Sometimes the best way to heal a broken heart is to get out of town.
The streets of Detroit were a lot wider than those in New York, and Barbra missed the subway. But it was good to be away.
She almost hadn’t made it. Hurrying with Bob to Penn Station, she had insisted she needed to stop at the drugstore first. Bob warned her that she risked missing her train if she did so. What could she possibly need at the drugstore?
“Toothpaste,” she answered.
“Barbra,” Bob told her, trying to be patient, “they have toothpaste in Detroit.”
Now she was six hundred miles from New York, the farthest she’d ever been from home. She’d arrived in the Motor City alone, without knowing a soul. Irvin Arthur had finally landed her a gig, and the owners of the Caucus Club, a swanky supper club in Detroit’s bustling downtown, had hired her sight unseen on the agency’s recommendation. They’d arranged for her to stay at the high-rise, Venetian-styled Henrose Hotel on Cadillac Square. It was almost as if Barbra were a real star.
Yet her audiences at the Caucus Club these past several nights hadn’t exactly been standing room only. The buzz from the Bon Soir hadn’t traveled quite as far as Detroit, and the Caucus Club’s lack of newspaper advertisements hadn’t helped either. So now Barbra was undertaking something she’d never done before in her short career: a media blitz. To drum up some business for this unknown out-of-towner, the club’s publicist, Ross Chapman, had booked Barbra on the Jack Harris radio show, which aired mornings on WJR at nine thirty. They’d taken a cab over to the studio together. Taking a deep breath to calm herself—in a few minutes, not just a few dozen people would be listening to her but a few thousand—Barbra headed inside the station.
Chapman had already given Harris a heads-up on what to expect. Barbra was “different,” Chapman had warned him, and indeed, as the young woman walked into the studio, Harris had to agree. Barbra was wearing a bulky antique coat and, as often happened when she was nervous, was twitching noticeably. Not quite knowing what to make of this unusual-looking kid, Harris asked her, on the air, “How’d you get into the singing business, for goodness’ sake?”
“Well,” Barbra replied, her voice trembling, “I had no money . . .”
From behind her, laughter rose from the technicians and others in the studio.
“ . . . and I entered a talent contest at a little . . .” Barbra hesitated. She couldn’t exactly describe the Lion honestly for what it was. “A little joint,” she finished.
It was the first time Barbra had been asked to tell her story in her own words. When Harris queried if she hadn’t then gone on to perform at one of the bigger New York clubs, she seemed to find her footing by reiterating the talking point that Rozar had been pushing these past few weeks. She told Harris that, yes, indeed, from there she went on to the Bon Soir “for eleven weeks, my first professional engagement.” No matter how she looked, eleven weeks at a New York club for an untrained singer was very impressive.
It already seemed like a long time ago. Soon after the new year, Barbra had moved out of Barré’s and into a hotel; she couldn’t go on living in Barré’s apartment with “all the cold-shouldering” they gave to each other, not to mention the heartbreak she carried around with her but didn’t dare articulate. Thankfully a pal from the Theatre Studio, Elaine Sobel, invited her to move in with her temporarily at her place on East Thirty-fourth Street, near Second Avenue. In no time, Barbra had stuffed all her clothes and belongings back into a half dozen shopping bags and lugged them right over.
But even twenty-nine blocks was still too close to Barré, so it was with tremendous relief in early February that she learned Irvin Arthur had secured the Detroit assignment. The Caucus Club would pay her $125 a week, which was seventeen dollars more than she’d made at the Bon Soir. Barbra was pleased.
Yet from the moment she arrived in Detroit, it would have been difficult to miss the posters announcing the touring company of The Sound of Music, starring Florence Henderson, which opened at the Grand Riviera Theater the same week Barbra opened at the Caucus Club. Barbra, it seemed, had been destined for Detroit. If she’d won the role of Liesl, she would’ve arrived in the city this very same week, though under very different circumstances. She wouldn’t have arrived alone, for one thing. She would have been happily ensconced within a company of fellow actors as she found her way through a city that was so very different from New York.
But while she fervently wished she was acting on a stage instead of singing in a club, at least she’d been impressed by the venue that had hired her. The Caucus Club was run by two brothers, Les and Sam Gruber, who also owned what was considered by many to be Detroit’s finest restaurant, the London Chop House, directly across the street. The Chopper, as it was called, was a favorite spot for the barons of the city’s auto industry, for whom special red phones were brought over to the tables so they might continue doing business as they ate their lunch or dinner. The Caucus, however, was a different animal altogether. It was a private men’s club—a discriminatory policy Barbra surely found antiquated—though the entertainment in the back room, where she performed, was open to everyone.
Barbra’s bohemian style didn’t fit with the Grubers’ regimented precision. The first day Barbra showed up, Les Gruber had looked at her bulky black turtleneck and black slacks and snapped, “Go back to your hotel and put on a dress.” For Ross Chapman, “weird” was the only way to describe Barbra’s appearance. The club’s pianist, Matt Michaels, was more specific: He thought she looked like “a hippie.” If Barbra’s “thrift-shop couture” had encountered some criticism even in anything-goes Greenwich Village, it sure wasn’t going to work in buttoned-down Detroit.
Even worse from the management’s point of view was the fact that Barbra arrived knowing only a handful of songs. Under her arm she carried “a big stack of dog-eared music” —the songs she’d practiced with Barré and arranged with Peter Daniels. With only a few additions, she’d stuck to basically the same set for her entire run at the Bon Soir. But the Caucus Club was a very different kind of engagement, as she quickly discovered. A flushed Matt Michaels walked up to Chapman after running over material with Barbra. “My God, Ross,” he said. “That broad only knows four songs.”
She knew more than four, but Michaels’s point was taken. Barbra was to do four spots a night at the Caucus Club; Chapman estimated she’d need at least eleven numbers. No one had expected her to arrive with such a limited repertoire. For her part, Barbra had naïvely assumed that she could just keep coasting along on what she knew. After all, she hadn’t had Barré’s help these past few months in expanding her song list.
For the first few nights, they determined, they could get by with “A Sleepin’ Bee” and the rest. But in a very short amount of time, Chapman insisted, Barbra would need to add seven or eight numbers to her act. Could she do it? Looking him straight in the eye, Barbra replied, “I’m a fast learner.” And so she and Michaels got down to work.
Matt Michaels, however, was no Peter Daniels, enchanted with the quirky young imp standing in front of his piano. To Michaels, Barbra looked like a witch—“All she needed was a broomstick”—and acted like one too. At twenty-eight, Michaels was a veteran musician highly regarded in Detroit, and he didn’t take kindly to Barbra refusing his suggestions on how to arrange a piece or insisting he play the piano precisely the way she told him. Practicing in the ballroom of a nearby hotel, Michaels told Barbra that if she actually knew how to read music, he might take her demands more seriously. But when he offered to teach her, he discovered she had no interest in learning; he thought she was afraid to try. A “tough lady,” Michaels told people when they asked about her. Throughout their time together, although he found it a “pleasure to accompany her,” he never grew “particularly enamored of her.”
