If you grew up in the Age of Barbra, then you recall that she was not only a vocal powerhouse but also controversial. I recall sitting on our green brocade sectional listening to my parents and their friends discuss her: "She's too Jewish." "Must she belt everything?" "She is too pushy and brash." "She is ugly."
Those comments alone made me curious and instantly sympathetic. She seemed always a spunky underdog struggling to be given a chance to show her talents. Then she became the biggest star in the world.
It also helped that the film Funny Girl came out when I was struggling with my first angst-y teenage crushes. If you have never cried into your pillow listening to Barbra sing "My Man" from the Funny Girl soundtrack, then you might as well skip to the pictures. "Oh, my man, I love him so, he'll never know / All my life is just despair, but I don't care / When he takes me in his arms / The world is bright, all right ... " It was the perfect anthem for immature codependent love. And I had loads of it.
In the book, gay creative legend Cecil Beaton is quoted as saying, "She was charming to work with. Almost literally, like a hypnotist. Barbra and I talked our way into everything, and I trusted her judgment. I've never met anyone so young who had such an awareness and knowledge of herself. Pleasing her was very difficult, but it pleased me inwardly because I myself am extremely hard to please."
Read between the lines and it will touch on another aspect of Barbra that is legendary: torturous perfectionism. But doesn't that just complete the picture of a modern diva?
Streisand: In the Camera Eye, by gay author James Spada, is a collection of 170 of the most compelling photographs of Barbra Streisand, most of which have never been published before. The book spans more than 50 years, from her debuts off-Broadway and in Greenwich Village bars onward to Broadway and Hollywood, all the way through her very recent Back to Brooklyn concert and European tour.
Forty bucks for this hardcover book and you will also get your Gay Card renewed for at least the next 10 years. In bookstores everywhere and at Amazon, of course.
From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams)
Click though for more pictures, Gorgeous >>
Streisand in her Broadway debut as Yetta Tessye Marmelstein in I Can Get It for You Wholesale in 1962. From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) with permission from Getty Images
From a series of photographs taken to illustrate the back cover of her first number 1 album, People, released in 1964. From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) / Columbia Records
In a scene from her second television special, Color Me Barbra, filmed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1966. From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) / CBS Television
Scene from the film Funny Girl. Fanny wonders, "Would a convent take a Jewish girl?" as Nick nuzzles her neck in the seduction number "You Are Woman, I am Man." From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) / Columbia Pictures
Barbra Streisand as Doris ("I'm a model and an actress!") Wilgus wearing her "modeling outfit" in the 1970 comedy The Owl and the Pussycat. From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) / Columbia Pictures
Barbra as rising star Esther Hoffman and Kris Kristofferson as self-destructive rock superstar John Norman Howard in A Star is Born in 1976. From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) (c)Francesco Scarvullo/Warner Bros.
Barbra as Dr. Susan Lowenstein and Nick Nolte as Tom Wingo, the brother of one of her patients, in The Prince of Tides, 1991. From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) / Columbia Pictures
Barbra arrives in the rain for her acclaimed one-night-only performance at the Village Vanguard, September 26, 2009, which helped launch her album Love Is the Answer. "I haven't sung in the Village since 1962," she told the audience of friends and lottery-winning fans. "And after everything I've done and everywhere I've been, I'm back to where I started. Life is a circle, right? So, this is where I was. And this is where I am now." From Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Abrams) / RexUSA