Summer 1961


That early summer day, trooping up to the WNEW television studios in the former DuMont Tele-Centre on East Sixty-seventh Street, Barbra looked like a goddess, just as Bob had intended.

She was a young woman transformed. Her eyes appeared Egyptian—making her look like Isis, perhaps, or at least like the photos of Elizabeth Taylor coming off the set of Cleopatra. Her hair was styled in a long, fashionable inverted bob; no more ponytails, Bob had decreed. On her forefinger she wore a silver ring—all the rage at the time, not to mention a symbol of Jewish marriage—and for a blouse she’d chosen a ruffled middy, the kind Jackie Kennedy had popularized when she was pregnant. Some people thought Barbra looked a little pregnant herself with all those ruffles at her waist. But those were people who simply didn’t understand style.

It was the eyes, however, that really got her noticed, that caused the studio technicians to stop what they were doing and look twice at her. Bob had always emphasized Barbra’s eyes when doing her makeup, but now he’d come up with something entirely new. With a tiny watercolor brush, he had extended the shape of her eyes outward with a long stripe of black eyeliner. Then, before applying her false eyelashes, he drew a thin, almost imperceptible white highlight along the rim of her eyelid to lighten the heaviness of the dark lashes. To teach her how to do it herself, Bob made up one side of Barbra’s face and then had her do the other. But without Bob’s help, she could never seem to glue the eyelashes on herself. Too often her fingers got stuck to the lid of one eye, leaving Barbra screaming, “I’m going blind!”

So when she didn’t have Bob to help her, she would forego the false eyelashes and go out with only the white lines above her eyelids and the long black lines extending around to the sides of her face. In so doing, Bob thought, Barbra had inadvertently created “a stylistic signature” for herself. Had she been able to apply the eyelashes on her own, the result would have seemed more natural; but without the lashes, the lines around her eyes became more apparent—and, by default, a statement. If Barbra and Bob had been going for the exotic—the “white goddess” look—they had succeeded in ways they hadn’t even imagined.

As it turned out, their timing was perfect. The television show Barbra was taping, PM East, was a new talkfest produced by WBC Productions, a subsidiary of Westinghouse, and syndicated to various stations throughout the country. Paired with a second half, PM West, taped in San Francisco, the show was intended to give Jack Paar a run for his money. The New York hosts were Mike Wallace, the hard-driving interviewer from the old Night Beat series, and Joyce Davidson, formerly of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and the theme for the segment Barbra was taping today was “glamour.” Among the other guests were model Suzy Parker, Life magazine photographer Milton Greene, and agent Candy Jones, herself frequently on the annual best-dressed lists. Barbra might have been hired to sing a couple of songs, but if the conversation was going to be about glamour, there was no way she was going to be left out. She made sure she showed up ready to take on the best of them.

Yet just how she had nailed this particular job, she wasn’t telling. When Ted Rozar found out she’d been booked on the show, he was mystified. He hadn’t had anything to do with it. Apparently, a PM East staffer had heard Barbra sing at the Bon Soir and had arranged for an audition. But, Rozar wondered, who had arranged her contract? It wasn’t Irvin Arthur; Associated Booking only handled club dates. So who was it? Rozar had his suspicions. A week or so before Barbra turned up at the station, Marty Erlichman’s clients, the Clancy Brothers, had also taped an appearance on PM East. Had Erlichman, already working with the show’s staff, made a call, talked to some people, helped Barbra out? Was this a way of wooing her? Barbra didn’t say.

But no doubt she was happy to take the job. Since its debut on June 12, PM East had lured a diverse roster of guests up to Sixty-seventh Street. Retired Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, war correspondent William Shirer, film director Otto Preminger, and comedian Jonathan Winters had all appeared during the show’s kickoff week. An episode focusing on rock and roll with Paul Anka was in the can. Another show looked at the issue of violence, featuring pacifist Jim Peck and psychiatrist Fredric Wertham.

Parading into the studio Barbra wore her ambition like a debutante might flaunt a mink stole. And for the first time in her career, she ran headfirst into another personality with an ego as big as her own. Mike Wallace was aggressive, grouchy, suspicious by nature, and eager to prove himself with PM East after a series of ratings disappointments. Paul Dooley, who’d been a guest on the show, thought the host “didn’t know anything about variety or singing,” so he came across as tough when, in fact, he was just defensive. Wallace was determined, against all odds, to vanquish Jack Paar and claim late-night supremacy.

