The Most Beautiful Woman in the World
Barbra Streisand is the most beautiful woman in the world.
The reason I became interested in Barbra was because of her looks. I know that sounds superficial. The reason I turned to John Hanrahan and said, “Who is that lady?” was not because of her acting or singing ability but because I had never seen anyone so beautiful in my life. It wasn’t long before I was hooked on her acting and singing but the honest trust is I always thought they were just bonuses. I always thought how lucky for her to be so pretty and still have talent. John says I bought all her albums just to stare at her, and although that is not true, it is not wrong either. Let the other fans memorize which song is on which side and who produced it – I just loved looking at her face. Thank God I didn’t grow up with just cd covers.
Why Barbra Streisand?
I don’t know “why” but I think I can tell you how.
My father died on December 15th, 1973. I was thirteen years old, in the 8th grade. I was standing in front of the grocery store he and my mom owned, in the Bronx, when the cops carried them out. He had suffered a heart attack. Or, as we say in the Bronx, he took a heart attack. This moment in my life convinces me that we really do not need VCRs. If it is important we will remember it forever. I can replay that scene in my mind forwards, backwards, freeze-frame, stereo, and/or mono.
He was buried out in the National Cemetery with lots of jokes about finally owning some land on Long Island. We opened up Christmas presents, my mother opened the store and as the song says, we knew we would “have to muddle through, somehow.”
It was a bleak winter until one day the phone rings and it’s John asking me to go to the movies. His mother did not want him traveling to Fordham Road by himself, but he’s bored at home and wants to go to the movies. I think I wants to jump off a roof, and said as much. He told me to hold off because I owed him one – last year he went back with me when I needed someone to travel with to see ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ – he had already seen the picture.
Being my friend since the second grade he really is the only person that can get me to change my mind on more occasions than not and this was one of those more occasions. On the ride on the bus I asked him what movie he was dragging me to.
“The one that has the song that she sings on the radio.”
This answer told me nothing and I did not engage him in any further conversation. As luck would have it the name of the picture was ‘The Way We Were’, “she” was Barbra Streisand and the combination added twenty years to my life, as of this writing.
There Are Moments You’ll Remember All Your Life
I used to order so much at the movies it had to be delivered to my seat. Milk Duds, a couple of hot dogs, large popcorn, large soda and freezer-cooled Raisenettes. I am busy arranging my food when ‘The Way We Were’ starts, and, to be very honest with you, I did not watch the beginning moments of the film. The first shots of Central Park I remember thinking, “What is this? I already saw ‘The Clock’.” Years ago in movie theaters they used to have clocks on either side of the screen. These ones, I am almost sure, were from Lincoln Savings and Loan, and glowed neon blue/purple. I remember checking out the clock to figure out how fast I could eat my food and order more. The movie is playing, it’s about a radio show, and some guy gets stood up, and asks a co-worker to go out for drinks. They can’t get into club – and you know what – who cares? I wasn’t following this at all.
And then. Boom.
I still get chills even thinking about it. The first close-up in the movie. I look up at the screen and it is filled with the most beautiful face I have ever seen. In my life. These magnificent eyes are looking at Robert Redford and her lipstick matches her nails and her hair is combed just so and she’s holding this glass of something like a real lady – and her eyes and her mouth – I must have lost my breadth. I whispered to John, “Who’s her?”
“That’s her. That’s Barbra Streisand. She’s the one who sings the song on the radio.”
I must preface everything I am about to say with this: I am not crazy. I have a job, I pay my rent, I eat from the proper food groups, and my feet are firmly planted on the ground. So, just because I might say crazy things does not mean I am crazy. What happened to me in that theater was nothing short of a miracle. Period. The End. I won’t even discuss it. I actually remember this sensation that the entire theater disappeared and all that was left was the screen and me. I forgot John sitting next to me, I forgot my food, the annoying clocks vanished, and it was just the movie and me. It was almost as if someone were telling me a story and I was part of it.
I love that movie. Just when I was trying to figure out who this beautiful woman was the movie jumps to the song and the flashback. This was too much for me. Here was this beautiful woman and these classmates of hers were laughing at her, giving her a hard time. Everything that was happening to this college student had happened to me – serving the “rich kids”, not being recognized in class, being on the outside looking in, wanting to be inside and angry that I would even want to be.
I often wondered what my reaction would have been if the film had been edited chronologically. It was brilliant to let us see Barbra Streisand so glamorous and poised before seeing her as this misunderstood student who people thought of as different and difficult.
Before I knew it the movie was over. I was in awe. I told John that we were going to watch it again. This was fine by him because he loved it too. Now, mind you, it wasn’t until 1979 or 1980, after repeated viewings, that I even realized that there were Communists and sub-plots or anything else in this movie besides Barbra’s face. I have also come to know that this movie didn’t just ‘happen’ – someone wrote it, someone directed it, someone lit it, and someone edited it.
John didn’t have to call Mrs. Hanrahan to tell her he was watching the movie again. He would simply tell her that when he got home. Maybe he would bend the truth a little and say we were shopping or stopped for a bite to eat. My mother needed to know where I was every minute. The thought of sitting in the dark watching a movie you had just watched was, and is, a very foreign notion to her. She does not understand the movies at all. I think she thinks that some people out in Hollywood got together thirty years ago to make ‘The Sound of Music’ and that none of them have worked since. I think I called her and told her that we had walked into a double feature and to get our money’s worth we were staying to watch the second movie. That she could understand.
So, that’s where it all began. We left the theater and went straight to a record store jut to look at her albums, and started our collection that day. We may have bought the single. I am not sure. I know I have it but as it didn’t have a picture of her on it I may not have bought it that day.
But, enough about me. Let’s talk about ‘Yentl’.