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.
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)
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
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.
"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