Dooley thought Wallace had “a certain kind of ego that bumps into other performers’ egos”—a perfect description for what happened with Barbra. When the young singer with the extravagant eye makeup walked in, Wallace took one look at her and decided he didn’t like her. True, during her audition, the host had thought her voice was “magnificent,” and he’d agreed with his producers that the kid could be a real asset to the show. But Wallace had also homed right in on what he called Barbra’s “self-absorption.” Of course he did. Narcissists tend to recognize each other. Wallace thought Barbra had “the demeanor of a diva,” and expected the “world [to] revolve around her”—even though, in his opinion, she’d yet to prove she deserved such treatment.

It’s not surprising, then, that he tried to pull Barbra down a peg. When the cameras began to roll, Wallace began his introduction. “New York is just full of unusual and interesting girls who are starting out in show business, but few of them have the style as early as this young lady.” He was reading a prepared script, of course; Barbra’s “style” was not something Wallace admired. Unimpressed with Bob’s “white goddess” attempts, the newsman thought Barbra looked “more like the studio mail girl than a singer.” Suddenly going off script, he asked for a close-up of Barbra’s hand. It was a show about glamour, after all, and Barbra seemed to be trying to make a statement. “Isn’t this really an affectation?” Wallace asked. “Come on now, this ring on the forefinger? And these nails that are a little bit short of two inches long each? What’s that all about?”

Barbra, probably prepped by the producers, didn’t let Wallace knock her off stride. “Well, see, I was very poor,” she said, “so I wanted to grow them really long so I could get ten dollars a nail from Revlon.” She laughed, barely concealing her annoyance at Wallace’s question. “I happen to like long nails!”

“And the ring on the forefinger?” Wallace pressed.

“Well, I could tell you the ring . . . would be too big, which it is for this finger,” Barbra said, indicating the traditional ring finger. “But I like it on this finger! So did King Louis XIV!”

According to the show’s publicist, Don Softness, Barbra had displayed a similar sassiness during her audition, and the producers, delighted, had told her to “play up the kookiness” on the air. Barbra didn’t disappoint. When Wallace asked what she was going to sing first, she replied, “The Kinsey Report,” which got a big laugh from the technicians in the studio. (She actually sang “A Sleepin’ Bee.”) When he asked what she wanted to be “when she grew up,” Barbra quipped, “A fireman,” before adding, grandly, that what she really wanted to do was “direct opera.”

“Do you know anything about directing operas?” Wallace asked.

“I don’t know anything about opera really,” Barbra replied, “except that it’s a magnificent medium to express things theatrically and vocally, if you have the vocal equipment. It could be a very exciting theatrical experience. The kind of plots you could—”

“They’re telling us from the control room—” Wallace interrupted.

“That’s awful,” Barbra said, peeved at being cut off.

“—that they understand the answer and they’d like another song.”

As Barbra headed over to the stage to sing, Wallace asked his viewers to decide whether she looked more like the regal actress Judith Anderson, best known for playing Medea on Broadway and Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock’s Rebecca, or Fanny Brice, the Ziegfeld Follies comic best known for playing Baby Snooks on the radio.

The orchestra began playing and Barbra sang “Lover, Come Back to Me” with all the power she’d given it at the Bon Soir. In the control booth, the contrast between Barbra’s two personae—the quirky kid and the soulful woman—was received with great appreciation by the show’s producers. Even before Barbra had finished singing, they had decided to have her back whenever her schedule permitted.


In the late afternoon of the first Sunday in July, Barbra arrived at the Village Vanguard, one of the oldest clubs in the Village, located in a cellar at 178 Seventh Avenue South. Here Eartha Kitt, Harry Belafonte, Blossom Dearie, and Sonny Rollins had all made names for themselves, but the biggest star currently associated with the club was trumpeter Miles Davis. Davis’s band was setting up the day Barbra walked in. The Shirley Horn Trio was also on the bill.

Barbra had come to the Vanguard at the behest of an old friend from acting school, Rick Edelstein, who worked as a waiter at the club. In the past, Edelstein had sometimes sneaked Barbra into the club so she could catch the last show. Primarily a jazz club, the Vanguard had recently headlined Gerry Mulligan, Ahmad Jamal, Nina Simone, and the edgy comedian Lenny Bruce. Any of these shows Barbra might have seen. Edelstein served her ginger ale, because he understood that Barbra “didn’t drink”; perhaps the memory of that one bottle of wine too many with Bob had lingered. After the show, Barbra and Rick would head over to the Pam Pam, split a baked potato, and talk until three AM.

