On the brink of 2012, a year that will celebrate Barbra Streisand’s 50th anniversary in show business, 2011 was a year that seemed to assure everyone who was paying attention that Barbra is far from retiring. In fact, while promoting her latest CD, “What Matters Most,” that she uttered these words: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over. That’s why I don’t even say I’m retired.” And aren’t we all glad to hear that!
Looking back on the 2011, month by month, Sal LaBarbera at BarbraTimeless.com (one of the best Barbra websites that’s not Barbra-Archives.com) annotated just how full a year it was for Barbra Streisand. Here’s our take on five moments that we’ll be remembering for years to come, you know…there are moments you remember all your life kind of moments:
1. What Matters Most
What mattered most wasn’t that Barbra’s 2011 CD, “What Matters Most,” debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, giving her a record-setting 31st top ten album, surpassing The Beatles. (Only The Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra have more top 10 albums.)
No, what mattered most was that “What Matters Most” was delivering a brilliant album. It’s one of Barbra’s best ever. I wrote that in my review at the time and my opinion has not wavered. It will stand the test of time because inherent in this CD is the simple beauty of the Barbra’s vocals and the quality of the Bergman’s lyrics. The marriage of the two, enhanced by the loveliness of music by the likes of Michel Legrand, David Shire, Sergio Mendes and others, makes “What Matters Most” an instant classic. If Barbra’s intent was to pay tribute to her good friends — her second family — with one of her finest productions, she succeeded.
2. MusiCares…and So Does Barbra
In February, MusiCares honored Barbra as the person of the year at a fundraising gala in Los Angeles. It was in recognition of not only her incredible musical accomplishments over the years, but also her charitable works and philanthropy. It was the latter that moved Barbra to both be feted by her peers, as other singers did her songs and celebrated her artistry, but also to take to the stage herself and perform.
But in her program notes, Barbra put the importance of the night into clear perspective: “I’ve always felt that when one receives a lot, they should find ways of giving back. Therefore, I’m especially pleased to recognize this wonderful organization that assists those less fortunate who have dedicated their lives to the musical arts.
“…It’s a privilege to be in a position to shine a light on important causes that help better people’s lives. I thank everyone this evening not only for such a lovely personal tribute, but also for the good work your generosity will enable MusiCares to continue doing in the coming years.”
3. The Truth About ‘Heart’
With the successful revival of “The Normal Heart” on Broadway, the subject of the film version of the play came up and Barbra’s part in that process. The fact that she originally bought the rights in 1986, but had been unable to get it produced irked playwright Larry Kramer who blamed Streisand personally for the troubles. He went so far as to call Barbra a hypocrite for failing to get the movie made.
In the pages of Entertainment Weekly, Streisand finally opened up about her side of the story. For years, she had allowed the corrosive Kramer to vent about his version of the story, painting Barbra as the bad guy — a flighty filmmaker who never got around to making the movie.
He ridiculed her decision to make “Nuts” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” instead of doing “The Normal Heart” — implying that the choices had been that cut and dry.
He further claimed that she’d wanted to turn the play into a star vehicle for herself. Kramer contended, “She cut Ned’s (the lead character) part so much that when she offered the movie to a major star who had played the part on stage, he said, ‘I can’t play this. The character has no motivation anymore. She subsumed all of the motivations into her part, as the doctor.”
That’s when Barbra reached the tipping point and decided to set the record straight. Among her thoughts on the subject were these salient, and heretofore, unpublished points:
— “The Normal Heart” could have been an HBO film. Barbra explained, “Larry wouldn’t accept their highest offer of $250,000. He wanted a million dollars. Larry held out for the money. I didn’t. Why not advance your cause? Why keep this movie unseen for all these years?” In response, Kramer denied ever receiving the HBO offer.
— In the ’90s, Streisand gave up the rights and Kramer had the play once again. He was free to make a deal and get the film made. Despite the involvement of Oscar-winner director John Schlesinger, Kramer never got the film produced.
— Streisand was anguished when Kramer attacked her on the ACT UP website, especially because he included her son, Jason Gould, in the vitriol. Kramer was out of line and she nearly blasted back at that time… She told EW, “I started to write [a response] but then decided not to do it. It was wonderful to read some of the comments from the gay community about this. They fought the battle for me. It was really lovely for all these people to come to my defense.”
Finally, despite all this back and forth, Streisand still espouses her deep affection for Kramer’s play. She even said that she’d still consider playing the doctor’s role should “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy, who currently holds the rights, ask her to be in the film.
Her heart, though, remains true to her original vision of the piece and she’d still like to direct it. She told EW, “If I could direct it today, I would direct it today. Because it’s been very hard for me to find a piece that I feel as passionate about. I mean, I love this play.”
Hopefully, 2012 will see “The Normal Heart” actually go before the cameras and filmed for release in 2013…despite Mr. Kramer’s cantankerous ways.
4. Standing Up for Women’s Heart Research
For a lot of 2011, Barbra Streisand was on the forefront of a campaign to raise awareness about women’s heart disease. Her efforts began in 2010, actually, but in 2011 she was out there even more to shine a light on the dangers women face because of heart disease and fundraising for the cause.
Her most recent effort is the competition to raise the most money for her cause. Since December 14 and running until January 11, Crowdrise is helping a dozen celebrities get exposure for their charities. To make Barbra a winner — and donate to her cause — click HERE to go to Barbra’s Crowdrise page.
5. “My Mother’s Curse” Wraps
The many moments that went into the production of “My Mother’s Curse,” Barbra next feature film, makes it a sure thing as a 2011 memorable highlight. For the first time since “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” Barbra is back in front of the cameras in a starring role. With Seth Rogen playing her son, this comedy has already created buzz in Hollywood as something special.
There have been over half-a-dozen screenings and the word is that “My Mother’s Curse” is going to be a hit. Backing up that industry buzz and the word from fans who’ve been in the screenings is the fact that Paramount moved “Mother” from a March 31 release date to November 2.
It’s a longer wait for us who are anxious to see the film, but the move into the competitive holiday season indicates that the studio has great faith in the picture. And if you believe the scuttlebutt, both Barbra and Seth deliver Oscar-quality performances and mother and son. That could also explain why it’s now going to be a November movie instead of a spring film.
…So, there you have it. As 2011 closes, Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to a Barbra-ful 2012 filled with great music, wonderful new projects, a hit movie and even more Streisand magic!