After 10 years of writing her memoirs, Barbra Streisand looks outside again


“It was the first time I saw Marlon Brando, when I was 13 years old. I had to become an actress, there was no turning back,” SAG Life Achievement Award winner Barbra Streisand says of herself when she realized she wanted to be an actress.

(Firooz Zahedi)

Barbra Streisand's 970-page memoir, “My Name is Barbra,” took her 10 years to complete. So it didn't seem like much to ask to spend 48 hours listening to her read it, which I did over the course of a couple of months.

Exhaustive but never exhausting, digressive, sure, but usually to good effect, intimate and honest, Barbra (I feel like we're on a first-name basis now that we've spent so much time together) was good company. She would listen while she prepared dinner, make lists of what she had heard and, in the end, she would make up for lost time because, again, 48 hours.

Streisand will receive a lifetime honor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday, another trophy for a woman who joined the EGOT club a long time ago. Even after that deep dive into her life, she still had questions, which Streisand was happy to answer, via email. (If you've read the book, you know she likes to sweat the details.) After spending so much time focusing on her voice, it seemed novel to focus on her words.

Here is our correspondence.

Barbara. It's Glenn. I listened to your memoir for over 48 hours, so I know you appreciate getting to the point. So, let's go …

First of all, I would like to thank Glenn for listening to all 48 hours of my audiobook.

You often talked about how you hated attending awards shows, going back to walking across the stage at your high school graduation and feeling all eyes on you. Did writing the memoir help you overcome that? Is that why you go to the SAG Awards?

Well, I'm going to attend this awards ceremony because they told me beforehand that I got the award. Without traumas or dramas. And I'm very proud to have been a member of SAG since 1961. I also like the fact that Fran Drescher and so many actors marched and worked very hard to achieve what they campaigned for.

Any other reason you agreed to show?

The numbers were correct: my lucky number is 24. Number 2 and number 4, and this prize goes to 2-24-24.

As an actor, you say you try to find a connection with the character you play. Which character did you feel most connected to?

I guess Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.” She wasn't the conventional protagonist, she spoke up when she thought something wasn't right for her and she wanted a lot out of life… just like I did when I played that role.

And which character challenged you the most to find that connection?

Dolly Levi in ​​”Hello, Dolly!” She was too young for the role and far from who I am.

Barbra Streisand wears a floppy black hat and holds a colorful rose in a portrait.

“It's strange that there are 10 best films at the Academy Awards but only five directors nominated. How can it be?” Notes by Barbra Streisand.

(Collier Schorr)

The level of detail in his memoirs is remarkable. Did you write in journals throughout your life? I'm half joking, but when you mentioned the shot in “The Prince of Tides” of the little girl dragging a blanket and how it reminded you of your own baby blanket that you rubbed while sucking your thumb to put on while you were sleeping, I thought, “I “I wonder if little Barbra wrote about this in her diary.”

Baby Barbara didn't know how to write.

It's a ridiculous thought, but the image crossed my mind. And I had it because of the exceptional and specific detail of the book.

Yes, I have written many diaries. Some were called “Observations.” They were just my thoughts and I needed to write them down. I notice that I wrote more during the making of my films, especially when directing. By the way, it's fascinating to watch my 3-year-old granddaughter trying to tune out her urge to suck her thumb while she holds a blanket. I understand her feeling and I really empathize with her.

Speaking of being snubbed at the Oscars for directing “Yentl” and “The Prince of Tides,” you used the word “snub.” For “The Prince of Tides,” you noticed that the film had been nominated for best picture but that you I didn't have a director. “So what is going on here?” you asked yourself. People were asking the same question this year about Greta Gerwig and “Barbie.” Do you think the directors' section of the academy is still a kind of boys' club?

I think a little. And it's also strange that there are 10 best films at the Academy Awards but only five nominated directors. How can it be? A director is artistically responsible for his film. So maybe they should have just one category – each best movie could also include best director. Bradley Cooper was also not nominated for best director despite the fact that his film [“Maestro”] was.