This afternoon, however, Barbra had come for more than just the show. During the Sunday matinees, which began at four thirty, the Vanguard occasionally allowed a few surprise acts, who hoped a warm reception from the afternoon audience might get them invited back as an official part of the bill some evening. In the extremely competitive nightclub business, such opportunities were rare, but the Vanguard’s easygoing owner, Max Gordon, was known to have “an eye for promising newcomers and the ability to help them blossom.” When Edelstein suggested that Barbra perform a few numbers that afternoon, Gordon agreed; he’d heard her sing before, probably at the Bon Soir, and thought she was “great.” He even asked Miles Davis to play backup for her, but the jazz great refused, saying he didn’t play “behind no girl singer.”

Yet, if singing in a club made her feel like a floozy, why was Barbra even there? Why had she curled her hair, drawn those elaborate lines around her eyes, picked out a fashionable dress, slipped into some antique shoes, and trooped over that afternoon to the Village Vanguard? She didn’t even really need the money, at least not at that particular moment. She’d just been paid for PM East, and there was a looming gig in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Irvin Arthur would surely get her more nightclub jobs if she needed them. So why put herself through all of this?

The answer, perhaps, came from the most recent man in her life.

His name was Stanley Beck, and he had told Barbra that her problem was simple: She didn’t like herself very much. Stanley had known Barbra long enough to speak with some degree of authority. He’d first met her at the Malden Bridge Playhouse when Barbra was fifteen and he was twenty-one. Though he’d found her attractive, Stanley had kept a respectable distance from the underage girl. It was not until one night in the late spring of 1961 that they’d reconnected. Barbra and her roommate, Elaine, had gone to see The Balcony, the Jean Genet play being directed by José Quintero at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Stanley had recently taken over the part of the executioner, and Barbra had recognized him. After the show, they met up, and during the past few weeks had been seeing quite a bit of each other.

Barbra, according to friends, had initially been smitten. Shortly before meeting Stanley, she’d lamented to Elaine, “Will I ever get a guy? Do you think anyone could ever love this face?” The affair with Tommy Smothers may have given Barbra a boost, but for someone with self-doubts that ran as deep as hers, it was going to take much more than that to convince her of her own allure. So when Stanley returned her interest, she was elated.

Stanley had picked up on her insecurities. He’d told Barbra plainly that the reason “she was attracted to guys who paid no attention to her” was because it confirmed her own deep-seated belief that “she was nothing.” That might explain, some friends thought, why she kept trudging into nightclubs, craving the approval of the managers and the applause of their patrons.

Standing in the Vanguard now, waiting for Rick Edelstein to corral a musician to play backup for her, Barbra was as alone as she’d ever been in her life. Nearly seven months after the breakup with Barré, her renditions of “Cry Me a River” had lost none of their intensity. Even Stanley’s muscular frame couldn’t compete with the memory of Barré. At first, Barbra had been attracted enough to Stanley to buy a diaphragm in case she ever gave in and had sex with him. But as time went on, she told Elaine that she “could take him or leave him.” Stanley wasn’t the devoted, nurturing mentor Barré had been. He was also perhaps just a bit too honest. He spoke with a directness that Barbra wasn’t used to, and he articulated a truth that went to the core of her being. To no one’s great surprise, shortly before her audition at the Vanguard, Barbra had stopped seeing Stanley Beck.

Up on the stage, Edelstein was motioning to Barbra that the musician was ready. Barbra stepped up and sang three numbers. The audience, as expected, cheered and whistled. Watching from the back of the room, Max Gordon’s wife, Lorraine, felt as if there was nothing Barbra “couldn’t do with her voice—she had such control, top to bottom.” But her husband didn’t offer Barbra a job that day. The Vanguard was a jazz club, and Barbra was no Nina Simone. This day, the affirmation she sought so desperately would not be forthcoming.

At least not from the club managers. As Barbra was leaving, an older woman from the audience stopped her. “You are fantastic,” she said. “Don’t ever change.”

Barbra looked at her matter-of-factly. “Of course I’ll change,” she said. “Life changes people.”

Indeed, she was counting on change. She didn’t want to stay the same, singing in clubs, bastardizing her art, begging for jobs. That lady was crazy. Barbra was impatient for change. Bring it on, she might well have said. The sooner the better.


Homesickness can get pretty acute seventeen hundred miles away.

