Truth In Art: An Incredible Evening With Barbra Streisand At PaleyFest

by Brent Lambert (@FEELguide)

Last night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the Paley Center for Media honored legendary singer, director, producer, actor and superstar, Barbra Streisand, with the PaleyFest Icon Tribute for her incredible body of work in television. The event was moderated by Ryan Murphy, who spent 90 minutes talking with Babs about her remarkable life and career.

In his opening introduction, Murphy told the story of when he was a kid in the 60s and he saw Barbra on the big screen for the first time. “I want to be like that,” he recalls telling his mother. He described how it wasn’t about being gay or anything about his sexuality — he just wanted to be in the world and aura of heightened truth, goodness, and beauty that Streisand had created around her.

Streisand’s tribute opened with a stunning montage of her greatest moments in television, from her early variety show days on programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, to her iconic A Happening In Central Park concert in 1967, to her brilliant television concert specials of recent years. She told the story of how during her Central Park concert she completely blanked on the words to one of her songs. That moment triggered a long stretch of stage fright that left her too terrified to perform live. It wasn’t until the advent of teleprompters that she felt confident enough to return to the live stage.

During her conversation with Ryan, Streisand often seemed bewildered every time he raised yet another impressive factoid from her life’s work. She told him how when she looks back on her Grammy or Emmy wins, for instance, she can’t remember where they were held, or what performances she won for. She says she anchors her memories of these events to two things: what the food was like, and what she was wearing. Barbra was so impressed by Ryan’s mountain of research, in fact, that she jokingly asked to have a copy of it when the show was over.

Far more humble than anyone would ever think a legend of her status would be, Ryan’s reflections on her achievements appeared to leave her blushed at times. One of the most revealing moments came when Ryan brought up Barbra’s variety show days and the moment a television network wanted to give her her own show. As per the era, being a variety show host would naturally have meant introducing multiple guest performers, but Barbra would only sign the deal if she was the one and only star of the show. At first, one would assume it had to do with a sense of wanting to be the focus of all the attention, but Barbra confessed the true reason. She explained how at that time in her life she was terribly shy, and felt like she didn’t have the appropriate level of charisma to merit being the one who introduced other great performers.

The evening was filled with exquisite moments of candid revelation, memories, and stories, but one that stood out above all others was an interview with director William Friedkin. In what was perhaps the evening’s most philosophical moment, the audience watched a clip from Friedkin’s 1986 HBO interview with Streisand where she explained what she sees as the purest essence of the performing arts in the entertainment industry.

“The basis of all good art to me, is feeling. That’s why I love anything to do with creating something, because you cannot lie. [If the performance is a lie] it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t transmit, and the audience doesn’t feel anything. At the basic core of anything technical is the feeling. In other words, if you’re making a movie, and the lights are perfect and the sound is great, but there’s no truth in the performance, you have nothing. And yet, if the lighting isn’t as good, or the sound isn’t good, but you have a moment of truth, a moment of pure, honest feeling, it will be OK.”

In this regard, Barbra Streisand has blessed our world with an astonishing collection of towering moments of truth for six decades. As Ryan Murphy described so perfectly in his opening words, to call Barbra Streisand the ‘greatest female star of all time’ is simply not enough. Streisand is the ultimate singular superstar that has ever lived — period.

WATCH BEGINNING AT THE 4:22 MARK:

Feature photo via Jonathan Tommy on Flickr

About The Author

Brent Lambert
IG: @FEELguide

Brent Lambert is a Los Angeles-based editor, writer, Entertainment Editor for BELLO magazine, as well as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of FEELguide.com. He also has a degree in architecture, is a Photoshop whiz, and in his spare time dabbles in set design and illustration (portfolio: unifiedFEEL.com).

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