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Tag Archives: Barbra Streisand

Great Guilt Trip With Babs

GuiltTrip

It’s not that there’s anything astounding or remarkable about Guilt Trip, the new comedy with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, mother and son on a road trip through hell. What’s so good about this movie is how utterly REAL Barbra is in the role of Joyce Brewster, a 60-something widowed mother. Most women of our generation will recognize themselves and their friends in the character–but when I say Streisand is real in Guilt Trip, I’m referring to more than characterization. Her acting is real in Guilt Trip; it’s possible she’s never done so well in any previous film. Anne Fletcher, who directed Guilt Trip, seems to have known exactly what to do with her.

I’m assuming direction makes the difference: in so many of Barbra’s movies–from Funny Girl to Prince of Tides right on up through Meet the Fockers–she has a tendency to overact, but in Guilt Trip I didn’t see a single instance of her usual emoting. Every smile, tear, conversation, and subtle reactions are conveyed in a way that is seamlessly real, and if I’m overusing that word, it’s because nothing else can better describe Streisand’s performance and persona here. Maybe it’s just, as Mick LaSalle says in The SF Chronicle, “Maturity has released something in Streisand, who, having gone beyond trying to sell herself as a babe (as in “The Mirror Has Two Faces”), has a new warmth.”

Seth Rogen is Streisand’s son, Andy Brewster, an inventor hawking his organic cleaning fluid on their road trip. Andy’s humorless presentations doom his product before it can get off the ground. He rejects Mom’s advice to zip up his performance, and who can blame him when it’s thrown at him amid  600 other pieces of advice to drink more water, visit his high school sweetheart, see a shrink, yada yada yada. Sounds like a stereotypical Jewish mother, but it doesn’t come off clichéd. I saw the picture with my son, and we both related to the mother-son dynamics. Besides, Mom is vindicated in the end, when Andy finally takes her advice and it pays off. In between rejection and triumph, of course, they have to travel a long long road. It’s great fun for the audience if not the riders.

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(Above: Barbra as Joyce Brewster eats a humongous steak dinner in an hour, thereby getting it free.)

As an old Barbra Streisand fanatic who’s been watching her since 1963, hasseen every one of her movies, most of them multiple times, owns most of her recorded work and had a personal Streisand adventure of sorts (see my post on meeting her in a New York HoJo), I have the right and the credentials to criticize or praise her (though so does everyone else, come to think of it!). I say this because when I checked out  Rotten Tomatoes to see what film critics and ordinary viewers are saying about the movie, I was disappointed–even kind of hurt, since so many of them dismiss GT as crappy drivel for little old ladies. You know, us old fuddy duds who don’t know a thing about le cinema but adore false sentiment. Oh, boo hoo and a big boo to you too! I laughed my way through most of Guilt Trip, was emotionally moved, and saw a two-hour sliver of truth and beauty. I don’t expect every movie to transform my life. A lot of them don’t even transform my two hours of watching! This one had side-splitting laughs and the whole thing was fun. Which is enough for any piece of entertainment to deliver.

 

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Still Here

I’m Still Here….

As my idol Barbra Streisand sings, “Good times/bad times/sometimes a kick in the rear/but I’m here.” Just because I haven’t been recording my life for posterity doesn’t mean my life isnt still happening….or so I tell myself. I do wonder about that sometimes. In any case, since my last post – Labor Day! more than a month ago! – I finished ghosting Connecting With The IN Crowd, which was published with my name under the boss’s, so I guess I’m not a ghost anymore; I went to a Book Launch at the St. Francis Hotel with it and my novel  Halfway to the Stars; I started another ghost gig; made plans to go to Costa Rica next month; and, as always, watched the world go by.


Yankees Still Playing….

In the world of baseball/Yankees, Jeter made his 3000th hit, Rivera made his 600th save, Posada was publicly humiliated and just as publicly resurrected; pitchers had meltdowns and freeze-ups; and at this moment the Division Series are in progress. Moneyball hit the screen and I still haven’t seen it – I hope to today. Billy Beane now thinks he’s as hot as Brad Pitt, and on the basis of the movie he’s been making the rounds on the financial speaker circuit — which should tell you something about sabermetrics and his baseball philosophy. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s can apparently rot in hell as far as he’s concerned. Time for a new manager? It was time for a new manager at least three years ago!

And The Kids Are In The Street!

We seem to be in the throes of revolution, and I don’t mean Arab Spring. Wall Street protests are spawning demonstrations all over the country. They’re finding their platforms as they gather, making it up as they go along. This is, I think, for real: first of all, Karl Marx said that capitalism would implode on itself when it was no longer working. Secondly, all my life I’ve heard that the way to foment revolution is to let things get so bad the country hits bottom. And finally, electing someone we thought would make a difference, then being bitterly betrayed by him, showed people it’s the system, not who’s in charge of it, that has to change. So here we are. I wonder if this movement is strong enough to go the distance, or if the government, media, and corporations will find a way to defeat it. So far, it’s still here.

Movie Star Sex

Cover of

Cover of The Way We Were (Special Edition)

Yesterday Oprah Winfrey reunited Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford on her show as a sort of tribute to their 1973 movie The Way We Were. Millions of women all across the country, including me, shed millions of tears at the sight of these two coming together again. TWWW is the chick flick of the century, a story of unrequited love that breaks your heart every time, whether it’s your first or seventh viewing. For me, the ultimate Barbra Streisand fan and aficianado (see At the HoJo with Babs), the most intriguing aspect of yesterday’s show was the way they interacted: they just could not keep their hands off each other. Their kiss-hug greeting was more than just friendly, and throughout the interview they held hands; every once in awhile a hand would roam. Strangely enough, I’d never wondered if Babs and Bob (she calls Redford Bob) had a real-life affair, being so caught up in the film version. Yesterday I couldn’t help but wonder, what with her facial expression announcing that she was dying to go backstage and grab him good. As my friend Angie said when I asked what she thought, How could they not?