It wasn’t the first time Barbra’s single-minded, unflappable dedication to her own way of doing things had come across as rude or self-absorbed. But there was a method, she believed, to her madness. While it was true that she couldn’t read music, those eleven weeks at the Bon Soir—and probably that fiasco in the Catskills as well—had taught her what worked for her and what did not. On one of her first nights at the Caucus, Barbra had stunned Michaels by telling a talkative audience to “shut up.” If she had to sing old ditties for a living, and not play Juliet, then she’d at least do it her way.
Working with her in that hotel ballroom, Michaels saw very clearly Barbra’s intense desire “to be a star.” Patrons had begun to comment on the delicacy of her hand movements on stage, an innate characteristic that had served her so well at the Bon Soir. But it was no longer spontaneous, Michaels discerned. He watched as Barbra stood “in front of a mirror four and five hours a day perfecting her gestures.” Everything about herself needed to be fine-tuned, Barbra believed. Yet for all her drive and determination, Michaels doubted Barbra would succeed in the end. She just carried too much “belligerence” around with her, he thought.
Of course, that belligerence had always been Barbra’s shield, a lesson absorbed from Diana. It was an attitude that enabled her to deflect criticism and refuse to take no for an answer. It also allowed her to ignore hecklers, which won Gruber’s grudging admiration one night after he witnessed some patrons razzing her.
So the decision was made to get Barbra out talking to the newspapers and radio stations. Ross Chapman asked her to tell him a few salient facts about herself so he “could do a squib on her to hand out.” To Chapman’s frustration, Barbra had brought no publicity material with her from New York, not even any photographs. Chapman declared they needed to build her up, make her interesting, get people talking.
So she told him she was from Turkey, and Chapman dutifully wrote it down. If it seemed an odd lie, it wasn’t really. Calling herself Turkish, one friend surmised, hinted at some embarrassment Barbra may have felt about “her appearance . . . [about] how Jewish she looked to everyone the moment she walked into the room.” Such a thought, of course, was never raised with Barbra—her friend didn’t dare—but the idea lingered, and there may have been something to it. Barbra would admit that when she told people she “came from Brooklyn,” she assumed they got a certain “image” of her: “She must be that kind of performer,” she assumed they thought, though she didn’t explain just what “that” kind of performer was. Being Turkish, however, could explain away so much—the name, the nose—and it could turn being just a plain outsider into being an exotic one.
Chapman asked what other interesting nuggets she could tell him about herself. She said she’d taken belly dancing lessons once. That got written down too. He asked about previous work. Barbra likely enthused over the Theatre Studio and The Insect Comedy and The Boy Friend, but Chapman wasn’t much interested in any of the acting credentials, undoubtedly to Barbra’s chagrin. But he seems to have paid attention to her meeting with Eddie Blum and wrote that part down.
In the resulting press release that was cranked out on Chapman’s mimeograph machine, the success Barbra had enjoyed in New York was hyperbolized with adjectives such as “phenomenal,” “unprecedented, ” and “groundbreaking”—standard publicist jargon. It was effective enough to get a few bites from various outlets, and that was how Barbra, nervous and fidgety, found herself sitting with Jack Harris in front of a microphone, speaking haltingly to perhaps twenty thousand listeners in metropolitan Detroit.
But what wasn’t halting was her rendition of “Right as the Rain,” one of the songs she’d banged out with Matt Michaels over the last few days. When Harris turned the mike over to her and asked her to sing, the kid with the strange clothes and crossed eyes let loose with a voice that left everyone in the studio impressed. “Right as the rain,” she sang, “that falls from above, so real, so right as our love . . .”
And out there in radioland, thousands listened and took note.
By day Fred Tew was a PR guy for Chrysler, but at night he got to do what he loved best. Arriving at the Caucus Club, he was known by everyone. The Grubers clapped him on the back as a waiter brought over his regular drink. Being the Detroit point man for the entertainment trade paper Variety had its perks. Tew got to see every important new act or show that came through the city. So when he got a call from Ross Chapman telling him that the new kid at the Caucus was worth checking out, Tew was there. It was March 2. Barbra had been doing her show for about a week.
And in that week’s time, a lot had changed. The media campaign had paid off. Many of those filing into the Caucus that night had heard Barbra on Harris’s show, or on another radio program, Guest House, which also aired on WJR, at seven o’clock in the evening. Her little press junket had also included some print interviews with local newspapers. Once again, Barbra had made sure to point out that she was on her way to being an actress and that singing was just a temporary diversion. With such an attitude, it was easy to become even more cavalier with the facts. Everyone had bought the idea that she’d been born in Turkey. Now, to a Detroit News reporter, Barbra fibbed further that her name had always been spelled with just two a’s. To a Windsor Star scribe, covering the Caucus for the Ontario city across the river, she created an imaginary happy family for herself: two parents living in Brooklyn and a ten-year-old sister who showed “great possibilities as a singer.”
Much of what else was written about her in the local press also played a little loose with factual history, appearing to be largely lifted verbatim from Ross Chapman’s press release. Detroit readers learned how Eddie Blum, “casting director for Rodgers and Hammerstein,” had seen “such potential in the slender brunette with the sultry, dark eyes,” and how Barbra’s dramatic “success story” could be considered “as exciting as the Lana Turner soda-fountain legend.” Old legends, after all, had a way of being recycled into new ones.
Taking his seat in the back room, Fred Tew waited for the show to begin. While Variety was hardly loved among showbiz types—its reviewers were notoriously tough, and Tew was no exception—it was certainly respected, being read by everyone in the business who mattered. A good review in Variety didn’t stay local; it was read in New York and Los Angeles and everywhere in between. The same thing was true, of course, for a bad review.
Around Tew, the room was filling up. Whether the star attraction was there or not, however, was anyone’s guess. What had become apparent, even in one week’s time, was that Barbra’s steely resolve to succeed was paired with an incongruent, distracted unprofessionalism. Just as she had at the Bon Soir, she was frequently late; at least once in the last week she’d taken the stage a full hour after she was scheduled—at eleven instead of ten. She explained that she couldn’t get a cab, an excuse the Grubers wouldn’t abide; walking from her hotel to Congress Street, where the club was located, took about five minutes. Yes, it had snowed a couple of days that week, but temperatures had averaged in the low forties. There had been no need for her to try to hail a cab.
One night, a bass player, who’d come in to work for free as a favor to the Grubers, grew irate as he waited for her. “I’m comin’ in to play for nothing,” he said when Barbra finally arrived, “and the least you can do is be on time.” Barbra began to cry.
