Russell Rhodes Barbra Streisand

Taking a break from the serious news of the day to tackle another topic. It is one that, had Coronavirus not taken over the headlines, I would have written days ago.

The subject is Barbra Streisand. If you know me, then, you know. If you don’t, buckle up.

I love Barbra Streisand. I mean, it is a real and deep love. When “The Way We Were” starts, I stop. I can sing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” without even thinking about the words. I can go on, but I won’t. No, I will. When “Yentl” opened in the movie theatre, I took off from work. Saw it three times in one day. Even walked out of the theatre and paid to go back in to see it the second and third time! You’re getting it now, right?

So… I took a long, social distancing walk the other day. Listened to perhaps the greatest duet of all time repeatedly. That’s the 1963 version of “Get Happy” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” with Streisand and Judy Garland. A young Barbra Streisand appeared on the Judy Garland Show. In those few minutes, the two sang their hearts out. You really need to see it. It’s brilliant.

Anyway, I came back from my walk after listening to this multiple times. And yes, singing along… loudly. A good friend, we will call him “Clay,” asked what I was listening to? I said, Barbra Streisand. He said, “Who is that?” I was devastated. Crestfallen. Lost. Confused. Bewildered. Okay, damn mad!

“Barbra Streisand, don’t you know?” “No,” Clay said. “What year were you born?” “1995.”

Then, I realized the problem. We have a lost generation. Here’s the tutorial.

Barbara Joan Streisand was born April 24, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York. (She later removed an “a” from her first name.) Her father died when she was young. It is something that influenced her career. She even dedicated her film “Yentl” to him. “This film is dedicated to my father… and to all of our fathers.” She wanted to be an actress from the beginning. Her singing talent was discovered later. It was that voice that launched her career. She has won Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, a Tony, an AFI award and a Kennedy Center Honors. 68.5 million albums sold. One of the best selling artists of all time. She is still working. Singing. Touring.

So, now you know. When Clay didn’t, I ran upstairs. Put on my Barbra Streisand t-shirt. Grabbed my Streisand pillow and my framed, autographed picture. I had to show him. (I have much more memorabilia, but just two arms.) Clay started to get it. “Oh, she’s your Taylor Swift.” Okay, maybe, but much more.

You see, my first record album was a Barbra Streisand album. Along the way, I got them all. It’s just my thing. I have traveled great distances to see her. A few years ago, I saw her in Philadelphia. Turns out, she was staying in our hotel. She checked out just minutes before we did. The doorman told us we just missed her. That’s okay, I don’t want to actually meet her. What if it goes badly?

In “Funny Girl,” Barbra, playing Fanny Brice, looks in the mirror and says, “Hello, gorgeous.” She said those very same words the night she won the Oscar for best actress. As she looked at the statue, she said, “Hello, gorgeous.”

Clay later told me he was going to watch a Streisand movie. “Hello Dolly.” I thought, okay, not her best, but it will work. I would prefer “Funny Girl,” The Way We Were, “Yentl.” That’s Streisand at her best.

I made progress with Clay. Proud of him. Anyone else want to say to me, “Barbra who?”

Hello, gorgeous! My work here is done.

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