I got to thinking about movie stars’ sex lives, a topic that’s never seriously engaged my interest. I wonder why – after all, the possibilities are endless. Think about it: we plebes have our little fantasies that we think are so risqué, while these golden girls and boys have endless reels of erotic drama to play with when the cameras aren’t looking. Think of all the scenes that end at the bedroom door: why wouldn’t the actors take them to their logical conclusion? Why wouldn’t Babs and Bob have had breakup sex, makeup sex, falling-in-love sex, angry sex – you name it, that movie relationship covered the gamut of human emotion. Why wouldn’t they fly to the nearest bed after the day’s shooting ended?


Celebrity fantasies are nothing new — but people frequently use them as cover-up: to the question What’s your fantasy? a person will often respond by naming Brad or Jen or Angelina, rather than confessing their deep personal dramas. We all have them. Some of us have even written about them. My friend Shar published a couple of collections of sex with the famous and beautiful called Starf*cker.

I’ve dreamt, in my sleep, of doing a 3some with George Clooney and Jimmy  Smits. Even that now seems mundane compared to imagining celebrities with each other, completing all the truncated sex scenes in PG-Rated movies, incorporating the characters into their bedroom fun. By comparison, the straightforward celebrity fantasy seems almost clichéd.

I’ve gotta go now: I have a ton of movies I want to watch again. Camelot. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. All About Eve. West Side Story. And oh yes — The Way We Were.

At The HoJo with Babs

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Barbra Streisand burst on the national scene right around the time I was finishing high school. I could have used her sooner: as the only Jewish girl among my Irish and Italian classmates, I never saw my ethnicity reflected in other faces, which only added to and complicated the usual adolescent insecurity.

My mother and aunts went mad for the Jewish girl with a voice to die for and a sense of humor to which they–dayenu!–could relate. They declared, as one, that I looked just like Babs—which was not altogether complimentary. Maybe Barbra was eventually considered attractive—but back then she was perceived as almost grotesque. Until she opened her mouth to sing.

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I played her albums endlessly and saw every movie multiple times. I especially related to her shtick, presented in Funny Girl and repeated with variations in every film thereafter: a strong, ambitious yet vulnerable woman who might lose the guy but never her integrity. And those early songs! Barbra belted out lyrics of female rebellion like Never will I marry!, and I want much more than keeping house! She’s never gotten the credit she deserves for it, but Barbra’s feminist proclamations pre-dated the contemporary women’s movement by more than a few years.

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(Photo by Phyllis Christopher)

Flash forward to 1972: I was a divorced mother of two living in upstate New York. Every other weekend I delivered the kids to a destination halfway between my home and their father’s—a Howard Johnson’s off the Tarrytown exit of the New York State Thruway. By this time I’d been following, or, rather, worshipping Barbra Streisand for nearly a decade. One Sunday I was waiting outside for the ex- to return the kids when a woman wearing a leopard skin coat and hat, a small boy at her side, strolled right past me to the entrance, followed by a couple of burly men.

“That woman,” I thought, “looks just like Barbra Streisand.” I then entered what can only be called a trance, and dreamily followed the entourage into the restaurant. Barbra was standing in front of the cashier, no doubt arranging for a private table. I floated over and touched her arm, about to tell the woman she looked like Barbra—but the moment she turned to face me, I realized It was really her! My hand, beyond my conscious control, gripped her arm and trembled as I murmured in disbelief, “You are...” It was the closest I’ve ever come to swooning.

Barbra instantly pulled free of my grip, turned her back on me and stomped into the dining room at the rear of the restaurant. Still in a semi-coma I followed, desperately wishing to undo my blunder, wanting only a moment to explain that I wasn’t just any casual fan, nor was I deranged, that we had important matters to discuss, Jewish girl to Jewish girl. I looked her straight in the eye and blubbered, “I don’t wanna bother you, but…” Posing with one hand on a defiant out-thrust hip, she enunciated each syllable as distinctly as when she sings. “Why don’t you just cool it?” she spat.

No argument was possible. Barbra had perfected her armor, designed precisely for moments like these, and it was impenetrable. Beside myself, I ran outside and telephoned the second-biggest Streisand fan in America. My mother didn’t quite believe me at first, but when I finally convinced her that Barbra was indeed sitting in the HoJo, she urged me to do something, anything. (You can see how I became who I am.) There was nothing I could do, however, short of jumping a waitress and stealing her uniform–which I briefly considered–so I went home, defeated. To this day I entertain people with the “funny story” of my chance meeting with Barbra Streisand. I don’t tell them that the next day I cried for eight hours straight.

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No resemblance at all?

In later years, as I learned something about the creative process, I came to understand why Barbra treated me—had to treat me—as she did. The intense place she goes to when performing cannot simply be carried into the Ho Jo and offered up to random takers. That armor of hers guards an intensity reserved for her private process. If she let herself be even half that vulnerable in public, her fans would eat her for breakfast—and rob her stuff.

For a long time the memory of my chance encounter with Barbra caused me great pain. From a distance she shares her deepest emotions, and her refusal to share even a smidgeon of herself up close was, at the time, a tremendous loss. But in the long run, her lack of grace at the HoJo matters less than the hours of joy she’s given with her magnificent voice–and the sense of validation she brought to awkward Jewish girls everywhere.

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Isn’t this something? And not even half of Barbra’s albums and films are represented here.
Top 3 films: The Way We Were, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Funny Girl.  Some of her movies aren’t very good; The Main Event is downright awful.

Top 3 CDs: The First and Second Albums; People. If you haven’t heard them, these early records will blow you away .