Everything seemed so different in Canada. At the nightclub, men wore short-sleeved shirts with no ties. No matter that the temperatures had reached ninety degrees Fahrenheit that week, Barbra found the practice peculiar, especially since the Town ‘n’ Country, the three-story theater-restaurant where she was playing, seemed more like a palace than a club. “Beautiful,” she proclaimed. “Very posh.” Yet the club’s management wasn’t even springing for her accommodations. For her two-week stint in Winnipeg, from July 3 to 15, Barbra had to pay her own way at the local YWCA. True, she was being paid better than she had ever been before—$350 Canadian a week, about the same in American dollars—but that was quickly whittled down when she figured in travel, food, and lodging. She’d made a few friends, who had taken her out horseback riding, which she’d enjoyed. But mostly she spent her days alone in her room, talking with Elaine on the phone or writing letters to Bob.

Worst of all, however, were the audiences, to whom she played three shows nightly, finding them both dull and noisy. On this night, it was the latter. People kept on talking as she tried to sing. It was like being in the Catskills all over again. With her tinnitus probably clanging in her ears, as it usually did in loud, stressful situations, Barbra stopped singing and abruptly walked off the stage.

The club’s manager, Auby Galpern, wasn’t pleased. He liked Barbra, even if he’d been distinctly unimpressed with her sartorial choices. He’d also been befuddled by her singing style. For a rendition of “Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking,” one of Cole Porter’s less well-known and more outlandish compositions, Barbra pounded on a bongo drum, flung her hair around, and swayed her torso. Reviewers took note. “Miss Streisand is the type of singer you’d expect to find in the Blue Angel or San Francisco’s hungry i,” Gene Telpner wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press. “That’s why Winnipeggers may find her rather strange.” Telpner repeated the fiction, still part of Barbra’s official publicity, that she’d been born in Turkey. He thought it gave her a “semi-Oriental look.”

Still, in the end, the review had been positive. Barbra’s act, Telpner concluded, “was really worth hearing.” That was what had saved her in Galpern’s view, at least so far. Barbra might be different from the acts he usually headlined at the Towers, the Town ‘n’ Country’s performing space, but she was good. Very good. The boys in the band had declared she was “terrific,” and Galpern knew his musicians were his best judges of talent.

But walking off the stage as Barbra had done—that was unacceptable. Galpern and his young singer exchanged some heated words over the incident. No doubt, there were some tears. Phoning Elaine, Barbra said she might have just been fired.

But she wasn’t. Galpern forgave her, and she went on the next night. The gig would turn out just fine. In the beginning, she may have had Winnipeggers asking, “What’s she doing?” But “after they knew who I was,” she said, “they listened to me.”


Back in New York, Elaine was very excited to watch her roommate on PM East. It was Wednesday, July 12, and Barbra’s episode was finally set to air. With Elaine was her boyfriend, the young actor Dustin Hoffman, who remembered Barbra from the Theatre Studio. Since those days, Hoffman had done some impressive off-Broadway work and had just appeared on Naked City, the television police drama.

Elaine told Hoffman that he had to hear Barbra sing. But the young man tried to demur. “I’ve seen her act,” he said, remembering some rather stilted Theatre Studio student productions. “She’s not that great.”

But Elaine insisted. So it was with some reluctance that Hoffman stood in front of the television set, watching as a grid of lights flashed across the screen and came together to spell out PM East. Host Mike Wallace conversed with his guest models—the “beauties of New York,” the ads had called them—and then finally introduced Barbra. To Hoffman, his old schoolmate seemed to be “really laying on the New York thing, the accent.” Finally, Barbra headed over to the stage and sat on a stool to sing.

“When a bee lies sleepin’ in the palm of your hand . . .”

Hoffman had to sit down. He “couldn’t believe” the beauty of Barbra’s voice. This little girl, this offbeat character who’d skulked around acting school with acne on her face and clothes smelling of mothballs, had opened her mouth and “this blessing,” as Hoffman described it, had come out. He was surprised by how emotional he got.

All across the country, many others were feeling exactly the same way.


Barbra was fed up. She’d thought of Detroit almost as a second home, but here were the Grubers, having hired her yet again to sing at the Caucus Club, refusing her request that meals be included in her contract. On a tour that had been one long hassle, this was the last straw. Furious, Barbra rang Irvin Arthur, but he couldn’t help; she wasn’t even able to get Ted Rozar on the phone. So she dug out Marty Erlichman’s card and placed a call to New York. When she learned that he was in San Francisco, Barbra tracked him down there.

Finally getting Marty on the line, Barbra asked if he still wanted to manage her. He replied that he did. So she told him about the stalemate she’d reached with the Grubers. Marty listened. And then he did something Barbra couldn’t have predicted.

