Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand

Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand

4.1 43
by William J. Mann
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions


“Barbra Streisand’s story may be the most triumphant case of revenge in show business history . . . Mann vividly evokes the atmosphere of Streisand’s New York.”—New York Times

In 1960, Barbra Streisand was just a seventeen-year-old Brooklyn kid with plenty of talent but no connections and certainly no money; her mother

Overview


“Barbra Streisand’s story may be the most triumphant case of revenge in show business history . . . Mann vividly evokes the atmosphere of Streisand’s New York.”—New York Times

In 1960, Barbra Streisand was just a seventeen-year-old Brooklyn kid with plenty of talent but no connections and certainly no money; her mother brought her soup to make sure she stayed fed as she took acting classes and scraped out a living. Just four years later, she was the top-selling female recording artist in America and the star of one of Broadway’s biggest hits. In Hello, Gorgeous, the acclaimed Hollywood biographer William Mann chronicles that dizzying ascent, telling the riveting behind-the-scenes story of how Streisand and her team transformed her from an unknown dreamer into one of the world’s most beloved superstars.

“Trying to figure out the Barbra Streisand mystique is no easy task, but author William Mann expertly captures the launch of her remarkable career in the early 1960s when a unique ‘star was born’ . . . Mann's meticulous research and insightful analysis go deeper than any previous biography: shedding light on the formative years that shaped Streisand's persona, debunking some myths . . . and providing a cultural snapshot of the wild and free-spirited era in which Streisand blossomed.”—USA Today

“In his masterful book, Mann captures one of the most fully realized pictures of the multi-hyphenate superstar to date . . . Many books have been written about Streisand but few, if any, put readers as close to the subject as Mann does."—Miami Herald

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
…little of the fact and anecdote in Mann's 500 pages of text is new. But he has pored over previous books…and hundreds of clippings, done a few dozen interviews, delved deeply into the supporting cast and locales, and written a novelized biography notable for its breadth of detail and fair-mindedness.
—James Gavin
The Washington Post
It's helpful to the uninitiated that Mann…once counted himself among the uninitiated. He approaches his work not as a starry-eyed super fan, but as a curious and meticulous journalist, one who is appropriately complimentary of Streisand but also candid about her shortcomings. This gives him the proper voice to relay what is essentially a recap of the era during which she proved that she was, as the Funny Girl song goes, a comer: the period between the winter of 1960 and the spring of 1964, when she changed from pimply, ambitious teen into Tony Award-winning Broadway star and enormously successful recording artist.
—Jen Chaney
Publishers Weekly
Bestselling biographer Mann (of Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor) chronicles the dazzling series of events as Streisand “gate-crashed her way to fame.” Mann tightens the focus in this hefty volume to just the early, formative years of her career, choosing 1964 as his cutoff point. Beginning with her 1960 acting classes at age 17 and her friends then, he traces her journey as a performer. Boyfriend Barré Dennen steered her away from acting into singing, giving her an education on the great female vocalists and helping her develop a club act. After winning contests at a gay Greenwich Village club, she changed her name from Barbara to Barbra (to become “the only Barbra in the world”). Her nightclub performances “displayed the raw power of Piaf,” and word spread. After her TV debut on The Tonight Show, she arrived on Broadway in 1962 in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, followed by Funny Girl two years later. The marketing of Streisand and the men in her life are key themes throughout. Combining extensive interviews (some anonymous) and exhaustive archival research, Mann balances intimate personal details with audience reactions and critical acclaim to etch an indelible portrait of the artist as a young woman. 16-page and 8-page b&w photo inserts. Agent: Malaga Baldi, Baldi Agency. (Oct. 9)
From the Publisher

"Trying to figure out the Barbra Streisand mystique is no easy task, but Mann expertly captures the launch of her remarkable career in the early 1960s when a unique 'star was born.' Mann's meticulous research and insightful analysis go deeper than any previous biography..."--USA TODAY

"[An] excellent new work...One can only put down Hello, Gorgeous with renewed appreciation for Barbra’s single-mindedness, and with some glimpse of her inner struggle."-Liz Smith, syndicated columnist

"[A] surprisingly suspenseful and masterfully paced biography."—Kirkus (starred)

"Streisand fans will come away feeling they’ve had a ringside seat at her early career, and they will leave the show applauding."—Booklist

"A compelling, detailed look at the rise of the multitalented Streisand from 17-year-old unknown to chart-topping singer and Broadway star. Highly recommended for fans of Streisand, biographies, and theater."--Library Journal

"Combining extensive interviews (some anonymous) and exhaustive archival research, Mann balances intimate personal details with audience reactions and critical acclaim to etch an indelible portrait of the artist as a young woman."--Publishers Weekly

