Fascinating Facts About Barbra Streisand You Probably Never Knew
With over 150 million records sold worldwide and a $400 million net worth, Barbra Streisand is one of the best-selling and best-known singers of all time. She's also conquered the stage, the big and small screens and now she's conquering the world of publishing with her long-awaited autobiography, "My Name Is Barbra."
Here we'll explore some intriguing facts about her life beyond the spotlight that reveal the resilience and creativity that have shaped her remarkable journey.
Streisand Attended High School with Bobby Fischer and Neil Diamond
In the 1950s, Barbra Streisand attended Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, where she excelled as an honor student across various subjects. She was also a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club, an experience she shared with fellow classmate and music icon Neil Diamond.
While at the school, Streisand developed a crush on classmate and chess champion Bobby Fischer, who was already famous. Reflecting on those days, she recalls, "[He] was always alone and very peculiar. But I found him very sexy."
A Former Co-Star Caused Her Crippling Stage Fright
Streisand is known for her crippling stage fright, which prevented her from performing live for nearly 30 years. In her memoir, "My Name Is Barbra," she reveals its source, revealing an unsettling incident involving Sydney Chaplin (Charlie's son) when they co-starred in "Funny Girl" on Broadway in the 1960s.
“I don’t even like to talk about it ... it’s just a person who had a crush on me – which was unusual – and when I told him, ‘I don’t want to be involved with you,’ he turned on me in a very cruel manner.
He began muttering under his breath while I was onstage. Terrible words. Curse words. And he wouldn’t look into my eyes anymore. And you know, when you’re acting, it’s really important to look at the other person and react to them."
The unsettling experience left her “flustered” and played a role in her decision to stop performing live.
She Was Hounded to Get Plastic Surgery on Her Nose but Always Refused
Streisand also said that early in her career she faced persistent suggestions to have a nose job and dental work to enhance her prospects in showbiz. Ultimately, she opted against any surgical alterations, fearing the impact it would have on her iconic voice
She said, "It was too much of a risk. And who knew what it might do to my voice? Once a doctor told me I had a deviated septum … maybe that’s why I sound the way I do....Besides, I liked long noses … the Italian actress Silvana Mangano had one, and everyone seemed to think she was beautiful."
She Sang to a Variety of Zoo Animals for TV
Streisand starred in a string of TV specials in the 1960s before she became a big film star. One, "Color Me Barbra," was shot in 1966 and is one of the earlier TV shows in color. In fact, the technology was so new that two of the cameras broke during filming and they couldn't be repaired.
The first part of the show was shot at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Streisand was dressed as Nefertiti and sang and moved among the artwork. In the second sequence, she wandered around singing and dancing with a variety of live animals including penguins, an elephant and an anteater. She also steps in a live tiger cage to sing "What's New, Pussycat?"
Streisand Is an EGOT
During her storied career in film, music, television and on stage, Streisand has received countless awards for her work. She's one of the few people who is an EGOT.
She's won two Oscars, ten Grammys, five Emmys and one Tony award. On top of all that, she's won 11 Golden Globes.
She Has a Mall Inside Her House
Streisand has turned the basement of her Malibu estate into a mall, featuring a gift shop, an antique clothing store and a doll emporium. There's even a sweet shop serving popcorn and frozen yogurt to her celebrity pals during movie screenings.
In 2015, "American Horror Story" co-creator Ryan Murphy "had dinner with Barbra and Jim [Brolin], Kelly [Preston] and John [Travolta] and [Lady] Gaga...after dinner, she said, ‘Do you want to see the mall?’ And Gaga and I were out of that chair so fast … We went down to the mall and spent an hour down there. She pulled out her collection of gowns from 'Funny Girl' and 'Hello, Dolly!' And then she said, ‘Do you want frozen yogurt?'’'
She Got Tim Cook to Change Siri's Prononciation of Her Name
You know you're famous when you can just ring up Apple's Tim Cook with a request and he snaps to it. Streisand noticed that Siri was mispronouncing her name. During a recent interview with the BBC, she shared, "I clarified that my name doesn't have a 'z.' It's Streisand, like the sand on the beach — simple, right?