He got on a plane and flew to Detroit.

Now, cloistered with the club owners in their office, Marty leveled with them. Barbra was distraught, and he was certain they didn’t want a distraught singer. He pointed out that they were paying her just $150 a week, the same as her last appearance at their club, while she’d made more than $300 in Winnipeg. Even her last gig in New York had brought her $175. The Grubers agreed to match the $175, but Marty knew that wouldn’t satisfy Barbra. She was holding out for the meals for the principle of the thing. So Marty told the brothers, in confidence, that he’d pay them an additional $25 if they threw in dinners for Barbra. The Grubers’ jaws nearly hit their desks. “Let us get this straight,” one of them said. “You flew here at your own expense so you could pay us twenty-five dollars and you’re not even her manager?”

Although the Grubers might not have thought so, Marty Erlichman was a shrewd operator. He knew his investment of $25 had just raised Barbra’s American asking price from $175 to $200. Her next employer would have to top that.

Yet Marty’s shrewdness went beyond dollars. Barbra’s new manager— although he couldn’t quite call himself that yet, given the contract still in place with Rozar—had no intention of keeping his deal with the Gruber brothers a secret. Right from the start, it was meant to leak, and already Marty knew exactly how he’d sell it. “You must really believe this girl is going to be a star,” he’d quote the Grubers as saying, to which Marty replied he “sure as hell did.” It was a great anecdote with which to sell a new client.

There was no question that Marty truly believed in Barbra’s potential—he wouldn’t have taken her on if he hadn’t—but managing the Clancy Brothers had taught him a valuable lesson. You didn’t let the public decide if an act was important or worthy. You told them so ahead of time. The Clancys had been sold as groundbreaking musicians who had single-handedly jump-started America’s love affair with Irish music, and that was exactly how the public had bought them. Therefore, a similar angle was needed to merchandize Marty’s latest client. For Barbra, it wasn’t national identity that he figured he could sell. Rather it was sheer, raw, once-in-a-generation talent.

So Marty let the word get out that Barbra wasn’t paying him any commissions, that he was helping her simply because he thought she was so amazingly gifted. In doing so, he was building the narrative he wanted associated with her. Of course, Marty’s spin also had a more immediate, practical application. It prevented Ted Rozar from claiming that Barbra had violated her exclusive contract with him by paying someone else.

For Barbra, a switch in managers couldn’t have happened fast enough. Marty was far easier to relate to than Rozar ever was. He was a fellow Jew from Brooklyn, but he also had a reassuring manner about him; Rozar had often made her feel uneasy. With Rozar, Barbra had to take care of so many little details herself; Marty promised he’d oversee everything from contracts to cab rides. He was there to listen to her as she kvetched in Detroit; in the past, Barbra had had to kvetch alone. Rozar had always been flirting with other girls, but Marty only had eyes for Barbra. Rozar had declared that what Barbra wanted in a manager was a “slave.” Marty wasn’t quite that, but he made sure Barbra felt as if she were his top—his only—priority. Nothing less would have sufficed.

And he told the world that she paid him not one dime.

In many ways, Marty was the strong, indulgent, protective father Barbra had always dreamed of having. His thirteen years of seniority—there had been only a few with Rozar—made all the difference. With his thick accent and frank way of speaking, Marty might not have been as erudite as Barbra expected her father would have been, but she could have a conversation with him about Chekhov or Mozart or Billie Holiday, and that was important to her. Most of all, Marty was the kind of direct and forthright advocate she’d longed for all her life—the kind of father who might have stood up for her at school or provided a counterbalance to her mother’s lack of encouragement. The white-knight rescue Marty had performed for Barbra in Detroit seemed to suggest that he could be as devoted to her as Barré had once been for those few short, wonderful months. And devotion was what Barbra wanted. Needed.

Rozar would have to be dealt with when they got back to New York. But for now, Barbra settled in for a happy month at the Caucus Club, enjoying all the Rocqueburgers and corned beef she could possibly eat.


Given the stresses she faced on her return to New York, it was no wonder that Barbra took solace from what might have seemed an unlikely source: Zen Buddhism.

Sitting in quiet meditation, the sounds of the city quickly receded from her consciousness. For a little while, Barbra was able to push from her mind the stressful fact that she had nowhere to live. Sharing Elaine’s apartment was never meant to be permanent, and now Barbra found herself traipsing from friend to friend, sometimes staying with Bob, sometimes with Peter Daniels, sometimes crashing at Sheldon’s office. She’d taken to carrying a cheap fold-up cot under her arm because she never knew when she might stumble across a good place to spend the night.