"…[I]n his masterful Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand, he [Mann] captures one of the most fully realized pictures of the multi-hyphenate superstar to date." –Howard Cohen, The Miami Herald

Library Journal
Barbra Streisand: a name synonymous with musical talent and acting prowess. Yet before she achieved the status of cultural icon, Streisand was an insecure teenager who simply wanted her mother's hard-won approval. For his newest biography, Mann (Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn) focuses on this young Streisand and her initial journey to stardom. Tales of publicity stunts, long nights performing for raucous nightclub crowds, and relationships built and broken lead up to her landing the starring role in Funny Girl. Mann also reveals the complexities of creating and staging a musical. While Streisand did not contribute to this biography, many of her friends and colleagues did, and their contributions shed light on a driven young woman who did everything in her power to become a star. VERDICT A compelling, detailed look at the rise of the multitalented Streisand from 17-year-old unknown to chart-topping singer and Broadway star. Highly recommended for fans of Streisand, biographies, and theater.—Katie Lawrence, ChicagoPhilosophy
Kirkus Reviews
Hollywood chronicler Mann (How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood, 2010, etc.) divulges the blood, sweat and tears that propelled a diva's rise to stardom. Barbra Streisand is such a cultural institution that it sometimes seems as if she sprang fully grown from the head of the entertainment industry. Not so, argues the author in this surprisingly suspenseful and masterfully paced biography. Covering the fundamental years from 1960 to 1964, he shines the spotlight on an awkward yet ambitious teenage girl who aspired to play grand theatrical roles. To Streisand, singing came so easily that she didn't regard it as work, and she practically had to be pushed into appearing at Greenwich Village nightclubs. When a friend suggested that she approach singing a song as if acting a part in a play, however, she made a creative breakthrough that led to appearances on TV talk shows, a Broadway role in I Can Get It for You Wholesale and a recording contract at Columbia Records. Streisand didn't accomplish this alone, and Mann appropriately gives credit to the agents, accompanists, directors and mentors who brought her idiosyncratic style to a generation hungry for new idols. He also delves into her paradoxical mixture of self-confidence and -doubt, disclosing that she privately felt insecure about her looks despite publicly flaunting an outlandish flair for fashion and a loopy sense of humor. Mann structures the book by seasons, further dividing these into a series of vignettes that read like scenes from a novel peopled with extraordinary characters. Even though we know the answers to most of the questions--Will our heroine win the coveted role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl? Will she live happily ever after with her Prince Charming, Elliott Gould?--this book makes getting to them a treat.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780594697329
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
11/05/2013
Pages:
608
Sales rank:
54,929
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Why Streisand Now?

