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She is a one-name legend, a global icon, the ultimate diva. Yet most of what we know about Barbra Joan Streisand is the stuff of caricature: the Brooklyn girl made good, the ugly duckling who blossomed into a modern-day Nefertiti, the political dilettante driving to the barricades in her Rolls-Royce, the Oscar-winning actress and bona fide movie mogul, the greatest female singer who ever lived, a skinflint, a philanthropist, a connoisseur and a barbarian, ...
She is a one-name legend, a global icon, the ultimate diva. Yet most of what we know about Barbra Joan Streisand is the stuff of caricature: the Brooklyn girl made good, the ugly duckling who blossomed into a modern-day Nefertiti, the political dilettante driving to the barricades in her Rolls-Royce, the Oscar-winning actress and bona fide movie mogul, the greatest female singer who ever lived, a skinflint, a philanthropist, a connoisseur and a barbarian, the woman whose physical characteristics are instantly identifiable around the planet -- the tapered nails, those slightly crossed eyes, that nose, the voice.
Even to the multitudes around the world who idolize her, Streisand remains aloof, unknowable, tantalizingly beyond reach. Until now. In the manner of his #1 New York Times bestsellers The Day Diana Died and The Day John Died as well as Jack and Jackie, Jackie After Jack, An Affair to Remember, and Sweet Caroline, Christopher Andersen taps into important sources -- eyewitnesses to Streisand's remarkable life and career -- to paint a startling portrait of the artist . . . and the woman. Among the revelations:
Surprising new details about her wedding and marriage to James Brolin.
New information about her many failed love affairs, including her never-before-revealed relationships with Prince Charles and Princess Diana's doomed lover Dodi Fayed -- as well as Warren Beatty, Ryan O'Neal, former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Steve McQueen, Richard Gere, Kris Kristofferson, Don Johnson, Jon Voight, Andre Agassi, newsman Peter Jennings, and more . . .
A provocative inside account of what really went on between Streisand and Bill Clinton in the White House, what their relationship is like today, and how Hillary feels about Barbra.
From Funny Girl and The Way We Were to Yentl and The Prince of Tides -- and in the recording sessions that produced some of the biggest hits in music history -- new behind-the-scenes details of the brilliance, the obsessive drive for perfection, and the Callas-sized ego.
New insights into Barbra's relationship with her only child, Jason.
Whether you love her, hate her, or are simply spellbound by her titanic talent, Barbra is one thing above all others: a true American original.
"What?" Barbra Streisand blurted into the phone, her voice hovering somewhere between anguish and resignation. "So he'll be in China?" She had given concerts that raised millions for him and his party, despite paralyzing stage fright and her own abiding fear that someday she would be assassinated onstage. She had defended him against charges that now threatened to topple his presidency. She had not put up a fight when Hillary Clinton, furious that Streisand had been an overnight guest of her husband's at the White House while the First Lady was at her dying father's bedside in Arkansas, reportedly banned Barbra from staying at the Executive Mansion. And while speculation ran rampant about the true nature of her relationship with the President, Streisand gallantly held her tongue. She had even befriended his mother, and consoled him following her death from breast cancer in 1994.
After all Barbra had done for him -- and had been through with him -- Bill Clinton had no intention of altering the dates of his nine-day visit to China so that he could attend her wedding to James Brolin. Nor was there any point in postponing the ceremony in hopes of catching Clinton on his way back from China; thePresident was simply "unavailable."
It came as less of a surprise that Hillary, who had always been suspicious of Barbra's motives in cozying up to Bill, also turned down the invitation. As it happened, both the First Lady and First Daughter Chelsea Clinton would also be heading for China at the end of June 1998. There was one Clinton who would be attending Barbra's wedding: Bill's little brother Roger, a failed rocker who once did prison time for selling cocaine.
"She was disappointed, of course," said an Arkansas friend of the Clintons, "but I think she understood that there was no way Bill could postpone that trip to China, even for her." Barbra was not about to complain directly to the President. She had other ways of coping with disappointment; she took her frustrations out on the hired help -- and, whenever possible, on the press.