But during her Zen meditations, Barbra could forget all of her troubles, which included a recent, and nasty, break with Rozar. Associated Booking had advanced her $700 to “buy him off,” though Rozar insisted that it was money she owed him for commissions. Barbra had shown up at his office with what he called a “big goon” at her side. As she handed her former manager the money and gathered her belongings, Barbra refused to look Rozar in the eye so he was forced to talk to the back of her head. He told her he felt “disappointed” and “somewhat betrayed.” But when Barbra and the goon left—just who he was Rozar didn’t know, and Barbra didn’t say—there was “no apology, no explanation, not even a good-bye.” Rozar was deeply hurt. He felt he had done right by Barbra, negotiating her salary up, connecting her with nightclub owners. But he knew he’d never be the “hand-holder” that she wanted.

Lost in her meditations, Barbra could forget about such unpleasant moments. Zen was a handy tool to have. At the moment, the practice was rather fashionable among Barbra’s crowd. One friend, who got turned on to the practice at the same time, thought Barbra seemed “an expert, really so smart about Zen, really knowledgeable about going within.” When she wasn’t traveling, Barbra liked to hang out in the Village and talk Eastern philosophy with her pals. What Barbra sought, her friends understood, was “peace of mind.”

Recently, she’d endured another scene in Irvin Arthur’s office. With no gigs on the horizon, Barbra had shown up to see her agent, and she ran into Enrico Banducci, proprietor of the influential San Francisco club, the hungry i, who was on “one of his cyclical forays into New York to ferret out fresh talent.” It was, of course, very likely that Barbra knew Banducci was going to be there that day and her confrontation with him had been planned. “Why don’t you give me a job?” Barbra asked the club manager. She’d admit the question was “a bit” —a performance. She was acting the part of an aggressive character demanding a job. But she was also serious. Banducci took chances on unknowns. So why not take a chance on her? He ought to hire her now, Barbra declared, because later, when she was famous, she’d be too expensive for him. The iconoclastic Banducci, an expert at self-promotion himself, enjoyed her little performance. He promptly signed Barbra up for $350 a week for an unspecified future date.

Yet this kind of “begging” for jobs was one of the main reasons Barbra detested the nightclub life. She had no choice, however. She needed the money so she could get an apartment. She couldn’t keep lugging that cot around forever.

That summer Barbra faced a career slump. Zen might help her attain some peace of mind, but there was another force—more practical, more tangible—that was also coming to her aid. Marty Erlichman was walking the pavement and knocking on doors on Barbra’s behalf—something Rozar had never done. Marty was hopeful that he could get his new client an engagement at the uptown, upscale Blue Angel. And given his contacts at Columbia Records through the Clancy Brothers, he was optimistic about landing a record deal for her as well. But most important, at least to Barbra’s mind, was that Marty had helped secure her an audition for a play. Not a nightclub gig, but a play. Sure, it was a revue, but Another Evening with Harry Stoones would require learning lines and playing parts in addition to singing songs. Barbra wouldn’t just be some floozy standing next to a piano. How refreshing that would be.

And so Barbra closed her eyes and meditated some more. She could see her success, as clear as ever. Now only if the rest of the world would as well.


His mother kept mispronouncing the name of his show as Another Evening with Daniel Boone or Another Evening in Harry’s Saloon, but author-composer-lyricist Jeff Harris was convinced his debut production had the right stuff to be a major hit. Until now Harris had been best known for playing the homicidal maniac Jenning Carlson on the television soap opera The Edge of Night. But since Carlson had bled to death on a special Christmas Eve episode last year, Harris had turned his attention to his revue Another Evening with Harry Stoones.

Except that it wasn’t really a revue; it was just set up to look like one. In fact, Harry Stoones was conceived for “people who hate revues” —a takeoff on all those tiresome “Evening with” shows that lately had become “epidemic” off-Broadway. No cheesy lounge singers with velvet voices here. This was going to be smart, sassy, and successful. Indeed, Harris and his collaborators were so confident that they’d agreed to a long-term lease on the Gramercy Arts Theatre at Twenty-seventh Street and Lexington Avenue.

On such youthful hubris did Harry Stoones run. Harris and his two producers, Harvard graduates G. Adam Jordan and Fred Mueller, were all just twenty-six years old. Their newly formed Stenod Productions had managed to raise $15,000 from twenty-five investors in the last few months. The show would consist of comedy skits divided into two acts, “The Civil War” and “The Roaring Twenties”—time periods that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject of the show. This same sort of cheekiness was also evident in the non sequitur Harris had pulled out of thin air to use as a title: No Harry Stoones ever appeared (or was even mentioned) in the script.