Just five years after arriving in Manhattan as a seventeen-year-old kid without money or connections, Barbra Streisand was the top-selling female recording artist in America and the star of one of Broadway’s biggest hits. Twenty-two years old, her face graced the covers of Time and Life. That was only the beginning of a career that has marched its band and beat its drum for half a century, but everything Streisand has accomplished in that time can be traced right back to this first half decade of her professional life.
   The young Barbra was like nothing the world of entertainment had ever seen. So fresh, so fearless, so unself-conscious—so bursting with desire—that today, even the lady herself seems to cower when confronted with the memory of that young upstart. If Streisand has ever been afraid of anything, I suspect that it might be the burden of living up to that sexy, vulnerable, sensational younger self who gate-crashed her way to fame during the turbulent 1960s, defying old definitions of talent, beauty, and success, harnessing an extraordinary confluence of talent, hard work, and shrewd salesmanship. In these all-important formative years, Streisand first learned how to dazzle, how to connect, and how to get what she wanted.
   It was also during these years that she learned—in that less comfortable and far less controllable world offstage—how to love, be loved, and lose love. These were the years that the budding Brooklyn teenager named Barbara Streisand would become both a personality and a person, a time when she got her first inkling of how much the artistic affirmation she craved—and the fame that came with it—would cost.
   This book charts Barbra’s climb from her earliest days in Manhattan to her first major triumph, the Broadway musical Funny Girl. After that, her chronicle becomes a very different kind of story: a Cinderella tale after she’s secured prince and palace. (Or at least the palace; princes, for Barbra, weren’t so easy to come by.) My goal has been to understand this early, groundbreaking Barbra, the artist and the woman who, out of need and lack of nurture, transformed herself into a superstar the world loved or loathed, an ambivalence that seemed to mirror the feelings in her own head and heart. I’ve attempted to zoom in as closely as possible on this complicated young woman—not the constructed myth or icon—in order to document how this unlikely kid from Brooklyn turned herself, in just five years’ time, into the biggest star on the planet.
   Much of it, of course, was due to her astonishing talent, and to a voice that pianist Glenn Gould called “one of the natural wonders of the age.” Streisand came out of a time when talent still mattered, when the pursuit of greatness, not infamy, was rewarded—a world very different from ours, where Snooki and the Kardashians and drunken “real housewives” grab the lion’s share of media attention. Still, for all her gifts, Streisand wasn’t above merchandizing her fame, and during these first five years, she learned to do so expertly. She would cultivate an eccentric personality to go along with the mellifluous voice, knowing it would be the combination of the two that would keep audiences and interviewers coming back for more.
   Yet Streisand’s vaunted ambition remains very different from the lust for notoriety that drives so many of today’s celebrities. Barbra’s determination to reach the big time was never simply an engine to accumulate fans or headlines or even dollars. From the start, she made it clear that she did not wish “to be a star having to sign autographs or being recognized and all that.” Instead, there were much more human reasons. Barbra wanted to make it big so she could demonstrate she had talent and appeal to a father who had never known her, a mother who hadn’t seemed to care, and a world that had thought she was too different to succeed. No surprise, then, that being acknowledged as good would never be enough; Barbra had to be great. And as for paying her dues, she showed little patience: “It was right to the top,”  she declared early on, “or nowhere at all.”
   Of course, Streisand’s rise has been told before. To say something new and valuable, to put her career into fresh perspective, I have tried to re-create the vanished world of her beginnings. Given my subject’s refusal to speak with biographers, I knew I would need to uncover new, authoritative source materials on my own. Happily, I discovered that there were, in fact, several never-before-used collections that provided exactly the kind of detailed inside information I needed—material that, as I discovered, did not always jibe with the established canon of Streisand’s early years.
   I can’t say that I was surprised by this—the written historical record often serves as an important corrective to the faulty human memory—but I was nonetheless struck by how many oft-told tales and assumptions about Streisand’s career turned out to be false. The personal papers of Jerome Robbins, for example, revealed that, contrary to what has always been written, Ray Stark wasn’t opposed to Barbra’s casting in Funny Girl; rather, he was her most ardent champion right from the start. Claims made by Garson Kanin that he had to persuade Stark to hire Streisand were latter-day self-embellishments (something Kanin was very good at ) because the Robbins papers clearly show that Barbra was on the project months before Kanin came on board. Likewise, the papers of Bob Fosse finally flesh out that director’s rather shadowy involvement with the show. Streisand buffs might want to read my notes thoroughly, as I present evidence that debunks many of the famous myths about her career, such as the story of her being fired from a nightclub in Winnipeg.
   Also documented for the first time is the prodigious amount of backstage maneuvering and public-relations chicanery that propelled Streisand forward. Her ticket to the top was indisputably her voice, but her great good fortune was to choose a crackerjack team of managers, agents, and publicists who made sure that her voice got heard. This able corps of lieutenants, operating largely unseen and unsung, was led, almost from the start, by Marty Erlichman, second only to the lady herself in engineering her brilliant career. Erlichman understood that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Streisand’s very difference—her unusual looks, her Jewishness, her offbeat manner—could assist her rise, not hinder it. He was able to argue that she was so uniquely talented that her huge fame was simply fated; all they had needed to do to make Barbra a star was wait “for her talent to speak for itself.” As such, her celebrity wasn’t “artificially created,” Erlichman insisted, but something that simply “had to happen.” Such a platitude, of course, obscures all the press releases, publicity gimmicks, and backstage deals that he and his efficient band of foot soldiers waged on their client’s behalf, especially during these crucial first five years.
   Yet to acknowledge such clandestine efforts risks undercutting the image of a singularly talented star to whom the world has flocked instinctively and unbidden. Now, thanks to publicists and advocates finally sharing their accounts, another story emerges, and it is every bit as fascinating and compelling as the myths that have long been spun. Here is the chronicle of a girl—so green, so raw, such a diamond in the rough—carried along on a wave of masterful salesmanship to the attention of such influential figures in the world of theater and music as Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne, Harold Arlen, and Sammy Cahn, who then adopted her, anointed her, and presented her to the world. With such an entrance, Streisand’s acclaim was instant and overwhelming.
   None of that diminishes Barbra’s talent or star quality. If she hadn’t been as sensational as her handlers said she was, she would have crashed and burned like so many before her had done. Nor, significantly, should it minimize Streisand’s own role in making it all happen. Styne said she “carried her own spotlight.” Certainly no one knew better than Barbra what worked best for her, and she had little time for false modesty. In fact, Streisand’s very narcissism—a trait that has created a vocal minority of detractors—proved a key ingredient of her success, perhaps as essential as her ample talent and capable assistants. Greatness cannot be achieved, after all, without a corresponding belief in one’s own greatness. That single-minded egoism left some people resentful, however, and others simply perplexed. Rosie O’Donnell, a fervent Streisand devotee, once pressed Barbra on whether she, too, had had idols in her youth. There was a long pause, in which Streisand seemed to struggle with the very concept. “I don’t think so,” she said at last. Of course not: It had always been just her.
   For all of Streisand’s self-confidence, there was also the corresponding self-doubt. “That goes so deep,” she admitted—right back to those days in Brooklyn when her mother withheld praise and the girls at Erasmus Hall High School turned up their considerably smaller noses at her. As much as she’d been determined to make it, when success came, it still seemed strange to her. Seeing her name in lights was hard to accept. “Barbra Streisand doesn’t sound like a star,” she told a reporter in 1963.
   Since that time, she has made “Barbra Streisand” synonymous with stardom, becoming the bar by which others measure their success. But fifty years earlier, she’d had her own hurdles. There had been Jewish stars before her—Lauren Bacall, Joan Collins, Piper Laurie, Judy Holliday—but none who seemed to announce it quite as forcefully as Streisand did when she walked into a room or onto a stage. There had been stars who had looked different, stars who hadn’t fit conventional expectations of beauty or glamour, but none who had insisted they were beautiful—leading-lady material—as Streisand did. She was fortunate to emerge at a time when the old order was breaking down: Diahann Carroll and Chita Rivera were challenging the white-bread glamour handbook of Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day, and people such as Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, and Joan Rivers were introducing new voices into the American conversation.
   Streisand’s times were, therefore, right for her—but she was also right for her times. Though the critics started out calling her ugly and strange, within five years she had transformed not only their opinion of her, but also their very concept of what was beautiful and what was talented.
   That was a lot to accomplish for a young woman barely out of her teens, especially one who had to be great and not merely good. Early on, Streisand learned she could only achieve her goals by taking charge herself; her first album, engineered and orchestrated by others, wasn’t nearly as masterful as her second, on which she exerted more control. That word “control,” however, had “negative implications,” she argued; Streisand preferred to say that she took “artistic responsibility.” Yet sometimes in her quest for the best, she seemed to overshoot and expect perfection, especially from herself. Part of the reason she didn’t have pierced ears, she explained to Oprah Winfrey, was because “each ear is a different length, so how could you possibly put a hole in exactly the same place on different ears?”
   But she has always worn this insistence on precision as a badge of pride. “I really don’t like being called a ‘perfectionist’ as if it’s a crime,” she has said. Certainly Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins, her earliest examples of auteurship, had been no shrinking violets when it came to taking control over their work. “What is so offensive about a woman doing the same thing?” Streisand has asked. Even her detractors concede she has a point on that score.
   Perhaps this accounts for Streisand’s recent prominence on the scene. Suddenly she’s everywhere: celebrated on Glee, collecting awards, invoked in pop-rap songs, top-lining a movie for the first time in sixteen years. I suspect that our renewed fondness, even adoration, of Streisand is evidence of a nostalgia for a time when striving for excellence was at least as important as making a buck, and when originality was prized over focus-grouped packaging. In the early 1960s, Streisand reset the cultural parameters when she walked onstage in Funny Girl and said “Hello, gorgeous” to herself in the mirror—a slender, unusual girl who wouldn’t compromise on appearance, performance, or integrity. Fifty years later, she still matters, and for all the same reasons.

