My heart began to beat s quickly as the flashes from thousands upon thousands of smartphone camera lights ricocheting off the spotlit stage. The suspended screen came to life with images from her six decades long career. Snapshots from her long list of screen, stage and musical successes reminded us all of why we were there. And also why we (some of us, definitely me) paid half a months rent to be sitting on top the ceiling. As the highlight reel came to an end and the screen turned to an inky black, I know I can speak for every person in that room when I say that our hearts collectively stopped. Too excited and overcome with sheer joy, we knew the moment had arrived. The woman seated behind me had been waiting forty years for this moment. Easily one of the youngest people in the arena, it's safe to say my purgatory has been a little less extreme. However, no matter the age difference between us, that night everyone sitting gazing at the stage in the Wells Fargo Center was all the same.
Was this real? Did I die? Am I hallucinating?
Luckily, no. It was real. I didn't die. And I was not hallucinating. The tiny, blonde haired, black bell bottom clad human walking down the center of the stage was her. It was really happening. My dream was coming true. I was looking at none other than my hero and idol, EGOT winning, producer, director, actress, singer, mother, wife, philanthropist, fellow perfectionist, and legend Barbra Streisand.
Immediately, the beginning bars of "The Way We Were" filled our ears followed by that voice, Barbra's voice.
Throughout the two hour concert, my head felt like it was going to erupt. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that I was there, hearing her sing and not lying in my bed with my headphones in. Hard to believe that the same person I was looking at is/was Fanny Brice, Dolly Levi, Roz Focker, Yentl, seller of 145 million records worldwide and so much more. She has accomplished such an absurd amount in the past six decades, I could not grasp how a single human could do it all and represent so much to so many people.
Hate to admit it (my friends knew it was bound to happen), but I definitely shed a tear or two. From the moment the lights went down all the way through her first three songs, I feared my mascara was running down my neck. For the sake of those around me, I refrained from uncontrollably sobbing. Let me tell you, that was no easy feat. Never before have I been that overcome by a celebrity, or human being in general, and I probably never will again. Everyone has that famous person they lose their minds over. For most of my friends it was always Channing Tatum, Ryan Gosling, Orlando Bloom, Britney Spears, or Taylor Swift. For me it was and still is Barbra Streisand. My friends didn't understand and quite frankly, neither did my parents friends. Those that I knew who were forty and over, would voice their adoration of Barbra on a regular basis. When I would agree, they would just look at me rather strangely and say, Really? Why? That's unusual for someone your age."
Well, if you too are perplexed as to where my Streisand love stems from, allow me to fill you in.
A fifty-year-old since birth, everyday after school from fifth through ninth grade (that's when Lifetime took it off the air) I would push homework off until 6PM to watch The Nanny. Mimicking reality, Fran Drescher's character on The Nanny (Fran Fine) is obsessed with Barbra Streisand. At the time, I knew nothing of Barbra and pre-smartphones she wasn't a mere Google search away.
Time passed and life went on as normal until one night at my grandparents house. It was the Winter of my fourteenth year, the fire was roaring and me, my mom, and mom-mom were snuggled up on the couch watching PBS. It was one of those weekends PBS was looking for money, so, naturally, they were selling a product to persuade people to call in and pledge money In between talking about the product PBS typically plays whatever it is they are trying to sell so audiences get a little taste. This particular night, the video was of a skinny lady talking in a turtleneck. Realizing the video was from the 60s, I immediately wanted to keep watching. "Who is that?," I asked my mom. "That's Barbra Streisand," both my mom and mom-mom replied. Pumped to finally put a face with Fran Fine's true love, I told my mom-mom to refrain from changing the channel.
The particular Barbra video PBS was selling was her 1965 television special My Name is Barbra. Honestly, I can't tell you which part we started watching at, but I can tell you the moment I became one of the millions all over the world to love and adore her.
Her horse-drawn carriage pulls up to Bergdorf's as Barbra steps out in a cheetah coat cinched at the waist with a leather belt. The opening bars of "Secondhand Rose" begin as Barbra makes her way through the department store trying on furs, massive gold chains, and hats. For the seven or so minutes she sang, joked, and above all, added color and life to the black and white set, I became a fan.