Problems arose with casting, which Harris felt was “absolutely impossible.” In the auditorium of the Gramercy Arts, the playwright sat with Jordan, who would direct the show, growing bleary-eyed as they looked at headshot after headshot. What they needed were “down-to-earth performers,” Harris said, “not the typical smiley, happy, hooray type.” For days they’d been auditioning dozens of actors, but so far had only settled on a few. Diana Sands, who’d won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her portrayal of the daughter in A Raisin in the Sun, was their big name. The rest of the actors they’d chosen were largely newcomers: Kenny Adams had been in the ensemble of the Frank Loesser musical Greenwillow the previous year, while Sheila Copelan and Lou Antonio had done some television. To round out their cast, Harris and his partners needed two more women and two more men. The hopefuls kept trotting onto the stage, and the search continued.

Looking over the pile of headshots one more time, Harris kept pausing whenever he’d spot the face of one particular girl. Her name was Barbra Streisand. She’d come in with her manager, a boxy guy named Erlichman who wore a suit with a hole in the left sleeve. The small, slender kid with the large nose and curious eyes had climbed up on the stage and belted out a couple of songs for them, and they’d all thought she was “hot, clearly talented, and very different”—precisely what they wanted in the show. But she was a singer, they believed, not an actress, and the show didn’t need singers; it needed people who could act. The skits demanded perfect comedy timing; the gags couldn’t be played too broad. So, with some regret, they had turned the Streisand kid down.

But her face kept coming back to Harris. It was her difference that stayed in his mind. The way she had looked, the way she had “answered funny” when they’d asked her questions. Few of the actors they’d interviewed so far had been more “down-to-earth” than she was, and no one would ever describe Barbra Streisand as “the typical smiley, happy, hooray type.” She was, when they came right down to it, exactly what they were looking for. If Streisand couldn’t act, Harris decided, then he’d write a few extra songs for her. So, with little more than a month before their scheduled opening date, he and his partners decided to call the kid back.


On an afternoon in mid-September, Barbra walked alongside Marty as they entered the Columbia Records building at 799 Seventh Avenue, between Fiftieth and Fifty-first streets. It was an old building, seven stories tall, with peeling paint and pipes that frequently burst, hardly the place one would imagine as the home of one of the biggest record companies in the world. The first floor was rented out to shops, but the rest of the building was a beehive of constantly humming activity. The basement contained the record archive—a treasure trove dating back to the 1920s with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Ruth Etting that also included original Rodgers and Hammerstein cast recordings, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Johnnie Ray, and Leonard Bernstein. The top two floors of the building housed the recording studios. But it was to the fourth floor, entirely occupied by the offices of company president Goddard Lieberson, that Barbra and Marty were heading this day.

That Marty had managed to wrangle a meeting—a prelude to an actual audition—with the big cheese of Columbia Records was only one of his miracles that late summer of 1961. No doubt, as she rode the rickety elevator up from the ground floor, Barbra was awash in excitement, her mind filled with everything that was suddenly going on for her. Record deals were fine; “easy money” was how Barbra told friends she viewed the chance to record an album. But far more important to her was the fact that she’d gotten the part in Another Evening with Harry Stoones, just as Marty had predicted. Rehearsals had recently gotten underway at the Gramercy Arts. Now Barbra had the chance to prove to the world that she was so much more than just a singer.

The deal Harris had offered her, of course, had been terrible. “This is off-Broadway,” he’d told Marty; there was practically no money. Barbra would be paid $37.50 a week—a huge drop from the $350 a week she’d just been promised by the hungry i. But it was a chance for her to act, to do the kind of work she’d been denied now for more than a year, ever since she’d closed in The Boy Friend. And Barbra truly believed that Harry Stoones was going to get attention from the critics. Advance buzz on the show was good. New cast members included Dom DeLuise, who’d done Little Mary Sunshine off-Broadway, and Susan Belink, a wonderful student from the Manhattan School of Music who would be singing most of the songs, for which Barbra was extremely grateful. Best of all, however, in terms of garnering critical attention, was the addition of Joe Milan, who’d assisted none other than Jerome Robbins on Gypsy, as the show’s choreographer.

