It was Barbra Streisand’s 100th performance in 50 years and the first time she performed in Israel—and most likely her last—when she took to the stage inside Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield stadium last Saturday night. The 71- year-old doesn’t like performing, she revealed, while explaining the presence of a giant teleprompter which broadcasted both lyrics and stage cues for all to see. “I performed in Central Park in 1967 and forgot the words to three songs, so I didn’t sing again for 30 years until I realized that a teleprompter would work, but hopefully you will look at me,” she explained with grace and humor to 14,000 very-accepting fans. I don’t think any of us had any trouble looking at her.
As she opened the show, the second of two in Tel Aviv, the seminal performer looked to her left and to her right and said, “there are people on both sides—had I known, I would have gotten my nose done…” But, we love her because she never did get a nose job, parading her Jewish beauty in all of its glory for generations of us. She makes us proud—of ourselves.
Between songs representing her repertoire from “Memories” to “People,” she chatted, drank tea from a flowered ceramic teacup and munched on a cookie because, as she explained, she hadn’t eaten all day.
My favorite segment of the Oscars, every year, is the “In Memoriam,” in which the ceremony takes a break from the terrible jokes and bloated musical numbers and faux displays of humility to honor those colleagues who have died in the past year. Unlike the rest of the awards ceremony, the “In Memoriam” doesn’t just honor the beautiful people—the Anne Hathaways and George Clooneys who light up the screen—but all the unsung heroes who toil in the backgrounds, or on the margins, of the industry.
The segment honors the experimental filmmakers (like Chris Marker, honored this year), the costume designers (the surrealist Eiko Ishioka, who was posthumously nominated for her work in Mirror/Mirror this year), and the dozens of unglamorous cinematographers, sound production engineers, and special effects gurus who give the movies so much of their magic.
This year’s tribute was particularly wonderful, because at the end Barbara Streisand emerged — wearing a diaphanous black gown and dripping in gold sequins and chains — to honor to the late songwriter Marvin Hamlisch. She performed one of his songs, “The Way We Were,” from the film in which she starred with Robert Redford.
I always like seeing (and hearing) Babs at these things. Not just because I was weaned on “Funny Girl” and “Yentl” as a girl, and not just because she’s a great performer, but also because her no-BS attitude, her brash diva fabulosity, and her unconventional (or, rather, non-Hollywood cookie cutter) beauty is a welcome respite from the sea of pale, delicate sylphs stalking the stage and red carpet.
Even Streisand’s outfit, with its unapologetic glitz and that rather ill-advised choker, injected some much-needed variation the standard fashion parade of pale pink confections and nude-colored gowns. That Streisand has managed to break into the industry, win awards, and stay relevant, without compromising or trying to hide her “otherness,” is awe-inspiring.
The Oscars red carpet has never been particularly diverse, and this year was no exception. Hathaway in pale pink Prada, next. Jennifer Lawrence in princess-like Dior. Yawn.
Some not-so-endearing news from our favorite Jewish fashion designers: Marc Jacobs tells Vogue that he hasn’t spoken to his mother in over 20 years (my mom launches a re-unification campaign if we don’t speak for two days), and Donna Karan gets in trouble for her new ad campaign set in Haiti. Hat tip to Jezebel.
Jewish mother Jill Zarin may have dealt with her share of divas on the “Real Housewives of New York,” but she still wasn’t prepared for Queen Bee Barbra Streisand. Radar reports that shortly after Zarin posted a video online of Streisand performing at a recent benefit for the Israeli Defense Forces, she was contacted by Streisand’s lawyers to take down immediately. “Someone from Barbra Streisand’s company just called my store to tell me to take down my YouTube video or they will sue me. Is that nuts? Sorry guys. I took it down!” Zarin wrote.
The Jewish Women’s Repertory Company, which produces work with all-female casts for the Los Angeles Orthodox community, is out with a new show, “Me and My Girl.” As The Los Angeles Times notes, this is one play where the actresses get the good parts.