July 1, 1998
A squadron of press helicopters churned high above Malibu's Point Dume, the din from their rotors competing with the relentless banshee shriek of White Zombie's "Thunder Kiss 65." It was not enough that reporters were held back by barricades fifty yards down the road from the sprawling Mediterranean-style estate. On Barbra's orders, a large black van equipped with gigantic speakers was parked within a few feet of the barricades, blasting heavy metal so that it was virtually impossible for television reporters to file their stories. Neighbors seethed, but no matter: The black van was parked far enough away so as not to disturb the mistress of the house, or her guests.
"Can they do this?" she had pleaded to anyone who would listen. "Can they fly over my house like that and take pictures of my goddamned wedding?" Legally, reporters were well within their rights to do so -- as long as the helicopters did not descend below what was considered a safe altitude of five hundred feet.
Still, Streisand publicist Dick Guttman had warned them to keep their distance so "sacred vows can be heard." Since the press was not about to comply, Barbra decided the earsplitting White Zombie counterattack was her only recourse. While hapless reporters shouted into their microphones, straining to be heard over the mayhem outside, beefy, grim-faced security guards in dark suits and sunglasses manned the front entrance of Streisand's estate, matching names to lists, checking badges, and muttering into walkie-talkies. They were just part of the sixty-member security force hired to police the property as if it were a U.S. embassy under siege.
Behind the walls of the embattled compound, another, even larger army of floral arrangers, musicians, bartenders, cooks, busboys, waitresses, handymen, and parking valets scurried about as they prepared to man their posts. At the center of it all, the tiny figure in bathrobe and slippers strode purposefully down one of the brick walkways that snaked across the grounds, trailing a hand-wringing cadre of caterers and gardeners in her wake. It had been two years to the day since she first met veteran television star James Brolin, and Barbra Streisand wanted nothing less for their wedding than she wanted for every other project she undertook: perfection.
While she had played the part -- most memorably as Fannie Brice camping it up onstage during the pregnant-bride sequence in Funny Girl ("I am the beautiful reflection of my love's affection . . .") -- Barbra had never had a real wedding of her own. Her 1963 marriage to actor Elliott Gould had been performed by a justice of the peace in Carson City, Nevada. This time, Brolin, fully aware that his fiancee had felt cheated, was urging Barbra to pull out the stops. The groom's disarming naivete notwithstanding, Barbra was more sensitive to the perception of any fifty-six-year-old woman -- much less one of the world's most famous, wealthy, and powerful ones -- trying to play the blushing bride. It was a daunting assignment, but one that Barbra believed she could pull off. There was only one requirement: that everyone do exactly what she told them to do.
Control. It was the one thing Barbra Streisand had sought to assert, with varying degrees of success, in every facet of her life. Control over her art and, by extension, over her career -- over the music she recorded, the movies she made, the concerts she gave. Control over her fortune -- now estimated at more than $120 million -- and total command of all that that entailed: the details of every clause in every contract, of every share of stock purchased, of every acre acquired, of every dollar doled out to charity. Control of her environment, right down to the subtle gradations of color in the roses grown at her sprawling Malibu estate. Control over her own psyche, though after more than thirty years of therapy, that seemed as elusive as ever. Control over her spirituality, rooted in Judaism and a yearning to connect with a father she never knew.
Excerpted from Barbra by Christopher Andersen Copyright © 2006 by Christopher Andersen. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 14, 2007
I saw Streisand last November in Chicago and immediately became even more fascinated by her. This was my first book on Barbra but definitely not my last! I really liked everything about it. I didn't know a lot about her personal life and really enjoyed learning about each and every stop on her journey to stardom, fame, and inevitable iconic status. The format of this book is just right and describes in great detail each of Barbra's major relationships and the nature of them. Also explores the 'neither here nor there' relationship between Barbra and her son, Jason. Overall, this was a great read and definitely a book I'll add to my own library. Just a warning to the softies out there who can't handle anything too political.. this book isn't for you. If you can't accept people with strong political opinions, you can't accept Barbra. That's who she IS.
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