But her tears had no effect on her behavior. One young man, a local actor and a regular at the Caucus Club who’d gotten to know Barbra soon after she arrived in Detroit, thought her heart was “simply not into” singing for a living, and so she “dillydallied and went window shopping and wrote letters back to New York” before finally “realizing what time it was and making a mad dash” for the Caucus. No matter how hard she had worked to get ready for the gig, and she’d worked very hard; no matter how much she gave to her audience when she was onstage, and she gave her all; underneath, she wasn’t “all that happy about the singing thing,” her friend thought, “and that showed up as unprofessionalism.”
Maybe knowing that Fred Tew from Variety was in the audience that night caused Barbra to be on time. Certainly the reviewer made no comment about her being late. When she came out on stage, Barbra received a hearty welcome. Tew found her “striking rather than beautiful, with a classic profile” emphasized by the “elevated hairdo” Bob had created for her before she left New York. Unlike so many others, including the Caucus Club proprietors, Tew had no problem with Barbra’s wardrobe; he thought she dressed “simply but effectively.”
But it was her voice that he came for, not her look. As her first number, Barbra had chosen the Gershwins’ “Lorelei,” from the 1933 musical Pardon My English. As Matt Michaels played the sassy opening few bars, Barbra began to sing. “Back in the days of knights and armor, there once lived a lovely charmer . . .” With gusto she got into the part of the sea siren who lured sailors to their death with her beauty. No doubt Tew’s eyes grew a little wider as Barbra complemented the lyrics with “plenty of body action to capture interest,” as he wrote in his review. Translated from “reviewerese,” that meant she was “slinking her sexy little body all across the stage,” said Barbra’s actor friend, who was sitting only seats away. With utter confidence Barbra sang, “I’m treacherous, yeah, I just can’t hold myself in check, I’m lecherous, yeah, I wanna bite my initials on a sailor’s neck.” Her facial expressions, Tew thought in his typically understated fashion, were “uninhibited and unusual”—which, according to Barbra’s friend, meant that she was “mugging and flirting all over the place.” In “Lorelei,” she had found a great choice for an opening. The audience was hooting and whistling by the time she sang the last note.
It helped that she had made a number of friends in the last week, many of whom came back night after night to see her. Sitting with her after the show, taking day trips to the Institute of Arts, these folks wouldn’t have recognized the tardy or “belligerent” girl described by Matt Michaels or others at the club. These people, like the actor friend who sat up front nearly every night, were bohemians, artists, and merrymakers—the “sociable downtown gang” as one writer called them—who responded to Barbra’s offbeat charm. Bernie Moray, a furniture salesman, and Dick Sloan, a movie exhibitor, were self-described “bachelors about town” who took a liking to the young singer and invited her to join them for dinner one night at the London Chop House. When Les Gruber spotted her at their table, he pulled her aside for a lecture on his policy against fraternizing with clients in his restaurant. But that didn’t deter the friendship. Moray and Sloan might have been a decade older than Barbra, but they loved her style, even offering “critiques” of her outfits. They found her naïveté absolutely endearing. “Do you know, Bernie,” Barbra once remarked in wonder, “they change the sheets on my bed [at the hotel] every night!”
It was that more innocent Barbra who took over after the applause died down for “Lorelei.” Softly she began to sing, “When a bee lies sleepin’ in the palm of your hand . . .” Once again, her audience marveled at how easily Barbra could move from vixen to vulnerable. In moments such as these, when she sang numbers that seemed to expose the tender girl inside, it became possible to believe that her so-called belligerence might be explained by reasons other than self-absorption and ambition. The girl up on the stage—being critiqued and reviewed by Variety—had yet to turn nineteen. Her voice, however, demanded that she be accorded the respect of a much older performer, and she was being judged against people such as Judy Garland and Patti Page, not Annette Funicello, who was exactly Barbra’s age and still being treated like a Mouseketeer. Just six months into her career, Barbra was already playing for adult stakes. And it could be daunting.
For all his frustration with her tardiness, Les Gruber found himself increasingly sympathetic to the pressures Barbra faced. In the privacy of his office, he encountered not just the demanding Barbra but the depressed Barbra as well, a teenager who wasn’t sure that she was good, who was afraid she was disappointing him, and who was self-conscious about her looks, even if she pretended not to be. Gruber tried boosting her up as best he could. “You’re great,” he told her. “You’re going to be great. It takes time.” Obviously her talent had already trumped her tardiness, for Gruber had just given Barbra a new contract, extending her run through April and raising her salary to $150 a week.
But there was likely more to the “depression” Gruber witnessed than any of them knew. While Barbra was running around Detroit talking to radio stations and newspaper reporters, Barré’s twenty-third birthday had come and gone. Barbra was a girl who missed nothing; she certainly knew what day it was. She was also someone who had the power to just “turn off people” who had hurt her, she said. So she made no call to Barré, sent no card. Back in New York, however, her friends were certain she was thinking about him.
For her third number that night Barbra sang “When the Sun Comes Out,” but it was her fourth, “Cry Me a River”—the last before the audience’s applause brought her back for an encore—that seemed to reveal what was really going on in her heart during that cold winter spent alone in Detroit. Vocally, it was her best, Fred Tew thought. That wasn’t surprising, given how much feeling must have gone into the words.
“Now you say you’re sorry, for being so untrue . . .”
When Bob heard her sing the song back in New York, it was obvious to him that she was singing about Barré. “All the anger and heartache, it was right there,” he said. Often in the past, Barbra’s songs had implied autobiography, sometimes calculatingly so. This time there was no need for calculation. The emotion was real.
“Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river . . .”
“I cried a river over you.”
The crowd at the Caucus Club was on its feet as Barbra headed backstage in tears.
Bob had very specific instructions, relayed to him in an urgent telephone call from Detroit just a few days earlier. Barbra had ordered a pair of shoes—a very expensive pair of shoes—and Bob was to pick them up at Madame Daunou’s salon on East Fifty-seventh Street and deliver them this afternoon to Studio 6B in the RCA Building. Barbra, it seemed, was coming home. And she needed the shoes for a very important gig.
She was going to be on The Jack Paar Show.
National television. Millions of people were going to see her. Except for Ed Sullivan, Paar was the biggest star-maker on TV. It had all happened rather suddenly —and quite serendipitously. Paar himself was on vacation; Orson Bean was scheduled to guest host. Ted Rozar pressed one client to help another, and so Bean had suggested to the NBC brass that Barbra, wunderkind of the Bon Soir, might appear on the show that coming Wednesday, April 5. Phyllis Diller was also slated to be a guest, so it would be perfect casting all around. NBC agreed, no doubt having read Fred Tew’s Variety review, which had extolled Barbra’s “natural talent.” The network would pay her $320 to sing two songs, as well as cover all transportation costs from Detroit. It would be Barbra’s first time on an airplane.
