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The Importance of Being Barbra

The Importance of Being Barbra

5.0 3
by Tom Santopietro

Controversial, a global icon, a diva among divas—-Barbra Streisand, the last genuinely unique show business personality of the twentieth century is the most honored entertainer in the world today. But along with the Tony, two Oscars, six Emmys, eight Grammys, ten Golden Globes, fifty gold albums, and wild acclaim have come wildly diverse reactions to a


Controversial, a global icon, a diva among divas—-Barbra Streisand, the last genuinely unique show business personality of the twentieth century is the most honored entertainer in the world today. But along with the Tony, two Oscars, six Emmys, eight Grammys, ten Golden Globes, fifty gold albums, and wild acclaim have come wildly diverse reactions to a personality as outsized as her talent. In the words of Streisand herself, "I'm a liberal, opinionated Jewish feminist—-I push a lot of buttons."

In Tom Santopietro's witty yet analytical look at this one-of-a-kind career, the myths and personal foibles are stripped away, and the focus lands squarely on the work. From the early recordings to the groundbreaking television specials, from the Hollywood blockbusters to the history-making comeback concerts, Streisand's career is placed within an oftentimes uniquely American social context but always allowed to speak for itself. In a brisk, funny, and always compelling style, The Importance of Being Barbra reveals all the milestones in a new and sometimes startling light, ranging from the brilliance of Funny Girl and The Broadway Album to the misbegotten yet curiously popular A Star Is Born.

Treating Barbra Streisand like the serious artist she is—-and has always claimed to be—-The Importance of Being Barbra delves into the key reasons for her all-encompassing success: the overwhelming ambition, the notorious perfectionism, the fervent gay following, the dramatic pull of a voice and style that mysteriously connect with the lovelorn all around the world. A full-scale examination of the acting, singing, and directing that have ranged from the dazzling to the occasionally inexplicable—-it's all here for anyone who has ever wondered at the phenomenon that is Barbra Streisand.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Importance of Being Barbra

"Not at all the average fan tribute, The Importance of Being Barbra mixes milk-and-honey admiration with bracing shots of vinegar. Tom Santopietro 'gets' his idol—-loves her for what she is, understands what she is not (but still could be!). His book is smart, funny, right-on. An encyclopedic must-read for anybody who has pondered the greatness, perfection, and oddities of Miss Streisand."

—-Liz Smith, New York Post columnist

"An astute and thorough analysis of Streisand's career told in a brisk and engaging style while carefully establishing Streisand as a major cultural icon."

—-A. R. Gurney Jr., author of Love Letters and Scenes from American Life

"For both fan and non-fan this is a fast-paced examination of a superstar's career. A great read."

—-Bob Avian, Tony Award—winning choreographer of A Chorus Line and Ballroom

"Tom Santopietro's [The Importance of Being Barbra is an] encyclopedic but wonderfully entertaining account of Barbra Streisand's career, one 'unparalleled in the history of show business.' Who could argue? Who could resist?"

—-Jay Presson Allen, screenwriter of Cabaret and Funny Lady

"Here at last is a book that treats Streisand like the remarkable artist she is. Not just for fans."

—-Jeanine Basinger, author of American Cinema: One Hundred Years of Filmmaking

At this point, nobody can contest Barbra Streisand's talents or versatility; arguably, no modern performer boasts a more awesome array of Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, Tonys, and other awards. For many fans, though, Barbra's complex personality holds even more interest than her creative gifts. Santopietro argues that the Brooklyn-born singer has always nurtured her Funny Girl/Ugly Duckling image, creating a persona that has actually greatly enhanced her career. A fascinating view of a living legend.
Publishers Weekly
Theater manager Santopietro writes a decorous, dry analysis of "uberdiva" Barbra Streisand, examining five decades of recordings, concerts, film, theater and politics. He analyzes Streisand as a "walking mass of contradictions," parsing those paradoxes through critical readings of her professional and personal gambits. Just as Streisand's "Brooklyn-ese" fades from her rich singing voice, so her stage and studio persona-tightly controlled-masks a diffidence in the limelight that just feeds her fans' interest. For these folks, the seminal sound bites of her career, from "Hello, gorgeous" to "So long, dearie," constitute the narrative's few flashes of energy, evoking Streisand in more glory than can be conveyed here. Santopietro astutely embeds his subject in cultural context to underscore her zeitgeist appeal; her brash urgency and in-your-face ethnicity, epitomized in "the nose," endears her to those out of the mainstream, including feminists and gays, and, in the '60s, augured the demise of pre-Vietnam dormancy. A prototype of postmodern celebrity, Streisand cultivated her own image, embellishing her "ugly duckling" myth through autobiographical roles. The author's discerning, nuanced critiques of Streisand's works depict a career of subtle evolution not without its setbacks, shedding welcome light on her uneven reception over the years. But his scholarly cant will perplex readers expecting a juicier read. Photos. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
There is no doubt that Barbra Streisand has enjoyed one of the greatest show business careers of all time. But with countless biographies of the songstress already in print, why add another one to the collection? This book by Streisand's ultimate fan, theater manager Santopietro, is different, less a biography than an analysis of the star's recordings, films, theatrical career, television appearances, and concerts. Though occasionally over the top (he calls Streisand "Babs"), Santopietro holds strong opinions on all things Streisand that are usually right on. He observes her successes as well as her bloopers, e.g., what was she thinking with A Star Is Born? Only one thing nags at the reader: who is this guy? Does having stage managed a couple dozen New York City shows give him the credentials to critique La Streisand? But anyone who ends an analysis such as this with a "career scorecard" grading each of her efforts is worth reading. Cheeky and essential to a well-rounded Streisand collection, this book is highly recommended for public and academic libraries alike.-Rosellen Brewer, Sno-Isle Libs., Marysville, WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fairly objective look at La Streisand's career. So how good is Barbra Streisand, anyway? Broadway theater manager Santopietro here evaluates Streisand's professional, not personal, life, discussing details of the latter only as they may have shaped her work. (Marriage to James Brolin, it seems, brings more relaxed singing.) The author divides the book into separate, chronological critiques of Streisand's work in recordings, film, television, concerts, theater and politics. The scheme results in repetitions, as what Streisand has done in one realm has often spilled over into another, e.g., starring in Broadway and film versions of Funny Girl, then recording albums based on both. Though his tone reveals he's clearly an enthusiastic Streisand fan, Santopietro is nevertheless objective, placing the diva's accomplishments on a scale that ranges from "art" to "a waste of an extraordinary, once in a lifetime talent . . ." He finds her early work shooting fireworks, her later work often firing duds. Artistically and commercially, her first albums were hugely successful. Then, rather than record the Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Rodgers songbooks, as her peers Fitzgerald, Lee and Sinatra did, she turned out albums that recycled early hits with a few new songs thrown in. Early movies-Funny Girl, The Way We Were, What's Up, Doc?-were brilliant. Later films-The Main Event, For Pete's Sake-were embarrassing flops. Widely reputed to be a control freak, she often chooses flawed material. Though politically active, she turned away from filming The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's angry chronicle of the AIDS epidemic, to do The Mirror Has Two Faces, yet another film in which her leading man tells her she'sbeautiful. Why the disparities in the diva's work? Santopietro never really gets to deeper reasons (if anyone can), but his individual critiques are vivid and perceptive.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.82(d)

Meet the Author

Tom Santopietro has worked for the past twenty years in New York theater as a manager of moiré than two dozen Broadway shows, including A Few Good Men, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, A Doll's House, Master Class, Tru, The Iceman Cometh, and Noises Off. A graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law, Tom and the American Bar Association are equally happy that he is not practicing law.

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