(a “love letter” to Barbra Streisand by Timothy J. Verret)
I mean, seriously, though….where do I begin when I need to begin at the beginning of Barbra Streisand and how she entered into my life and has never left?
It does go back a while, that much I can tell you. It’s high school. I’m feeling left out of everything and everyone, even my own family. So the movie, FUNNY GIRL, comes on one night and I decide to watch it. It was on one of those local channels with lots and lots of commercials, so I was prepared for a very long night watching the film (it was way over 3 hours long!). I had no idea watching this film would change EVERYTHING and EVERYONE, including me. I watched this actress, Barbra Streisand, in FUNNY GIRL, who sang beautifully, was unusual-looking, had an unusual nose, and throughout the film, she laughed, cried, loved, pouted, fumed, stomped (in roller skates, of course)….I mean, there was not an emotion or action known to man or woman that Streisand did not put on film in her debut performance, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar. And then something magical happened. I realized that this actress, this kooky woman, had the key I was looking for to unlock my “not fitting in anywhere.” I remember thinking distinctly, “if this actress can look as unusual as she does, have that unusual nose, and be so unique, there just might be a chance that I, unusual as I was, having an unusual nose, being unique, might make something of my life!” Thank you always for that unequivocal inspiration, Barbra!
When I went back to college in my 30s, I majored in Drama and we had a yearly presentation to do in my drama class. I told my group I was more than willing to do Barbra Streisand in drag and that I thought I could do it quite well, as I was a huge fan and had watched almost every performance of Barbra I could think of. My group was like, ‘YES! Drag!” Well, speaking of FUNNY GIRL, I did the final song, “My Man.” It brought the house down! My teacher told me, “Excellent Barbra!” Students came up to me and were like, “you were SOOOO awesome as Barbra!”
When I found out Barbra Streisand would be touring in 2006 and she would be performing on my birthday, November 13, in San Jose, California, I knew I had to do whatever I could do to travel all the way from Austin, Texas, to San Jose to be there. And somehow, don’t even ask me how, I managed to do just that. I had a friend who was living there and I called him up and begged him to pick me up at the airport, let me stay with him, and then go to the concert. When I walked into the SAP Center of San Jose on November 13, 2006, I immediately started crying. I called my dear friend, Alex, and was just beyond excited. I got his voice mail and left him a message telling him I couldn’t believe I was here! My friend later told me that he kept the voice mail recording because he had never heard me sound that delighted about anything! I called my mom, too, and she was so happy for me. When I got to my seat way, way up there (ticket was $350 or so, but I didn’t care one bit) and the show started and Barbra sang her first song in French, tears flooded down my cheeks. The whole night was just one magical moment after another. I will never, EVER, forget that night!
I am now 53 years old. Nothing about that time in high school to college to the concert to now has faded at all when it comes to Barbra Streisand. I still adore her and know I always will. She IS the Greatest Star, as she sang in FUNNY GIRL, and no single entertainer has even come close to what she means to me as a performer, an actress, and a humanitarian. Being the animal welfare advocate I am, I had read that Barbra was quite active about stopping the Yulin Dog Festival in China, where every year hundreds of thousands of dogs are cruelly slaughtered for meat. Once again, thank you for that, Barbra!
It’s hard for me to write anything without the need to get intense and deep about it, so I knew this write-up about my love for Barbra Streisand was not going to be any different. I would like to end it with a “love letter” to her:
“Dear Barbra: If I had to tell you what you have meant to me over my almost entire life on this planet, I swear I would not be able to find the words. You were a light in a hopeless darkness. You came into my life and changed everything! You made me dream and hope for a better future as an artist. You broke all records for all time and you still break ’em. I can’t tell you how many times your broke my heart in one of your songs or films, You were ‘acting a song’ when others were just singing. You are the Greatest Star in my life, next to God and Jesus Christ, and your Greatest Star won’t ever diminish for me. When I am feeling blue, which is often enough, all I have to do is put on one of your movies or play one of your songs or watch a video performance of you singing, and I’m alright again. You have touched my heart for all time and forever more. Thank you for being you, Barbra, which allows me to be me. I won’t ever be able to repay you for that but if I could, I would do so in any way you saw fit. You will always be one of intense light that I look toward in this dark world. You are tops and there won’t ever be a performer out there for me who will ever hold a candle to your talent and your spirit. You are the consummate performer, the ‘real deal’ through and through, inside and out, and thanks for bringing me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received: you, you, YOU, Barbra Streisand!”
Always lovingly enamored with you, Barbra,
Timothy J. Verret