In the days leading up to the show, she’d been in a whirlwind, planning what she should sing and what she would wear. The first was not difficult: she knew “A Sleepin’ Bee” front and backward, and she’d been practicing Harold Arlen’s “When the Sun Comes Out” with Matt Michaels, which would give her set some up-tempo balance. But her sartorial choices weren’t quite as easy. She needed to wear something really striking for all those millions of television viewers, she told Bernie Moray, and as singular as her wardrobe might be, she felt there was nothing in her suitcase that quite did the trick. So she asked Moray if she might pilfer some upholstery fabric—burgundy damask, to be exact—from the furniture store where he worked. When he agreed, presenting her with several yards, Barbra set about designing a dress with the help of a local seamstress. For Barbra’s second number, Moray persuaded a female friend of his to loan Barbra a simple black dress—a frock not unlike the one Phyllis had bought for her at S. Klein’s and Barbra had returned to the store unworn.
There was also the matter of her shoes. To Barbra’s way of thinking, it didn’t matter that they’d barely be seen on the air. This was national television, after all, so she was going to splurge. She recalled a pair of shoes she’d spotted at Madame Daunou’s salon back in New York—an establishment patronized by Babe Paley, Betsy Bloomingdale, and the new First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. Emboldened suddenly to think of herself in their company, Barbra rang the sixty-four-year- old Mina Daunou, a Parisian fashion doyenne, and ordered the shoes. But there was a slight complication, she explained. The shoes would clash with her burgundy dress, a problem since the show was broadcast in color. In passable French, Barbra asked the salon if it was possible to have the shoes dyed to match the dress. Oui, madame, she was told. The shoes and the dye would cost her sixty-five dollars—a fortune, but Barbra blithely agreed. A friend, Monsieur Robert Schulenberg, would be by to pick up the shoes, she told the salon.
On a crisp, sunny spring day, Bob performed his errand as instructed, collecting the shoes at Madame Daunou’s and hurrying them over to the NBC studios. Barbra wasn’t quite there yet, so he left the shoes in her dressing room and then passed the hours until showtime at the counter of a drugstore in Rockefeller Center.
Barbra, meantime, was being whisked into the city from the airport by an NBC driver. Flushed from the thrill of her first flight, she was escorted like a real celebrity up the elevator to the sixth floor where, in her dressing room, she found not only the shoes but a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Bernie Moray and Dick Sloan. Astutely, her Detroit pals had suspected no one else would send her flowers: Bob couldn’t have afforded to do so and her mother was simply not the type. Besides, when Barbra had called home, Diana had told her that Shelly’s wife had just gone into the hospital to have a baby—Diana’s first grandchild. So it wasn’t clear that anyone in Barbra’s family would even be watching the show, which would be taped for broadcast later that night at 11:15.
No doubt Barbra wondered if Barré would be watching. Bob hadn’t told him, but the information was out there, although it may have been easy to miss. Barbra, feeling creative, had given her name as “Strysand” to the NBC publicists, and so it was as “Barbara [misspelled] Strysand [not misspelled]” that her name was printed in newspaper television listings throughout the country. But at the New York Times, the typesetter left off a few crucial letters, which ensured that potential television viewers throughout the New York metro region—who would have included Barré, Barbra’s paternal grandparents, and all those snooty kids back in Brooklyn—would read only that a “Barbara Strys,” whoever that was, was appearing that night on the Paar show.
The booking wasn’t a guarantee of success—hundreds of unknowns had made appearances on the show over the years and hadn’t gone on to bigger things—but Barbra understood she now had a better chance at realizing her dream than the thousands who never got a shot on national TV. It was extraordinary, really; a little more than six months ago, she had been wandering the streets, traipsing through auditions and being stood up by David Susskind. Now she was on the Paar show.
She waited backstage—“a nervous wreck,” according to Bean—as the show opened. Hugh Downs called Bean onstage to deliver his monologue. Currently headlining at the Blue Angel uptown, Bean had a quick, dry sense of humor, displaying an easy rapport with the audience as he sat at the desk smoking cigarette after cigarette. His first guest was the erudite author and playwright Gore Vidal, whose novel Messiah was being issued in paperback the following week. Phyllis came on next, having just completed another run at the Bon Soir, and ran through her frantic comedy shtick. Then came veteran character actor Albert Dekker, perhaps best known for Dr. Cyclops, the 1940 horror film. Finally, nearly an hour into the show, Bean looked into the camera to introduce Barbra.
“This girl was a young girl I saw down at a nightclub called the Bon Soir when she was there a couple of months ago,” Bean said. “She’s never been, to the best of my knowledge, on network television before. She has the most charming manner and the most charming voice. She’s flown in from Detroit to be with us for the night. She’s working out there at a club called the Caucus Club . . . Her name is Barbra Streisand . . . Welcome her.” Placing his cigarette back between his lips, Bean led the applause, and the camera switched over to the stage.
To Bob, sketching her in the audience, Barbra looked tiny. And she was—slight and slender in her burgundy dress that, except to the handful of viewers with color sets, looked gray on the screen, and her upswept hairdo, the one Bob had created to make her seem more sophisticated, but that actually made her look like a kid trying to play an adult, which wasn’t really so far from the truth. Barbra sang “A Sleepin’ Bee” with all the feeling she’d given it in her nightclub appearances, and with all the delicate hand gestures she’d perfected over the last several months, the ones Matt Michaels had observed her practicing so earnestly in the mirror.
The applause that followed the number was prodigious, but Barbra barely had time to hear it. She was rushing back to her dressing room to change into her second-act outfit while the technicians in the booth slipped in a commercial and Orson Bean lit another cigarette, convinced that Barbra’s transformation from a terrified kid into a silvery songstress could only be “a gift from God.”
After the break, Barbra was back in her slinky black dress with its thin shoulder straps, suddenly looking a couple of years older than she had before the commercial. There was nothing kiddish about that perfect figure. Bean told his audience, “I want you to hear another song by this delightful young lady, Barbra Streisand, who is an actress, as I told you before.” He hadn’t, actually, but no doubt that little addition to her bio had been urged by Barbra from backstage. For tonight, however, she was a singer, and she poured everything she had into “When the Sun Comes Out.” The song was far more lively than her first number, and when she got to the last note she gave it a little added oomph—“Then you’ll know the one I love walked in, when the sun comes . . . ow-oot!” She bowed, showing a flash of cleavage, and mouthed, “Yes!” She had nailed it, and she knew it.
The camera followed her as she walked over to join the group of guests and caught the triumphant grins she and Phyllis exchanged. Shaking hands with Gore Vidal, Barbra sat to his left, crossing her shapely legs. For a split second, she looked down at her new shoes. Hovering over all of them was a cloud of tobacco smoke. Orson Bean was on what seemed to be his twentieth cigarette, Phyllis was brandishing her trademark long cigarette holder, and Albert Dekker was puffing contentedly on a cigar.
