ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Five Interesting Facts About Barbra Streisand That You Probably Didn't Know

Updated on April 26, 2012

She's been compared to Ethel Merman and to Judy Garland. She's also been accused of being a diva. Love her or hate her, Barbra Streisand has a voice that has made her one of the greatest singers -- and personalities -- of her generation.

We know about her unique look, about her fundraising abilities, and about people who need people being the luckiest people in the world. Here are some interesting and fun facts about Barbra Streisand that you probably didn't know.

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand | Source

1. She Didn't Want to Be a Singer Originally

Barbara Joan Streisand was born on April 24, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York. As she went through her teens, she came to realize that she had vocal abilities. She didn't really want to be a singer, though. What she wanted to be was an actress, and toward that end, by the time she was 18, she had landed a few parts with summer stock companies in New York and Connecticut and was pursuing roles on Broadway. The whole nightclub scene, she said, just wasn't for her.

Nevertheless, on June 6, 1960, at the urging of a friend, Barbara entered the weekly talent contest at the Lion, a bar in Greenwich Village, where the top prize was $50 plus a one-week booking at the club. Appearing last among four contenders, she gave a soulful rendition of "A Sleeping Bee," from the short-lived 1954 Harold Arlen musical House of Flowers. The crowd went nuts, and Barbara won the contest. It was the first time she had been paid to sing.

Accounts differ as to what happened next -- some say it was that night; others suggest it may have been a little longer -- but sometime shortly after her first appearance at the Lion, Streisand announced that she was changing her name. From that point on, she would be Barbra Streisand, with two a's in her first name instead of three, and soon she began introducing herself as such. On résumés which she'd already prepared -- she had very little money at the time -- she made sure she blotted out the second a in Barbara before handing them out.

2. She Once Opened for Phyllis Diller

After her success at the Lion, Barbra landed a gig around the corner at another Greenwich Village club known as the Bon Soir where, at $125 a week, she had a three-month stint opening for comedienne Phyllis Diller. The two women shared a dressing room which Diller has described as being "about the size of a pea pod."

Whether it was due to being thrown together in such cramped quarters or whether Diller's maternal instincts had kicked in (she had raised five children before embarking on a career in stand-up), she and Barbra became fast friends. She spent a week helping Barbra pick out a gown for her performances instead of the vintage clothing Streisand usually wore -- a gown which, unbeknownst to Diller, Streisand later returned. Diller also claims to be the first person to admonish Barbra never, ever to get her nose fixed -- advice Barbra took to heart, since she was worried about what a rhinoplasty would do to her voice.

The Bon Soir turned out to be a good gig for her -- and she was getting noticed. Below is a clip from those days, when she appeared on the Jack Paar Show. And yes, that's Orson Bean hosting.

3. She Used to Eat Lunch with Bobby Fischer

Barbra has described herself as having been a bit of a misfit when she was attending Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn in the late 50's. She was a straight-A student, but her only real extracurricular activity was the school chorus, where one of the other singers was a boy by the name of Neil Diamond.

One student who captured her attention was another boy named Bobby Fischer, who at the time was already well on his way to becoming a chess grandmaster. He was in the Class of 1960, a year behind Barbra, and would ultimately drop out of school to pursue other goals. Barbra kind of liked him, though -- perhaps because he, too, seemed a bit of a misfit. Though Barbra has said she thought he was peculiar, she also found him kind of sexy and the two of them would often eat lunch together.

4. She Almost Became the First Lady of Canada

Barbra Streisand has been married twice -- from 1963 to 1971 to Elliott Gould and since 1998 to actor James Brolin -- but she's been linked romantically with other men as well, most notably co-stars like Omar Sharif and Ryan O'Neal, but also such figures as Richard Baskin, heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune. She was also in a relationship with hairstylist-turned-producer Jon Peters for many years.

One of her more unusual pairings was with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, whom she started seeing in 1969. The affair was quite public -- they dined together in New York; she flew up to Ottawa and sat in the visitors' gallery when Parliament was in session -- and became serious enough, according to biographer Christopher Andersen, that Trudeau proposed to her. After giving the matter some consideration, which included, Streisand said, planning to learn French and preparing herself to make all her future movies in Canada, she ultimately rejected the offer. No doubt one issue was the fact that to marry Trudeau she'd have to become a Catholic. Also, her divorce from Gould was not yet final. The Prime Minister seemed to get over her rejection easily enough, though, and went on to marry 19-year-old Margaret Sinclair.

5. She Made Nixon's Enemies List

Beginning in 1971, the Nixon White House began compiling a list of political enemies, the purpose of which, according to compiler John Dean, was to use any available Federal machinery to get back at people who disliked Nixon -- through IRS audits, denying them Federal funds and so forth.

Originally the list contained only twenty names but was eventually expanded to over 200. Mostly it was a list of politicians, with some labor leaders and a bunch of media people thrown in, as well as some organizations perceived as threatening, such as the Black Panthers. But there were about a dozen celebrities who also made the list, presumably because of their political leanings. The famous names included Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Carol Channing, Tom Smothers -- and Barbra Streisand.

While many people such as Newman and Channing considered being on the list a badge of honor, Streisand was reportedly terrified. It was a far cry from May 1963, when she sang "Happy Days Are Here Again" for President John F. Kennedy at a White House correspondents' dinner.

One of the nice things about the American system of governance, though, is that its political winds change frequently -- the Ins go out and the Outs come in. When Arkansas' Bill Clinton got elected, Streisand not only was no longer an enemy of the President of the United States; she also became a frequent guest at the White House.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • qeyler profile image


      6 years ago

      You forgot she sang at Clinton's inauguration...she did 'Evergreen' which he specifically requested

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 

      7 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Interesting article! thanks for the share!

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 

      7 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      Interesting article. It's amazing that three people of that caliber were at the same high school at the same time.

      Thank you for sharing this research with us!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)