All scenes and events described herein are based on primary sources: interviews, letters, production records, journals, and contemporary news and weather reports. Nothing has been created simply for dramatic sake. Anything within quotation marks comes from interviews or other sources; dialogue is used only when it originates directly from these sources. Attitudes, motivations, and feelings attributed to Streisand or others always come from descriptions given in interviews. Full citations are found in the notes.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Trying to figure out the Barbra Streisand mystique is no easy task, but Mann expertly captures the launch of her remarkable career in the early 1960s when a unique 'star was born.'  Mann's meticulous research and insightful analysis go deeper than any previous biography ..."
-USA Today   "Mann, who has written bios of Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, has found another great subject here, and he offers up many new tidbits about Streisand's early life: details of her first affair, with a bisexual actor; her rejecting moth's reaction to seeing her onstage for the first time; and some ruminations about those 3-inch nails."—People Magazine   "[An] excellent new work ...One can only put down HELLO, GORGEOUS with renewed appreciation for Barbra’s single-mindedness, and with some glimpse of her inner struggle."
-Liz Smith, syndicated columnist   "Notable for its breadth of detail and fair-mindedness . . . Mann vividly evokes the atmosphere of Streisand's New York." —The New York Times Book Review   "Mann depicts not just her ferocious ambition and equally fierce insecurities, but also the people and strategies that enabled her rise. With many of those acolytes and assistants as sources, Mann provides an intimate, gossipy and sympathetic accounts of early Streisand." —The Forward   "In his masterful book, Mann captures one of the most fully realized pictures of the multi-hyphenate superstar to date. . . . Many books have been written about Streisand but few, if any, put readers as close to the subject as Mann does."—The Miami Herald   "[A] surprisingly suspenseful and masterfully paced biography."
—Kirkus   "Streisand fans will come away feeling they’ve had a ringside seat at her early career, and they will leave the show applauding ."
—Booklist   "A compelling, detailed look at the rise of the multitalented Streisand from 17-year-old unknown to chart-topping singer and Broadway star . Highly recommended for fans of Streisand, biographies, and theater."
-Library Journal   "Combining extensive interviews (some anonymous) and exhaustive archival research, Mann balances intimate personal details with audience reactions and critical acclaim to etch an indelible portrait of the artist as a young woman ."
-Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author