“This is your first television show, isn’t it?” Bean asked her.
“This is so exciting, I just can’t tell you,” Barbra gushed, but the emotion that came from her lips seemed manufactured. She was nervous and excited, no doubt. But she was also acting, because that’s what actresses do when they are on a stage. “All these people,” she said grandly. “And lights. And people. Oh!”
“You were sensational,” said Phyllis, who was sitting on her other side. She took her hand.
“My hands are so cold,” Barbra said.
“Warm up her hands there, Gore,” Bean joked to Vidal, who took Barbra’s free hand for a moment, then, seeming to think better of it, let it go.
“I’ll give you my gloves,” Phyllis offered, getting a laugh from the audience as Barbra protested. Bean told her she should take the gloves because otherwise she’d catch cold. “And you’ll never play again,” Phyllis joshed.
Barbra took the gloves.
“I got some beautiful flowers from my friends,” she suddenly blurted out, looking around. “Where do I thank them?” She spotted the light on the camera and directed her eyes there. “Thank you, Bernie and Dick and everybody!”
She’d been coached to look at Bean or the other guests when she spoke, but she went her own way instead, sitting on the edge of her seat and looking into the camera or at the studio audience. Bean had tried leading her along with a host’s usual questions, but it was Barbra, all smiles and big hand gestures, who was running this show, her backstage nervousness evaporating now that she was front and center.
“I’m clothed by the Robinson Furniture Company of Detroit tonight,” she volunteered.
“You’re clothed by a furniture company?” Bean asked.
“Isn’t everybody?” Barbra asked, in what had to have been a rehearsed response.
“Such a beautiful chair you have on tonight,” Bean said, getting a big laugh.
“I’m the original Castro Convertible, moveable parts,” Barbra said. If she’d been hoping for a bigger laugh, she had to settle for merely a titter.
Bean pointed out the obvious: that it was her first dress of the night that had been made of upholstery material, not the one she was wearing. Phyllis arched an eyebrow in Barbra’s direction and concurred. “That one is sprayed on,” she quipped.
Barbra played her response perfectly. First came a big smile, then a double take, then a kind of vaudevillian mock offense. “You’re all heart, Phyllis,” she joked.
“You’re right,” Phyllis replied. “That’s why I’m shaped this way.” This got a huge laugh from the audience, and the old pro tilted her head toward Barbra. “Thanks for feeding me the lines, sweetie. You give me one more laugh and you’re through.”
But Phyllis quickly added, lest anyone think that there was any real competition between them, “I love Barbra. This is one of the great singing talents in the world.”
After the show, Phyllis and her husband, Sherwood—the “Fang” of her stand-up act—treated Barbra and Bob to a late dinner at the Brasserie. Barbra was giddy. She took considerable pleasure from the fact that, on national television, she had been treated like a sex symbol, with no caveats about her looks being “different” or “unusual.” She’d been sexy, plain and simple. And she’d been good, too: both songs had come across exactly as she’d hoped. Bob and Phyllis and Phyllis’s husband all lifted their glasses to her. Barbra was a hit, they said, and she could expect big things from now on.
When she called home later that night, she learned that her mother had watched the show after all, but most of the conversation centered around Sheldon’s new daughter, Erica. The next morning Barbra boarded a plane to head back to her pals in Detroit, who showed far more excitement about her television debut.
The first—and as far as Barbra could see, the only—“big thing” to come out of the Paar show appearance was a gig in St. Louis at a place called the Crystal Palace. It wasn’t exactly the superstardom Barbra was hoping for, but it had come, unexpectedly, with a few enjoyable perks—not the least of which was a young man named Tommy. Sitting opposite him, Barbra listened as he strummed a few chords on his guitar and made eyes at her. Not a bad way to mark her nineteenth birthday. Not bad at all.
After a final week and a half at the Caucus Club—during which the Grubers had given her a bonus for the great publicity they’d gotten when Orson Bean mentioned the name of the club on national television—Barbra had boarded the train to St. Louis, some five hundred and fifty miles southwest of Detroit. The Crystal Palace was a very different kind of venue than the chic Caucus Club. Phyllis had worked there the previous December, so she’d likely given Barbra the lowdown.
The owner, Jay Landesman, was a St. Louis–born Greenwich Village beatnik who’d founded the literary quarterly Neurotica in 1948, publishing Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Carl Solomon. Norman Mailer said that Landesman and his wife, Fran, “could be accused of starting it all,” meaning the whole “beat” culture. Now Landesman was bringing the avant-garde, the offbeat, the new, and the different to America’s heartland. He’d opened the Crystal Palace in 1958, spurring a movement of restaurants and cabarets into St. Louis’s bustling Gaslight Square. The club’s “hep audience” sat in a semicircle around an apron stage.
When Irvin Arthur had pitched the idea of a revue starring three acts from the Paar show, Landesman had quickly signed on. In addition to Barbra, there was Marc London, a young comic whom Variety called “as relaxed as an old shoe” and who’d made a name for himself with his humorous take on the daily news, and the Smothers Brothers—Tommy and Dick—a guitar-and-bass duo who “lampooned folk singers to a fare-thee-well,” Variety opined, “satire with a capital S.” The Smothers Brothers had been on the Paar show on February 20. Grouping the three acts under a single banner, “Caught in the Act,” Landesman publicized the revue as the first in a series “to showcase rising new talent.” The Smothers Brothers were billed first, and though Barbra came next, newspaper ads persisted in spelling her name “Barbara.”
Between the four performers a close bond was formed; in letters back to Bob, Barbra called them “her family on the road.” But the most intimate connection was with Tommy. Four months after her breakup with Barré, Barbra’s heartbreak was finally healing—at least enough to respond when a man flirted with her. And to her great surprise, she had flirted back. Finally, it seemed, she was learning a little of those “feminine wiles.”
Twenty-four-year-old Tom Smothers was the comic to his brother Dick’s straight man, often playing dim or naïve, when, in fact, he was as sharp as a tack, politically astute, and savvy in business. The brothers, who hailed from the Los Angeles area, had cut an album, The Smothers Brothers at the Purple Onion, due to be released the next month by Mercury Records. Blond and soft-spoken, about as goyish as one could get, Tom came from a North Carolina family that dated back to the Confederacy. He was very attentive to Barbra. Jay Landesman, who had an eagle eye, felt certain the two of them were sleeping together.
