Barbra Streisand Talks Singing With Judy Garland and Not Swinging With Marlon Brando During Her Stern Show Debut
Legendary entertainer sits with Howard to discuss her new memoir, “My Name Is Barbra”November 8, 2023
At 81, Barbra Streisand’s story is finally written.
The legendary singer, actress, filmmaker, and philanthropist made her long-awaited Stern Show debut on Tuesday, connecting with Howard from her home in Malibu to deliver an epic interview in service of her equally epic new memoir, “My Name Is Barbra.” Over 10 years in the making, the 992-page book offers an in-depth look at the Brooklyn-born superstar’s sometimes tragic upbringing — from the father who died when she was just 15 months old to the mother who once told her to pursue a career in typing — and covers nearly every facet of her six-decades-long career as a multi-platinum recording artist, acclaimed movie star, and underappreciated director. As open as Barbra was in her book, she was even more candid in her conversation with Howard, touching upon subjects ranging from what song Bob Dylan wrote about her and which Martin Scorsese role she turned down to some of the run-ins she’s had with misguided men in media and the movie business.
The beloved entertainer also spoke of love and romance, including the storybook marriage she continues to enjoy with actor James Brolin and the sparks she once felt with co-stars Omar Sharif, Sydney Chaplin, and Elliott Gould—the last of whom she was married to for most of the 1960s.
“These guys were all seduced by you,” Howard marveled.
“Well, that’s their problem,” Streisand responded, explaining how it wasn’t all that unusual to fall for a co-star. “When you’re playing a love story — if you’re really good at acting that part — some part of you has to fall in love with that leading man.”
In the book, the eventual EGOT winner details a scandalous 1966 encounter with two-time Oscar winner Marlon Brando at a star-studded Hollywood party. She told Howard that while her shyness kept her from chatting with the likes of Gregory Peck and John Wayne, she couldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet Brando.
“He’s the only one I wanted to talk to when I found out he was there,” Streisand said.
Even so, she was surprised when Brando — who was both married himself and aware she was married to Gould — leaned in and whispered in her ear: “I’d like to fuck you.”
“I said to him, ‘That sounds horrible,’” Streisand recalled for Howard. “I like romance. I like getting to know someone, but it was intriguing. It was flattering.”
Apparently Brando upped his game after that: “He said an incredible thing that was romantic to me. He said, ‘I’d like to go to a museum with you.’ I said, ‘When are we going?’”
Barbra and Marlon became lifelong friends, but they never did consummate their relationship despite the fact he once invited her to spend the night with him … in the desert. “I thought, ‘What the hell? What are we going to carry a toothbrush and a bottle of water?” she laughed. “But it was great to go with him for the day so we could talk to each other about our whole experiences and childhoods.”
Happy Days With Judy Garland
Barbra’s first Emmy nomination came in 1963 after she appeared on “The Judy Garland Show” where she and Judy Garland sang an unforgettable mash-up of “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Get Happy.” Decades later, Barbra still recalls the details of the legendary performance, from the zinger Judy made before their duet to the support Barbra gave her while they sang.
“She was real. She made a joke out of it. She said, ‘Barbra, I hate you,’” Streisand remembered, adding, “She grasped my hand while we were singing together. She was holding on to me. She needed support.”
Barbra was thrilled to sing with Garland but also a little intimidated. “I have a very good voice. Judy has a great, great voice. She is spectacular,” Streisand said. “I thought she sang so brilliantly that show … much better than me,” she added.
While the world sometimes tried to paint them as rivals, Streisand told Howard she and “The Wizard of Oz” star ultimately became good friends. “We became close friends because we could identify with one another,” Barbra said, adding, “She came from a background that was so different than mine, but we still felt each other’s pain somehow. We were made out of the same ilk.”
How Her and James Brolin’s Love Inspired an Aerosmith Chart Topper
Barbra has starred in several moving love stories, but none of those stage or screen romances could hold a candle to the real-life relationship she enjoyed with actor James Brolin. The two have been married for over a quarter century now and, according to Barbra, have only grown closer over time. The couple’s love is in fact so passionate it inadvertently inspired the Diane Warren-penned Aerosmith hit “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
“We’re spooning. We’ve done our bits, whatever, and I’m about to fall asleep, and he says … ‘I don’t want to fall asleep because then I’ll miss you,’” Barbra recalled. “Oh my God,” she laughed. “Okay, yes, I’ll marry you.”
That particular bit of pillow talk was so sweet she shared it with Barbara Walters during a televised interview — an interview Diane Warren, the prolific songstress behind everything from Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It on the Rain” to Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” just happened to be watching.
“And [she] wrote it down. It was a powerful line, right?” Streisand said.
Missed Movie Opportunities
Feeling inspired after watching some of his films, Barbra once wrote a letter to filmmaker Martin Scorsese in which she revealed why she had passed on his 1974 film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”
“I said, ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t take that role, but I didn’t think I was a good [fit],’” she recalled of the correspondence.
The actress has turned down other big opportunities, including “Splash,” the 1984 comedy directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. “There’s a part of me that’s very lazy,” Streisand insisted. “I work when I work and I’m a total worker, totally concentrated on that project. But then when the project’s finished I am so happy to be not working, to enjoy life.”
Even when Barbra did take a role, there were sometimes missed opportunities. Case in point: the backend money she gave up on 1972’s hit screwball comedy “What’s Up, Doc?” “I actually gave it up because my business manager said, ‘You need the cash, you have no money,’ and so I sold out for $2 million,” she revealed before noting that director Peter Bogdanovich and co-star Ryan O’Neal both kept their percentages. “They made a fortune, I didn’t. I had to go and sing.”
Stephen Sondheim Wouldn’t Let Her Star & Direct in ‘Gypsy’
According to Streisand, the whole concept of writing her memoir was spawned from not getting to do a couple of movies she really wanted to make. She includes an adaptation of the musical “Gypsy” in that list. “I wanted to end my career with playing Gypsy,” she revealed. “I was offered to play it onstage through the years … I said, ‘I’m not ready to play it.’”
But when she pitched the idea to both star and direct it for the screen to Stephen Sondheim – who she had a great working relationship with – he said no. “I could see every frame and just be in it … but he said, ‘You either direct the movie or you act in it, but you can’t do both,’” she recalled before adding he thought the role was too challenging — a sentiment she disagrees with. “There are things in life that you can’t have — it was very sad for me.”
So, what’s next for the icon? “I wouldn’t star in another movie — it’s too much of a pain in ass to get your hair done … [but] I could direct another movie and I have one but it’s like my fourth choice of a movie to direct,” Barbra said before listing some projects that she wanted but couldn’t get to in time. “I wanted to do a picture called ‘Triangle’ about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire — that [wound up] on television and they did a pretty good job, so what was I going to do with it again? I had a different take on it … but sometimes I just give up too easily.”
“My Name is Barbra” is available now.