I thought, how do I tackle this? I decided to reach out to the head of Apple, [CEO] Tim Cook....That’s one perk of fame,” she said. Her name has been corrected.
She Been Married Twice and Both Men Starred in a Movie Together
While she's had several high-profile relationships, Barbra Streisand has only been married twice: once to "Ocean's 11" actor Elliott Gould, from 1963 to 1971, and the second time to James Brolin ("Marcus Welby, M.D."), whom she wed in 1998.
In 1977, both Brolin and Gould started in "Capricorn One," the sci-fi thriller where a Mars mission's technical glitch leads the government to fake the landing. The astronauts, who were kept in the dark, discover the ruse and become a threat to the elaborate cover-up.
She Had Her Dog Cloned
Streisand cloned her beloved dog Samantha twice. Just before Samantha's death in 2017, she paid $50,000 to clone the Coton de Tulear by preserving DNA from her mouth and stomach.
Two genetic replicas named Violet and Scarlett then were born. Despite being clones, she's noted that the two dogs have completely different personalities.
She's Friends with King Charles and Howard Stern
Streisand has had a wide range of friends from all walks of life but two of her most unique relationships are with King Charles and Howard Stern.
She and King Charles met in the early 1970s and hit it off. (He had been a fan for years and had her poster in his room at college.) She said, "Both King Charles and I are shy, but somehow we still managed to connect…that proved to be the beginning of an unexpected friendship." She's spent nights at the family residence now owned by Charles and Queen Camilla and the pair regularly exchange birthday gifts.
As for Howard Stern, they met at an A-list party in 2011 and immediately bonded. Stern said: "I sat down next to her. We talked for like an hour maybe. I don't know — an hour and a half. I was completely into it. It was fantastic. Great conversation, like I had known her a hundred years ... she was very engaging. Very warm. Very interested in me, as I was in her. It was a very intimate conversation."
She Was the First Woman to Write, Produce, Direct and Star in a Studio Film
In 1983, Streisand made cinematic history with the debut of "Yentl," becoming the first-ever woman to write, produce, direct and act in a major studio film. The film achieved accolades, securing an Oscar for Best Score and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Musical.
Streisand once again shattered the glass ceiling by clinching the Golden Globe Award for Best Director. She is the first and only woman to attain this honor to date.
She Inspired an Aerosmith Song
Inspiration for the Aerosmith classic, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," came from an unlikely place: Streisand's relationship with James Brolin.
According to the singer in her interview with Howard Stern, she and Brolin were in bed spooning: "I’m about to fall asleep, and he says … ‘I don’t want to fall asleep because then I’ll miss you.'"
She shared the story in a Barbara Walters interview in the late 1990s and songwriter Diane Warren was watching at the time. "And [she] wrote it down. It was a powerful line, right?" The rest is music history!
Her Relationships Are the Stuff of Legend
In the years between marriages, Streisand dated some very high-profile men, including Liam Neeson, Peter Jennings, Andre Agassi, Joe Namath, Pierre Trudeau and Don Johnson.
She turned down the opportunity to have a fling with none other than Marlon Brando. He once invited her to spend the night with him in the desert, but Streisand was not interested.
"I thought, ‘What are we going to carry a toothbrush and a bottle of water? But it was great to go with him for the day so we could talk to each other about our whole experiences and childhoods." They remained lifelong friends.
She's the Only Artist to Have a Number 1 Album in Six Different Decades
Barbra Streisand is the only artist in music history who has had a number 1 album in every decade since the 1960s.
She achieved her first Number 1 with "People" in 1964. Her latest, "Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway," reached the top spot in 2016. The span between these two records is just a few weeks short of 52 years.
No, She's Not a Diva — She's a Perfectionist
For such a public figure, Streisand has always been very private. As a result, rumors of her diva-like persona have persisted for years. She wrote "My Name is Barbra" to shatter that myth.
"I want them [readers] to know the truth. One of the reasons I wrote the book is to talk about the myths about me ... A man is forceful – a woman is pushy. … He shows leadership – she's controlling. …. If he acts, produces, and directs, he's called a multitalented hyphenate. She's called vain and egotistical.
I don't think of myself as a famous person, I just don't. I'm the same Barbara Joan Streisand as I was in high school."