On this night, Barbra’s birthday, “Caught in the Act” was staged twice, first at eight thirty and then at ten, as it was every weeknight (there were three shows on weekends). Barbra was in good spirits. The spelling of her name had finally been fixed in the ads, and their audiences had been picking up after a rather slow start. On the night the revue had opened, April 17, they’d been up against the telecast of the Academy Awards. That meant they’d played to a number of empty seats, since it seemed the entire world was tuning in to watch Elizabeth Taylor—at death’s door from pneumonia just weeks before—accept the Best Actress prize for Butterfield 8. In the following days, some people had stayed home out of anxiety over the Kennedy administration’s attempted intervention in Cuba—a failed enterprise the newspapers called the “Bay of Pigs invasion.” But as hostilities died down, people started filing into the Crystal Palace looking for some diversion from world affairs. Soon the word on the street was that “Caught in the Act” was “a zippy revue, full of fun.”
The fun proved infectious. Working alongside three comedians, Barbra endeavored to keep up the pace, slipping in more and more of “their sort of patter between her numbers,” Landesman noticed. Barbra had always included a few quick, humorous asides in her act, but now her rap was turning into rambling stories about the benefits of eating nuts or the hazards of sitting too close to a television. And she was amping up the Jewish shtick considerably. “Such toomel,” she’d giggle, using the Yiddish word for noisy chaos, when the audience would applaud her after a number. “You like my schmatta?” she’d ask, gesturing to her outfit. She told friends she was playing a character; she was an actress, after all, and it came naturally. But Landesman worried that the patter might distract from the mood of her songs, many of which were tender ballads. “But I get so bored doing the same thing every night,” Barbra replied, when he asked her to tone it down a bit. Landesman gave in and allowed her to continue.
People began to comment on Barbra’s speaking voice, which could be soft and wispy, compared to her singing voice, which seemed to grow bolder, stronger, and more confident every time she performed. Certainly that night, on her birthday, Barbra had every reason to feel confident about herself and her career. Singing “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” from the off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, she had the audience shouting for an encore. The Variety review that appeared a few days later declared that Barbra had an “inimitable, sultry way with a ballad . . . She shapes as a comer.”
Yes indeed, reason for confidence. Three cities in a row had now gotten behind her. Three major cities, where she had brought people to their feet, cheering and hooting for more. But perhaps what was even more important to her that spring was a quieter, more personal breakthrough. She had discovered that there were other fish in the sea than Barré Dennen, and some of them might even find her attractive. Tommy Smothers’s attentions had come at exactly the right moment. Barbra came to understand the power she could have when she zeroed in on someone and turned on the full seductive force of her personality.
Coming home to New York after eight weeks in Detroit and three in St. Louis should have been a happy occasion. But it wasn’t.
Rain fell as Barbra made her way from Elaine Sobel’s apartment in Murray Hill to Greenwich Village. She’d been back in the city for less than forty-eight hours and here she was, schlepping right back to where she’d started, to the Bon Soir to commence another four-week singing engagement. Arthur had completed all the arrangements for the gig while she was in St. Louis, ensuring no disruption in Barbra’s income, for which she was undeniably grateful. He’d even gotten her salary raised to $175 a week. But where were the acting jobs? Before she’d left Detroit, Barbra had interrupted the radio host Jack Harris when he’d observed on air that she’d “switched to singing” from acting. “I’m going back to acting!” she’d insisted.
Indeed, this time around, the Bon Soir seemed rather sordid, Barbra told friends. Making her living as a singer struck her as “wrong.” Deep down, she thought, singing in a nightclub was “a floozy job.”
Her companion in the tiny, cramped dressing room this time was Renée Taylor, a big, blowsy, twenty-eight-year-old powerhouse whose broad, blatant comedy, heavily accented with Jewish shtick, was familiar to television audiences through regular appearances on the Jack Paar and Perry Como shows. It was Taylor who was the headliner this night, so it was magnanimous of her to lend Barbra a pair of stockings, since the younger performer had discovered a run in hers at the last moment. Barbra trooped out onto the stage and sang her songs, then yanked her stockings off and tossed them to Taylor backstage, who promised to slip them back to her in time for the second show.
This was definitely not the kind of career Barbra had dreamed about. During the break between shows, she stood by the coffee urn in the Bon Soir’s steamy kitchen, the aromas of garlic and grease hanging in the air. Waiters rushed past her, carrying trays of the club’s latest delicacy, a three-layer pastry that Variety decreed had “only intermittent nutritional value.” How could she be a serious artist in a place like this? Was this what she had labored so hard for at the Theatre Studio? Was this why she had dug so deep into her heart and soul during Allan Miller’s acting classes?
During the day, in the privacy of her room, whether she was in Detroit, St. Louis, or New York, Barbra had endeavored to keep her dreams alive by acting out scenes from Shakespeare and Chekhov. And even though she carried that passion and determination with her into the clubs, striving to use her acting skills every time she sang, invoking Shakespeare to interpret Gershwin, Barbra still couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was “bastardizing her art.” Hadn’t Rozar promised her work in the theater?
She’d begun having second thoughts about her big blond manager. For one thing, his roving eye, quick to follow any pretty girl who walked into the room, irritated her to no end. Barbra was never one to tolerate a gaze that wandered too far from her own direction. And wouldn’t it be nice, she added in her rants to her pals, if she had a manager who actually traveled with her, as other performers did? Then she wouldn’t have to make her way on the road all by herself.
Before the show that night, she’d exchanged a few sharp words with Rozar. She was annoyed that he expected her to reimburse him for phone calls and postage. Whatever happened to him never expecting a woman to pay for anything? That was just the way things were done, Rozar tried explaining, but he knew Barbra’s pique was about more than just money. He understood that she was irritated by the fact that he spent, in her opinion, “too much time” with his other clients and even with his family. He’d come to recognize in Barbra the same self-absorption that had so exasperated Barré, the furious narcissism that blazed within her, fueled by that old pipeline of insecurities. Barbra wanted a manager “who would pay all his own expenses and expect nothing from her,” Rozar now realized, “who would travel with her wherever she went, who would be there to hold her hand, fight her battles, tell her she was wonderful, and be her slave.”
In between shows that night, they didn’t speak. Rozar sat with his wife in the audience. Barbra stood by herself beside the coffee urn in the Bon Soir kitchen. That was when she looked up to see a stocky, bespectacled man approaching her. He told her his name was Marty Erlichman.
Marty had been looking forward to seeing his old pal, actor and comedian Phil Leeds, perform that night at the Bon Soir. Phil was sharing a bill that included Renée Taylor and her comedy partner, Frank Baxter; and some girl singer Marty had never heard of. On a night as raw and rainy as this, Marty probably wouldn’t have come out except to show his support to Phil. Bluff and often brusque, Marty nonetheless had a sentimental side.
Yet the performer who impressed him the most that evening was that unknown girl singer. Barbra sang five songs that gave Marty “chills through all of them.” The rest of his table, all “industry people,” hadn’t been as impressed. Instead of the usual up-tempo number, Barbra had opened with a ballad, no doubt trying to alleviate the boredom she felt doing the same thing every night. One of the agents at Marty’s table shook his head and called that a mistake. Barbra, he said, had “a lot to learn.”