Never before had I seen someone on screen with her sense of humor. She made me laugh, yet, she was undeniably elegant. A goofball, but confident and self-assured. Relatable, yet, other worldly with that voice. Wanting to be an actress and not a singer, she had and till does have one of the best voices of all time (don't anybody try to tell me otherwise). Above all, I think what struck me the most is that she looked like she was having fun. Unafraid to laugh at herself, her silly faces, and embracing her natural self, made me love her that much more.
For many years, all I knew of Barbra was that clip from Bergdorf's and a couple of CDs I would here and there at the Goodwill. All that changed one summer day between sophomore and junior year of high school.
Bored and looking for something to do, I began flipping through TMC's movies on-demand. Funny Girl popped up. Seeing that Barbra was in it, I hit play. By the end of that week I had seen Funny Girl no less than six times. Forcing my parents to watch it with me, I would then go onto the family computer and listen to the entire soundtrack at least three more times. "Haven't you had enough?" my very patient parents would ask. "Ummm, no. Listen to her!" I would yell back assuming that was explanation enough.
Hearing of my Barbra infatuation, Bernie, basically my adopted grandfather, lent me his DVDs of My Name is Barbra, Color Me Barbra, and A Happening in Central Park. Not at all exaggerating when I tell you I watched each DVD four times in three days.
When I was sick in bed sophomore year of college with mono and strep throat (avoid this combination at all costs!!), I used my target gift card to buy Barbra's first three album's. Listening to them on repeat definitely eased the pain of swallowing and the sadness of missing out on Halloween.
They say you never forget your first time and I will most definitely never forget the first time I saw The Way We Were. I had been in college for all of three weeks and my roommates and I were having a quiet night in. Using the Hulu password of the friend of a friend of a friend, I was euphoric to see The Way We Were was available to watch. About a third of the way through the movie, the fire alarm goes off. We all run outside and are standing there in the wet grass for about twenty minutes. Finally, the firefighters rescued the unfortunate bag of popcorn that someone had left in the microwave. Highly annoyed and eager to get back to Katie and Hubbell, I got a running start and tried to beat the three hundred students living in my building to the the door. A very excellent idea, until I tripped over a rock as I was avoiding a puddle. With my toe cut open, I pretended it was intentional and hobbled my way back to my room to finish watching the film in peace.
Now that you know the history of my Streisand obsession, let's get back to this past Saturday night: Barbra The Music...The Mem'ries...The Magic!, was phenomenal.
Split into two acts, Barbra sangher top hits from the past six decades mixed with some broadway gems. Walking onto the stage after intermission, Barbra had changed into a stunning grey caftan style dress, which flowed, making her look like she was scooped out of a fairytale. Illuminating the dangers of Global Warming and high-lighting how important it is to take care of the planet, she segued into "Pure imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Easily one of the loveliest moments of the night.
To those who questioned how her voice would be at seventy-four years old, let me assure you, Barbra and her voice look and sound better than ever. A tad raspy yes, she can still belt it out, hit those notes, and sound like melted butter all at once. Do not let her age cloud your judgement of her talent. She's still got it.
Choosing a favorite moment from the concert is like trying to choose the best bagel in NYC, not possible. Although, some stand-out moments were Barbra's covers of "Children Will Listen" and "Being at War With Each Other." In addition to Barbra classics like "Papa Can You Hear Me?," "The Way We Were," "Don't Rain On My Parade," and "Happy Days Are Here Again." Of course, Barbra herself was a highlight of the night, ribbing on Donald Trump and sharing secrets behind her famous album covers. Did you know she did indeed have something on on her A Star is Born album cover with Kris Kristofferson...musk.
A night I will never forget, I have no regrets about attending the concert alone. None of my beloved friends or even family love her as much as I do. It would have ruined the experience to be there with someone who wasn't as excited as I. One of the best gifts I have ever given myself (and totally worth eating peanut butter for dinner for the next five months), I can now say that I saw Barbra Streisand perform live. Can you?