Happy Birthday, Barbra

•  Why she found Grammy world friendlier than Oscar land.

•  The Prince of Tides junket revisited. Can you spot the error?

•  Shooting her “through the grease.”

I lumped Barbra Streisand into a category of diva, along with Beyoncè, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, and the Spice Girls in a blog post here a year ago. That makes this another case where I had told stories from my reporting career before I was able to locate the audio or video of the reports themselves.

So, before watching this one, we can do one of two things:

You can click here to go to “More Divas,” scroll down and review the brief account of me n’ Babs at the Prince of Tides junket in 1991.

Or you can read the Cliff’s Notes: Streisand produced, directed and starred in “Prince…” I loved Pat Conroy’s novels. It was the Conroy connection, not Streisand, I was most excited about. Everybody around me thought interviewing her was a bigger deal than I did. One of my takeaways: how great she looked. “Since this two-camera shoot was run by Columbia Pictures, the camera on Streisand was set on a soft focus that was obvious when compared to the camera on the interviewer. She was just 49 at the time! Soft focus not necessary!”

Now, you can watch the 4:41 Showbiz Today package itself. (It was about twice as long as our average pieces.) See if you can spot not only the fuzzy effect but also a factual error. An error almost as bad as that described in my previous post, Elvis Had the Flu, in which I mispronounced Costello’s real name.

Okay, first, you probably couldn’t tell the difference in blurriness between her camera shots and mine:

That’s because in making the transition from the original video shot in the hotel room to its airing on cable TV, then dubbing to a VHS cassette stored in a box for three decades, and then digitizing it for the internet . . . the distinction is barely noticeable. Take my word for it, though: the CNN editor who edited the piece with me was quick to point out that “they were shooting her through the grease.” Say what? It’s an old Hollywood trick. Cinematographers used to spread Vaseline on the camera lens to soften the looks of movie stars. In the ‘60s, I first heard the term used by some hipster (maybe Sammy Davis, Jr.?) saying, “You’re shootin’ me through the grease, man!” Meaning “don’t bullshit me.”

The mistake? I credited Streisand with an EGOT, meaning a winner of the Emmy, the Grammy, the Oscar and the Tony (and a Golden Globe). Turns out, her Tony was a “special Tony,” She was nominated for two Tonys but won a special Tony for “star of the decade” in 1970.

So she’s an EGOT* with an asterisk. So sue me.

In addition to a troubling trend of finding goofs in my old pieces, seeing them again from decades of distance can remind me of things like what a smooth, classy lady Ms. Streisand is. Happy Birthday, Babs.

P.S. Check out Nick Nolte.


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