WILLIAM J. MANN is the author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, which was named a New York Times Notable Book, as well as several other acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. He divides his time between Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York City.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read every "biography" of Barbra Streisand in print - and it seems most of those are included in the exhaustive notes quoted in this book. William J. Mann's work is enlightening and meticulous; the research alone is incredible. Unless Barbra herself decides to set "pen to paper" this may be the definitive diary of those early years. Thank you, Mr. Mann, for an incredible and delightful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got the sample and it hooked me, once i got about half way through it drug a bit. But if you love Barbra you will love this
drbcabarete More than 1 year ago
Have been a Streisand fan since the beginning. I was disappointed that the book stopped where it did and would have enjoyed continuing with her life story as well as this author wrote the early years. But it was detailed and specific and certainly an interesting piece to read.
Sicilian More than 1 year ago
I was left confused as why this author stopped this otherwise well written book just as Streisand broke out in Funny Girl. I was sometimes turned off by unnamed quotes...especially if they were negative. Ms. Streisand worked hard for what she has achieved. It always seems like sour grapes when someone puts her down. To the author's credit he mainly put down the facts of her achievements...which are many. I found that the book portrayed her as a human being with high goals. She, and this book, give us examples of how this was achieved. I enjoyed the book but still wonder why it was based on just a few years. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author obviously hates Barbra. He wrote everything from a very negative standpoint. I can't believe she is as self-absorbed as he made her out to be. His information came from previously written books and commentators. Why write a book about someone you can't stand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished reading the entire book but if you are a Barbra fan you will enjoy reading this account of her early years. Well written and easy to read.
ennis More than 1 year ago
It's always good to finb something new about Barbra!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Much information about Barbra, but too many specific details about her relationships were repetitive, non essential facts, and seemed to be an effort to make the book longer. The info about her early life was well done, but after that it was just a will she be Fanny Brice in Funny Girl or not, and we already know that without reading this book. I really would not recommend this book unless you love minutae and are crazy about Barbara
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
%&*&4%&&5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He walked in, hands shoved in his pockets.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What drives anyone to entertain/perform is very much the same untill you get into the family tradition where it is a business/craft handed down in various forms. That is what i find interesting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hence the title.'m not a big fan of hers,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cant rate a book no one has any desire to read. Who cares
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Single he sits down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a curvy mexican i have a six pack carmel colored skin (thats very soft) hazel green eyes long thuck dark brown hair i have nice soft tasty big thick lips i have a bunny nose (witch i hate but everyone thinks its cute) ive been told i have a bubble butt but idk :P i can sing play electric guitar and i can play drums P.S im single and my name is ariana go to bubble first result if u wanna chat
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know it might not be very christian like but god still forgives us for every thing she chooses how she wants to act and she is choosing to be very mean
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name:it doesnt matter. Age:11-13. Looks:brown hair,brown eyes,slightly pointy ears...Personality:Sweet,smart,helpful but doesnt treat me like i cant do anuthing i mean doesnt treat me like im unable to di things,respectful ,doesnt cheat on me(YOUR A PWICE OF SHI?TTY CRAAP PEYTON!!!!!),fun,honest,someone who iant sexist(again peyton virtual punch),and is respectful towards me . Other:Im 5'1,dirty blonde,brown eyes ,a bit miscular, age:11-13 not telling,friendly,smart and etc etc please come!