Marty wasn’t so sure. He had a feeling this kid knew exactly what she was doing. As an entertainment manager, he had an eye for talent in the rough. Not long before, he’d spotted a group of Irish singers who called themselves the Clancy Brothers and pegged them, despite their lack of experience and polish, as potential stars. When he noticed one of the Clancys wearing a white Aran sweater sent over from Ireland by his mother, Marty had decided that the whole group should wear them. It gave them a look. And so the sweaters had become their trademark, launching a bit of a national fad when Marty succeeded in booking the Clancys on The Ed Sullivan Show just a couple of months previous. That appearance had led to a five-year, $100,000 recording contract with Columbia Records, with none other than Pete Seeger on backup banjo. The Clancy Brothers were suddenly riding high—and along with them, their manager.
Marty shared not a few characteristics with that girl singer he so admired. He’d been born in Brooklyn, about two and a half miles from where Barbra grew up, though Martin Lee Erlichman was thirteen years older than Barbra Joan Streisand. But like her, Marty was also the grandchild of Russian Jewish immigrants and had dreamed of making a name for himself in the world of showbiz from a very young age. His father, Jack, short for Jacob, managed a confectionery; his grandfather Joseph had worked in an ice-cream factory in Manhattan. But vending candy and sweets was not going to be Marty’s fate. As a young man he got a job as a time-log clerk at CBS radio. In the summer of 1959, he produced “Jazz on the Hudson,” a series of four-hour cruises that left Pier 80 at the foot of West Forty-second Street every Friday night, regaling passengers with the sounds of Morgana King, Donald Byrd, Sam Most, Pepper Adams, the Horace Silver Quintet, and others.
With a business partner, Lenny Rosenfeld, Marty broke into the personal-management field when he signed his first client, Josh White, the blues singer-songwriter. With White now working primarily on English television, Marty was primarily concentrating on the Clancy Brothers. But he was still looking for “the big one”—the client who could put him up there with George Scheck, the powerful manager of Connie Francis, or maybe even Colonel Tom Parker, who had guided Elvis Presley to the top.
Marty certainly wouldn’t have pegged Barbra as being his ticket to the big time, but he was clearly impressed. Her vulnerability and the poignant sense of autobiography that resonated in her songs had been strikingly apparent. To Marty, Barbra had “what Chaplin had.” Moviegoers always rooted for the little tramp against anyone who tried to beat him down. It was the same, Marty felt, with Barbra. To him, Barbra was “the girl the guys never look at twice,” and when she sang of the pathos of that—of “being like an invisible woman”—the audience rose up and wanted “to protect her.” This was definitely a marketable act, Marty told himself, and so, during the intermission, he excused himself from his table and went to look for this girl named Barbra Streisand.
He found her beside the coffee urn in the kitchen.
Without any niceties or small talk, he bluntly told her that she was terrific and asked if she had representation. Barbra liked Marty’s direct manner, so much like her own. But she had to reply that she already had a manager. Marty pulled his card from his pocket and handed it to her. She should call him, he said, if her situation ever changed. Before he had a chance to leave, Barbra asked Marty if he thought she ought to fix her nose or change her name. Marty told her she shouldn’t change a thing.
Barbra made sure to keep Marty Erlichman’s card.
Ted Rozar had seen the little transaction between Barbra and Marty. He’d spotted Erlichman in the audience and knew who he was, and he’d watched with interest Marty’s hasty beeline backstage between shows.
“He wants her,” Rozar told his wife as they headed out of the club. “I could see it in his eyes.”
Once inside a cab, Rozar laughed. “Well, if he wants her, let him try to get her,” he said. “He’ll see what she wants. And if he can give it to her, then he can have her.”
It was time for a little makeover, Barbra felt, and it came, as always, courtesy of good old Bob.
She sat on her usual stool in Bob’s apartment on Gay Street as her pal walked in circles slowly around her, stroking his chin, as if she were a half-finished piece of sculpture and he was considering where to wield his chisel next. They laughed, often and easily. But Bob was quite serious in believing Barbra’s appearance was critical in taking her to the next level of her professional career. She was definitely on the move. She’d just been booked for a second appearance on the Paar show, and the Bon Soir had, once again, extended her run by a couple of weeks. Bob thought it was time she left behind anything too girlish, anything too “Greenwich Village beatnik,” and homed in on something entirely new and surprising.
For all Barbra’s flirtation with the idea of a new manager, she was grateful that Rozar had landed her a repeat appearance on the Paar show, again with the able assistance of Orson Bean, who was once more in the guest host’s chair. So she was up for whatever Bob had in mind for her. A new wardrobe or hairdo. Anything to make her stand out on television.
Bob got down to work. A dress was shortened; a pair of long gloves was tried on. It was Bob’s desire that Barbra stop conversation when she made an appearance. She had to be “queen of the room,” he said. Terry Leong’s thrift-shop creations had been interesting, Bob thought, but “they were costumes, not clothes.” That look had worked very well to get her noticed, Bob believed, but it was entirely “too theatrical” to take Barbra to the next level of her public success. Now, Bob urged her, she needed to think “sophistication . . . poise . . . Park Avenue cocktail party.”
He was careful not to dictate to her, to never say anything as crass as “tone it down.” Barbra was far too headstrong to simply follow orders. So instead he brought out stacks of magazines, pointing to celebrities and models whose looks seemed right for Barbra. She studied them carefully, especially Audrey Hepburn in costume for the soon-to-be-released Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Bob said this was the kind of “severity” and “extreme chic” he thought she should go for. Barbra nodded, warming to the idea. Who would have thought that she’d ever be like Audrey Hepburn?
He hauled out a book that had made a great impression on him. It was The White Goddess by Robert Graves, which posited the concept of a female deity at the center of much of Western culture. From Graves’s essay, Bob took the idea that men had a primal need to worship women, dating back to pre-Christian goddess religions. The “remnant of the divine goddess,” Bob believed, could still be found in certain cultural prototypes: Garbo, Dietrich, Monroe, even the new First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. He explained to Barbra that the public’s veneration of these women was “tapping into something very subconscious, very deep.” He wanted the same for Barbra. He saw her potential to be as irresistible, as spellbinding, as divine as any of those other legendary ladies.
If they could cultivate that, Bob told Barbra, if—through the combination of talent, clothes, hairstyle, makeup, and attitude—they could bring out the “white goddess” within, then there would be no stopping her.
Barbra told him to get to work.
Diana Kind was hopping mad. How dare that man say such a thing about a daughter of hers?
Only a short time ago, on May 22, she’d watched Barbra on the Paar show. It had been Barbra’s second appearance on national television, and Diana had allowed ten-year-old Rozzie to stay up to watch. How excited Rozzie had been to see her sister on TV. Diana had found it amusing how the little girl was so interested in and impressed with Barbra’s career.