Surviving on the thirty-seven dollars that Harry Stoones promised to pay her, however, would have been impossible. But yet again Marty had come to Barbra’s rescue. As they stepped out of the elevator and entered the reception area for Lieberson’s office, Barbra could thank Marty for a good many things, and he’d been her manager for barely one month. But it was the gig he’d just gotten her, at the Blue Angel, that could prove to be the most lucrative.

Barbra had tried once before to audition at the Angel, one of the toniest nightclubs in the city, but hadn’t gotten anywhere with its owner, the snobbish Herbert Jacoby. Then Marty had intervened. He’d had some success getting the Clancy Brothers onto the Angel’s stage, so he knew the best strategy was to bypass Jacoby and work directly with the club’s second owner, Max Gordon. While Gordon had little to do with the daily ins and outs at the Angel—concentrating instead on the Village Vanguard, where he’d heard Barbra sing not long before—his opinions carried weight, even if Jacoby wished he’d keep them downtown. And while Gordon had decided Barbra wasn’t right for the Vanguard, he thought she’d fit in quite well at the more eclectic Angel. So he’d pressured Jacoby to relent and give Barbra the audition she wanted. Of course, whenever Barbra was given the chance to sing, she usually won over any doubters, and Jacoby was no exception. He’d signed her to a two-week run in November with a salary in excess of three hundred a week. So, thanks to Marty, that thirty-seven dollars a week from Stoones could be used as pocket change—bus fare and late-night noshing at the Brasserie.

At last things were going Barbra’s way. So it was with some renewed spring in her step that she accompanied Marty into Goddard Lieberson’s office. Few people ever made it this far. Lieberson was a formidable figure, keeping his record company remarkably independent from its corporate parent, CBS. His recently hired legal counsel, Walter Yetnikoff, described Columbia as Goddard’s “own fiefdom,” over which he ruled as a benevolent—and stylish—dictator. The man who was now shaking hands with Barbra and Marty had all his shirts custom-made in London; his tweed jackets inevitably sported leather patches on the elbows. He was the rare man who could get away with wearing pink—shirts, ties, pocket silks—without any collateral damage to his masculinity. When he wore an ascot, it seemed “appropriate,” Yetnikoff said, “never pretentious.” Married to the former ballerina Vera Zorina, the dark-haired, graying-at-the-temples Lieberson was the only employee CBS president William Paley and his wife, Babe, considered their social equal.

It had been Lieberson who’d overseen the introduction of the 33⅓ rpm LP record that had revolutionized the music industry in 1948. It had been Lieberson who’d convinced CBS to invest in the musical My Fair Lady, which had made the company a fortune. It had been Lieberson who’d launched the Record of the Month Club, which had caused profits to skyrocket. Whatever Goddard Lieberson wanted, he got; what he didn’t want, no one took. It wasn’t surprising that people shuddered when summoned to his office: “God would like to see you now” was how the memo read.

Standing before God, neither Barbra nor Marty cowered. They were there on a mission. Lieberson gestured for them to sit at the large round table in his office, where Marty pulled a few of Barbra’s reviews from his briefcase and read them out loud. Then he set a tape recorder on the table and played some of her songs. Lieberson listened politely, not saying much. No doubt he was aware that much more than a table separated him from the two people across from him. They all might have been Jewish, but Lieberson had been born in Hanley, Staffordshire, England, not Brooklyn, New York. And while his immigrant father had been a manufacturer of rubber heels, Lieberson had attended the prestigious Eastman College of Music instead of hustling his way into show business like these two characters. At Eastman, Lieberson had written chamber music set to Elizabethan poetry. By 1939, he had composed more than a hundred works, many of which were performed by Works Progress Administration orchestras. Even after being hired by Columbia, he’d found time to write a novel and master Japanese.

With seemingly infinite patience, the erudite Lieberson now sat back in his chair and listened as the plain-talking Erlichman made his pitch. After all, the guy had brought the Clancy Brothers to Columbia; Lieberson owed him that much. But the slender, odd-looking girl sitting beside Erlichman did not impress God. Marty seemed to sense this, and so, instead of asking for an immediate decision, suggested that Lieberson keep the tapes for a while. He told him that Barbra was special. “Listen to her when the phones aren’t ringing,” he told Lieberson, who indulgently agreed.

Leaving the office that day, Marty may well have been filled with anxiety about getting a positive answer from Lieberson. But Barbra, friends noticed, was much more tranquil about her prospects. What held far more opportunity than a record deal, Barbra believed, was Another Evening with Harry Stoones, and for that she didn’t need to wait for any decision from God. With a little help from Marty, she had done that herself.

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