two of us to star in together." As for name billing, Streisand humorously clarifies, "Me first, are you kidding?"
Certainly the reason this interview aired the weekend before Election Day was that Barbra wanted an opportunity to express her pro-Gore message. But, first, Streisand had to get through Walters probing questions regarding President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Admitting that Clinton is a friend and that they actually discuss policy and legislation because she has "very strong opinions," Barbra was visibly uncomfortable with some of Walters' questions. She was correct in not divulging details of issues with which she had expressed disagreement to the President. Barbra did state that Congress's impeachment of the president and the entire investigation into his private life was "overrated and ridiculous" and that she would have stood strongly behind him if he were her husband. Clinton has been a "wonderful president," according to Streisand.
Why should people listen to Barbra Streisand on politics, Walters asked. Barbra reminded her that she's "an American citizen, a person, a human being. Then I'm an actress, director, composer, and so forth. ...I feel injustice very deeply...I've always been for the person less fortunate." This is why she supports Al Gore for president and Joe Lieberman for vice president, as their Democratic Party is in sync with her political and social beliefs. Most of Barbra's pro-Gore comments were provided in clips from her August 17 Nomination Celebration Concert speech in L.A. or paraphrased by Walters ("He represents her political and personal agenda") who inserted a video clip of George W. Bush replying to concerns about his possible Supreme Court appointments. For an election so important to this country, Walters chose to compress what Barbra had to say rather tightly, following it quickly with a quick chat about Streisand's stock market success. Barbra phoned in to C-SPAN's call-in program the following Sunday afternoon to explain that ABC wouldn't permit more of her speech (perhaps due to equal time concerns) but hoped that Rosie O'Donnell would show it in its entirety on her November 6 program.
To conclude the interview feature, ABC showed a brief "People" montage, Streisand singing the song's beginning in 1967, 1994, and 2000. Her final statement of the evening was a reply to Walters' question about the current meaning of the song for Barbra: "With the complex world we live in, the need we have for each other. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world, and the sooner we find that out, the better off the planet will be."
The interview ended on a light note of humor between the two women, Barbra asking Barbara when she would be getting married. ABC packed plenty of historic Streisand photos and performance video footage into the 15 minutes, usually paired with Walters' narration. Walters looked forward to more interviews with Streisand.
[Note: This would be Walters' last interview with Streisand.]
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