Barbra Streisand has opened up about her past encounters with discrimination, including a situation involving Sydney Chaplin that led to her developing stage fright and ultimately stopping her from performing live for 27 years until she published her memoir.
During their time together in the Broadway production of Funny Girl in the 1960s, the singer and actor reflected on their tumultuous connection with the son of Charlie Chaplin.
“I prefer not to discuss it,” said Streisand, 81, in an interview with the BBC prior to the release of My Name Is Barbra. “It was simply someone who had a romantic interest in me, which was out of the ordinary. When I declined their advances, they responded in a very hurtful manner.”
While I was speaking on stage, he began murmuring to himself. The words were awful, filled with curses. He refused to meet my gaze. As an actor, it’s crucial to maintain eye contact and respond to your scene partner.
According to Streisand, the encounter left her feeling “nervous” and played a role in her decision to stop performing live. However, she also faced difficulties with other male collaborators throughout her career.
Walter Matthau, one of the actors on the set of Hello, Dolly!, embarrassed her by shouting: “My farts have more talent than your entire body!” Additionally, Frank Pierson, who directed the 1976 version of A Star is Born, publicly criticized Streisand and called her a control freak for always wanting more closeup shots.
Streisand’s autobiography also mentions the men who were captivated by her, including Omar Sharif who sent passionate letters imploring her to leave her husband, King Charles (now known as Prince Charles) who described her as incredibly alluring with strong sexual appeal, and Marlon Brando who introduced himself by kissing the back of her neck and commenting on its beauty.
Streisand, who had spent 25 years writing her autobiography, also spoke about receiving negative comments about her looks during the beginning of her career. She shared with the BBC, “Even today, those insults still sting and it’s hard for me to accept the compliments.”
Even with her significant achievements, which include selling 150 million records, winning nine Golden Globes, four Emmys, and two Oscars for acting and songwriting, Streisand expressed feeling little joy when reflecting on her life.
She expressed her desire to truly experience life, stating that she longed to travel in her husband James Brolin’s truck and explore new places with their children close by. She admitted that she hasn’t had many enjoyable moments in her life and hopes to have more in the future.
Streisand talked about the passing of her father due to a brain hemorrhage when she was only 15 months old, which resulted in financial struggles for her family. Her mother’s remarriage to a used car salesman brought about emotional distance and unkindness.
She stated that he never spoke to her or inquired about anything. She was never acknowledged by him, nor by her mother who did not recognize her desire to become an actress and instead discouraged her.
At 16 years old, Streisand moved out of her home and began working as a clerk. She also worked weekend shifts as a theatre usher in order to be able to see the newest Broadway performances.
“I received a payment of $4.50, if I recall correctly. However, I always concealed my face because I believed that one day I would become famous,” she stated. “Isn’t it ironic? I didn’t want to be recognized on the screen and have people remember that I used to guide them to their seats.”
In 1960, her aspiration of becoming a star started to materialize as she participated in a talent competition with a $50 cash prize and dinner. On that occasion, the girlfriend of comedian Tiger Haynes remarked, “I can see potential for great success in you.”
Streisand’s success in the competition resulted in her being hired for performances in Greenwich Village, New York. She quickly gained recognition and received enthusiastic applause at various clubs and bars. However, her most significant breakthrough came with her role in Funny Girl on Broadway, followed by the film adaptation, for which Streisand won her first Academy Award.
Following this, her path was extraordinary as she appeared in movies such as What’s Up, Doc?, The Owl and the Pussycat, and The Way We Were. She also had a successful music career, with popular songs like Woman in Love, Evergreen, and No More Tears (Enough Is Enough), making her the second highest-selling female artist of all time.
In 1983, Streisand took on her first role as a director with the film Yentl. This movie was groundbreaking as it was the first Hollywood production to have a female as the writer, producer, director, and lead actress.
Upon arriving in England for the movie production, she noticed that the country was notably less sexist compared to the United States. She pointed out the presence of a queen and a female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, as evidence of this. In contrast, she felt that America was a much colder and more distant environment, where she was often made to feel intimidated as a woman.
While her memoir aims to disprove the notion of being a diva that has surrounded her, Streisand also reminisced about instances of her behaving like a star, such as when she contacted Apple CEO Tim Cook to express her displeasure with the way the iPhone pronounced her name.
She clarified, “My name is not spelled with a ‘Z’. It’s Strei-sand, as in sand on the beach. It’s quite straightforward. Tim Cook was very kind and had Siri adjust the pronunciation… I suppose that’s one benefit of being famous!”