You wrote about a story where someone asked if they should become an actor. Your answer: If you have to ask that question, then the answer is no. Can you remember the specific moment when his passion for you was ignited? And… do you think there is a possibility that it will turn back on?

I do remember…it was when I first saw Marlon Brando when I was 13 years old. He had to make me an actress, there was no turning back. Acting has to be a passion that you can't ignore. It's like a calling. If it's just a simple decision like between one career and another, forget it. You have to be strong enough to accept the kind of rejection that actors receive.

And as far as acting again, I'll never say never again.

I don't remember the awards ceremony, but on one occasion, you had to borrow a pair of size 8½ heels from a friend because yours didn't fit. Is that the craziest moment you've ever had attending a ceremony?

Barbra Streisand rests her arm on the back of the wooden chair she is sitting in for a portrait.

“I was going to approach [Bob Dylan] this year as one of the people I would like to make an album with,” says Barbra Streisand.

(Russell James)

It was the Board of Governors Award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 2015. I loved receiving that award because it gave me the opportunity to honor the cinematographers that I loved and who were such an important part of my career. Nowadays (back to heels), shoes are a little more comfortable because they come with platforms. They make you taller and are less painful to use!

Are you double checking to make sure your shoes fit you this year?

I'm double checking, but I know that as soon as I sit down at a table I'm going to take them off.

Bob Dylan says he wrote “Lay Lady Lay” for you. Is there a song in your catalog that you can sing that contains a message you would like to send him? (Also: follow his impulse and collaborate with him).

I was actually going to reach out to him this year as one of the people I'd like to make a record with.

You mentioned casually (I think only once) that you might be making a documentary about your life. Will we have to wait another 10 years to see it?

In the early '90s, I started collecting all this historical material from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, but there was so much going on in my life that I didn't have time to revisit it. And after 30 more years, there is much more material to review. But now that I've finished the book, I'm finally ready to tackle it again with a documentary crew. And I don't know how long it will take.

Because of your father's early death, you wrote that you became “obsessed with mortality.” But that's not bad, I think. The Dalai Lama says that you can only begin a true meditation on life with a meditation on death. What do you think about that now that you've spent so many years thinking about your own life?

Well, now I want to think about other things. I've always been concerned about the world and what's happening and how out of control it feels… gun violence, climate change, women's rights and the threat to our democracy.

And now for something completely different. McConnell's Discontinued Brazilian Coffee Ice Cream. That changed, right? after the book's publication. Now I have to look for it and I'm finding it on their website.

It may only be available for a limited time, but McConnell's is wonderful. They thanked me for providing so much exposure to Brazilian coffee ice cream that they sent me 24 pints. What is my reservation for the year!

Is this the best preview of your memoirs? If not, or even if so, what are some other things that have satisfied you since the book came out?

My dreams are less riddled with anxiety. I used to wake up and write down my thoughts or dreams early in the morning, but now I can sleep later. I couldn't read any other books during that 10 year period, but now I've started reading again and it's wonderful to get out of my own head. It's fun to inhabit the minds of other writers and think about other characters in their books. And just today my editor reminded me that I'm on the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2023 list, which she said was extremely unusual for a celebrity memoir. I'm quite proud of it.

Last question and again, it's food related. I'm sorry. Your book made me hungry. Before stardom, you write about your love of going to delis, but not Jewish delis because “you couldn't understand those sandwiches.” Do you still feel that way? What is the best deli in Los Angeles?

I still feel that way. You could feed three people with what they put in those sandwiches! That's why I liked the gentle delicatessens where I could get pork. I loved sliced ​​roast pork on white bread with mayonnaise to take to my acting classes. Now, I would say that Brent's Deli in the Valley is very good and they live up to their expectations. Now, when we order from deli, I ask them to separate the meat from the bread so I can control the amount of meat between the two slices. And every once in a while, we send for a box of goodies from Zabar's in New York. But not the rolls. I get those from Canada!

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