Well, the upcoming film version of the long-running off-Broadway comedy “Jewtopia” will not likely makes things any better. As our Shmooze blog noted, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Ivan Sergei have signed on for an adaption of the show, which chronicles the story of two friends, a Jew and a Gentile, who pursue women from one another’s religion.
What draws the gentile to the Jewess? A desire for a woman who will make his decisions for him. What draws the Jew to the gentile? Someone who won’t remind him of his roots. So there is an overbearing Jewish American Princess and an accommodating shiksa. Gee, where have I heard that one before?
The fact that “Black Swan” and “Country Strong” are both movies about women who are ravaged by fame is hardly a spoiler. Anyone who has seen the films’ trailers — Natalie Portman’s bloody back and Gwyneth Paltrow’s teary battles with the bottle — gets a sense of how these characters’ quests for beauty and success quickly becomes poisonous.
As an alternative to these ravaged women, I would love to take this opportunity to recommend that everyone watches, or re-watches, Funny Girl. Yes, its a bit schmaltzy, a tad long, and, well, a musical, but it still, over 40-years later, manages to be one of the most inspiring portrayals of female ambition I have ever seen.
I know she was just trying to look like Streisand, and not pretending she could sound like her, but still. If anyone has the right to model herself after Streisand, it sure isn’t Jennifer Aniston. It’s Lea Michele.
Have you seen her on “Glee”? Or were you lucky enough to catch her performance on Broadway in “Spring Awakening”? (That’s where Boychik and I saw her opposite Jonathan Groff, who also plays her evil love interest on “Glee.”)
This week Barbra Streisand released “Love is the Answer,” her first studio album in four years. This new album is a collection of old-timey jazz standards like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” produced by Diana Krall, meant to recall Streisand’s early days as a club singer. The one small, intimate show she did to promote the album last week at the Village Vanguard is another such throwback, although the ratio of attendees (less than 100 of them) to media coverage (articles everywhere!) surely must have set some sort of record.
I can’t confess myself a major fan of her music, but I have always admired Streisand for more than her extraordinary pipes. For one, she succeeded as a diva and a sex symbol without ever renouncing her Jewish looks or identity. No nose job, and she’s played Jewish characters galore — one of whom was a Yeshiva boy, no less. For another, she’s never shied away from her gay fanbase, one major part of her adoring throng of listeners. Streisand got her start in gay clubs long before Lady Gaga was even born. And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, like her beloved character Katie in “The Way We Were,” Streisand has never backed down from expressing her political views, loudly and unabashedly. (This NFSW remix of Streisand’s famous shut-down of a heckling fan reacting to the singer’s anti-Bush skit is still a YouTube favorite).
In a cultural climate that often punishes women in entertainment, particularly beautiful ones, for having opinions or being outspoken, she has stood firm. And because of all of the above characteristics, mixed with her outsize fame and massive sales, Streisand has been subject to the expected smears and mockery. But she continues to do things her way and thrive, a symbol of triumph for all outsiders.
The results are in from the National Museum of American Jewish History’s poll to select the 18 individuals to be featured in their “Only in America” Hall of Fame. The results are not too surprising. Of the 18, six are women, and their names are familiar to most: Henrietta Szold, Golda Meir, Barbra Streisand, Emma Lazarus, Estee Lauder, and Rose Schneiderman. If you follow the Jewesses With Attitude blog, you’ve probably heard of Rose Schneiderman, as she’s a favorite at Jewish Women’s Archive, but of the six women I would guess she has the least amount of name recognition, so I’m pleased that she made it into the final 18.
Six of 18 isn’t exactly equitable, but it’s respectable, especially given that the original list of 218 candidates only included about 40 women, and especially for this kind of poll, which relies heavily on name recognition and therefore tends to skew toward the most famous. The museum explains that the results combine the voting results (top person in each category) with the efforts of historians and curators to create a balanced and reasonably representative group.