The Funny Girl who ‘wants more fun’: Barbra Streisand reveals all in new memoir | Music | Entertainment

Barbra Streisand reveals all in new memoir (Image: Getty)

Scarlet and Violet, the two puff-ball white Coton de Tulear purebred pooches she had cloned at the cost of £40,000 from the DNA of her dear departed pet dog Samantha, gather around Barbra Streisand’s feet, proof money can buy you love, even if the tail-waggers momentarily appear more interested in the egg sandwiches nestled on her coffee table.

“You can clone the look of a dog, but you can’t clone the soul,” says Hollywood’s longest-reigning diva, having learned that you can’t judge a book – or a dog, or an actress – by its cover. The cover of her long-awaited memoir, My Name Is Barbra, published today, defiantly features a 1967 photo of her famous profile highlighting the distinctive nose that studio bosses begged her to streamline with surgery: a declaration that we must accept her as she is.

“If I ever had my nose fixed, it would ruin my career,” she realised early on. “I considered having my nose fixed, but I didn’t trust anyone enough to fix it…

“The first thing someone would have done would be to cut my bump off. But I love my bump. I wouldn’t cut my bump off.”

Her memoir is a tale of life’s bumps, with few straight paths to success. It’s a 992-page doorstop of a book, a weighty tome without an index so that Hollywood celebrities have to read her entire story rather than just dip into the pages where their own name appears.

That was her idea: Streisand spent ten years spilling blood, sweat and tears on every page, and she’ll be damned if you don’t read every word.

At 81, the star of Funny Girl and A Star Is Born, whose hit songs include People, Happy Days Are Here Again, and My Man, recounts her early struggles to become an actress, turning to singing to earn a living, the recording of her classic albums, directing The Prince of Tides and Yentl, divorcing Elliott Gould, and her 25-year marriage to James Brolin.

By any measure, it’s a storied life filled with incredible success but, talking yesterday, Streisand heartbreakingly claimed she has not “had much fun” in her life. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she said: “I want to live life. I want to get in my husband’s truck and just wander, hopefully with the children somewhere near us when they come over. They love playing with the dogs, we have fun. I haven’t had much fun in my life, to tell you the truth. And I want to have more fun.”

Streisand is one of the rare few to have won America’s top four show business awards: two Oscars, ten Grammys, five Emmys and an honorary Tony.

She scored a best actress Oscar in 1969 for the big screen adaptation of musical comedy Funny Girl, the same year Katharine Hepburn also won the gong for The Lion In Winter in a rare tie.

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Barbra in 1968 comedy Funny Girl

Barbra in 1968 comedy Funny Girl (Image: National Screen Service)

In 1983, she wrote, directed and starred in Yentl, the first Hollywood movie where a woman was at the helm as both writer, producer, director and star. She began work on her memoir in 2009, but admits: “It’s so difficult because I don’t want to relive my life. Once is enough.” She hoped to publish in 2017. Now six years late, it’s poised to become an instant bestseller.

Her Malibu home overlooking the Pacific is elegant but practical: almost every room has a “pee pad” for her dogs to preserve the antique rugs.

In her closet she still has the vintage shoes and waistcoat that she wore as an 18 year old to her first paid solo singing gig at New York’s tiny Bon Soir club in 1960.

“On the way, I remember thinking: ‘This could be the beginning of a big change in my life.’”

Indeed, it was. But with success, managers and agents wanted to reshape her in every way; not just her nose. “People wanted me to be called Barbra Sands,” she says. “I thought, ‘What? No!’ Streisand is my name.” Writing her memoir, she rewatched her old movies. The ending of A Star Is Born could use a rewrite, she believes, having been rushed into finishing the movie.

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She is also reworking the ending of The Way We Were, which she hates. Insiders on that film claim Streisand lusted after co-star Robert Redford, but she insists: “Guys with blond hair and blue eyes were never my type. I did think he was very handsome… a wonderful jawline… great teeth.

“But what intrigued me most about Bob was his complexity. You never quite know what he’s thinking, and that makes him fascinating to watch on-screen.” Redford initially rejected the role, calling his character Hubbell Gardiner “shallow and one-dimensional,” so Streisand ordered rewrites to beef up Redford’s part.

She bitterly laments director Sydney Pollack cutting two key scenes, and regrets sobbing uncontrollably while filming a break-up, saying: “It’s not good enough… all the emotion just overflowed… I should have done less… I wish I could do it over.”

Her 1969 hit Hello Dolly! doesn’t impress her either. “I think it’s so silly,” she says. “It’s so old-time musical.”

She hasn’t always had the best of luck with men, either. Romances with hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters, and film composer Richard Baskin both ended before reaching the altar. Marlon Brando warrants a chapter to himself, meeting Streisand at a party in 1966 and telling her: “I’d like to f*** you,” despite his wife in the next room.

She declined the offer, but they became lifelong friends. But she opened her heart to Ryan O’Neal, Don Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

On first meeting second husband James Brolin, who had just received a crewcut for a movie role, her opening words were: “Who f***ed up your hair?”

While filming The Way We Were she rejected romantic overtures from doting screenwriter David Rayfiel, saying: “At that time I was not interested in people who were too fond of me. It was one of my problems… I was drawn to men I couldn’t have. I was working out issues with my stepfather… even though his name was Lou Kind, he was anything but.” Barbara Joan Streisand was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942, and was only 15 months old when her father died. Times were tough.

“I lived in one room with my mother, in the same bed, and my brother had a foldaway cot in the same room,” she recalls.

Her mother Diana, a perpetually unsatisfied perfectionist, wanted Streisand to pursue a career in school administration so that she could take her summers off. Instead, she grew her nails long, making her unsuitable for secretarial work. “I never learned to type,” she admits, obliging her to write in long-hand the journals that helped shape her memoir. “I often felt like an outcast growing up,” Streisand reveals in her book. “Nobody in high school was particularly impressed with my voice, and neither was I.”

She decided at 13 to become an actress, dropping the middle “a” from her name at 18. “I wanted to be recognised, because I wasn’t seen a lot as a child,” she says. “That’s what motivated me.” Fired by ambition, she told herself: “I have to become famous, just so I can get someone else to make my bed.”

My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand book cover

My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand (Image: Barbra Streisand)

Struggling as an actress, she was conflicted upon first finding fame as a singer, thinking: “What am I doing here? I was supposed to be on stage, playing Juliet.”

Streisand explains her stage fright, which has limited her live performances: “When I get nervous my heart pounds and it affects my voice, which starts to shake and I lose control. It’s a terrible feeling.” She reveals its origins in a failed romance with her Funny Girl co-star on Broadway, Charlie Chaplin’s son Sydney. After they broke up Chaplin cursed and jeered her onstage nightly, quietly enough that only Streisand could hear him. Nauseous and unable to concentrate, she never acted on Broadway again.

Another chapter is devoted to The Boys’ Club: the sexist studio system that fought her ambition to be an actress, writer, director and producer, which she finally achieved with Yentl, though it took 14 years to make. Harvey Weinstein once threatened her, but she never suffered sexual harassment, saying: “I wasn’t blond enough.”

Despite her many triumphs, Streisand’s insecurities run deep, and she is loathe to watch her own films or listen to her albums. “I always see something to change… I am very hard on myself,” she told Vanity Fair. “I’m not completely sure that what I do is so great.” Her dogs, and millions of fans, might disagree.

  • My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand (Cornerstone, £35) published Tuesday. For free UK P&P, visit or call Express Bookshop on 020 3176 3832

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