Diana had to admit that Barbra looked good. A little classier and more stylish than in the past. Somebody must be helping her pick out nicer clothes, Diana thought. She was pleased about that, though, of course, she wouldn’t tell Barbra she was pleased; if she did, that stubborn kid would probably decide she was doing something wrong if her mother liked what she was wearing and go back to her old ways.
Diana thought Barbra had sounded good, too, when she’d sung a couple of songs on the show. Of course, Diana wouldn’t tell her that either, because to do so would just encourage her in this crazy show-business dream she had, and Diana would never, ever do that. But she’d told her friends that Barbra “sang very well on the Paar show.” And she’d enjoyed watching her kid make conversation with Orson Bean and the other guests, Henny Youngman and that funny “Professor,” Irwin Corey.
But tonight the Paar show hadn’t been nearly as enjoyable. There, on the same set where Barbra had sat not so long ago, Barbra was derided, not applauded, and Diana was furious.
Jack Paar was back in the host’s chair, and he must have seen the show while he was on vacation, because he mentioned “that Barbra Streisand” who’d been a guest and made a joke at her expense. A joke that implied Barbra was ugly. That was how Diana described it to friends, and she was “so angry she could have spit.”
It was true that Diana rarely complimented her daughter. But, as one friend understood it, “she thought Barbra had her own beauty, her own style, and that she was certainly not ugly.” And here Barbra was, looking better than ever, Diana thought, and that boor, Jack Paar, was making a joke at her expense. And on national television where all Diana’s friends could hear it!
Diana snapped off the set. Taking a piece of paper from her desk, she began to write. “Dear Mr. Paar, I am Barbra Streisand’s mother,” she scrawled—or words to that effect. “How would you feel if I said something unkind about your daughter on national television?” She called him “incredibly rude.” Then she put the letter in an envelope and mailed it off to NBC.
Typically, she had couched her letter from her own perspective: She hadn’t asked how Paar’s daughter would have felt, after all. But that didn’t mean her own embarrassment had obliterated any concern for Barbra’s feelings. She told her friends that she wouldn’t tell her daughter about any of this. If Barbra hadn’t heard what Paar had said about her, then it was best to keep it that way, Diana believed.
As far as her friends knew, Diana never got a response from Paar. Nor, they thought, did Barbra ever know how her mother had tried, in her own small, imperfect way, to do right by her.
Barbara Joan Streisand, age three and age seven. By the time she was seven, she already possessed what she called "an uncontrollable itch" to make it out of Brooklyn and into the big world beyond. Collection of Stuart Lippner
Barbara with friends outside their Brooklyn tenements. Unlike her playmates, Barbara was never called in for regular meals. She lived, she insisted, like a "wild child." Collection of Stuart Lippner
Barbara with her sister, Rosalind, known as Rozzie. The younger girl was the apple of their mother's eye, leaving Barbara often feeling left out. Collection of Stuart Lippner
The teenaged Barbara was self-conscious about her looks, but others pointed out that her curves were in all the right places. Collection of Stuart Lippner
The seventeen-year-old acting student, ambitious and sometimes overly serious. Despite shyness and self-doubt, she was averse to taking no for an answer. Collection of Stuart Lippner
Barbara fell hard for the charismatic Barré Dennen, who shaped her early performances and style, and started her off on the road to fame. He also broke her heart. Courtesy of Bob Stone
Artist Bob Schulenberg helped design Barbra's look—clothes, makeup, hair—and his sketchbook was perennially in hand as he sat in the audience during her performances. He also sketched a self-portrait of himself around the time of Another Evening with Harry Stoones. Courtesy of Bob Schulenberg
In 1962, on an interview with a journalist set up by her enterprising publicist, Don Softness, Barbra is in full kook mode. New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images
Barbra was a smash hit as Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which opened on March 22, 1962. The critics didn't like the show as much as they liked her, however. © George Silk / Getty Images
Barbra and her Wholesale costar Elliott Gould on the way to the Tonys, April 29, 1962. She didn't get the award, but she did get Gould. Collection of Stuart Lippner
Herbert Jacoby and Max Gordon audition a hopeful at the Blue Angel on the same stage where Barbra would perform. Note the quilted walls. New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images
At first, radio and television microphones unnerved her, but eventually Barbra faced them with confidence. Collection of Stuart Lippner
Columbia chief Goddard Lieberson at first thought Barbra "too special for records." But he was surprised and pleased to see how, after a slow start, The Barbra Streisand Album shot up the charts. Barbra chose the name herself, after rejecting the company's suggestion: Sweet and Saucy Streisand. © Getty Images
Three of the men responsible for launching Barbra Streisand into superstardom. David Merrick (left) did so reluctantly, but even he admitted that her talent was remarkable. Jerome Robbins (below) initially wanted to hold out for Anne Bancroft for the part of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, but he eventually became one of Barbra's biggest boosters. But more important to Barbra's success was Ray Stark (right, with John Huston), who believed from the beginning that nobody but Barbra should play Fanny Brice. Even as he conferred with Huston in Mexico over The Night of the Iguana, his mind was on Funny Girl back in New York.
Merrick: © Arnold Newman / Getty Images; Robbins:
© Bettmann / CORBIS; Stark and Huston: © Gjon Mill / Getty Images
Barbra famously broke protocol to ask for President Kennedy's signature after singing for him at the White House Correspondents' dinner on May 24, 1963. She's flanked here by two of the most influential men to guide her career: her indefatigable manager Marty Erlichman and arranger-accompanist Peter Daniels. National Archives / Newsmakers / Getty Images
"If I'd known the place was going to be so crowded, I'd have had my nose fixed," Barbra said on opening night at Hollywood's Cocoanut Grove, August 21, 1963, instantly winning over the jaded movie-star crowd. Afterward, Natalie Wood, barely glimpsed here, told Barbra she was gorgeous. Barbra designed both of the outfits she wore at the Cocoanut Grove.
Barbra on stage: © 1978 Chester Maydole / mptvimages.com; close-up of Barbra: © Nat Dallinger / Globe Photos / ZUMA
After pretending to be married for six months, Barbra and Elliott finally tied the knot in Carson City, Nevada, on September 13, 1963. Their honeymoon was spent at the Beverly Hills Hotel, though Barbra was also working on various television shows. Photographer Bob Willoughby told the newlyweds to get in the pool and have fun.
Both images: © 1978 Bob Willoughby / mptvimages.com
An iconic collaboration: Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and "surprise" guest Ethel Merman. Barbra and Judy: © Nat Dallinger / Globe Photos / ZUMA; Barbra, Ethel, and Judy: Estate of Roddy McDowall
By the time Funny Girl opened on Broadway on March 26, 1964, it was less about Fanny Brice than it was about Barbra Streisand. Sydney Chaplin and Kay Medford watch as Barbra is lift ed to superstardom. Photofest