"With this Judge's decision, we are closer to the day that all people will have access to the same fundamental rights. Hopefully, this remaining civil rights violation will soon be a part of our past, and we can look to a future where all people will be treated equally under the law."Barbra Streisand, official statement in reaction to California Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that Proposition 8, the state's gay marriage ban, is unconstitutional.
On April 24, the legendary and incomparable Barbra Streisand turns 70.
Barbara Joan Streisand grew up in near poverty in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, N.Y. Early on, it became apparent that she possessed extraordinary gifts. In her teens, she was a featured performer at a gay bar in Manhattan. By age 19, she had appeared on the Tonight Show and recorded her first album for Columbia Records. The first track on The Barbra Streisand Album was the classic torch song Cry Me a River. Listeners were stunned and chilled by her phenomenal vocal range.
By 1964, she was starring on Broadway in Funny Girl and going toe-to-toe against the Beatles as the best selling recording artist in the country, if not the world. By the time she was 27, she she had won an Oscar, for the film version of Funny Girl. She has also won Grammys, Emmys, and has been honored by the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.
Singer, actress, producer, film director, Barbra Streisand has done it all. She stood up to the male dominated hierarchy of the entertainment industry and did it her way. She was often brow beaten by the press and film establishment. It was said that she was "a bitch", "difficult", yet she always stood her ground. The quality of her work, and the adulation of her vast audience, spoke for themselves.
Steven Brinberg, who performs worldwide as Streisand under the nom de plume Simply Barbra, explains Streisand's appeal. "Barbra always left you wanting more," he said. "Her legacy will be the musicit's a remarkable collection. Her taste in music is impeccablethere's so many beautiful pieces of music she has sung. No one else has done this.
"She also paved the way for women who weren't classic beauties to have successful careers. Without Barbra, there would have been no Meryl Streep, no Debra Winger, no Bette Midler."
Barbra has used her celebrity for the good of others. She has long been a staunch supporter of LGBT equality, expressing her support for marriage equality and the repeal of DADT in many interviews. As far back as 1992, when Colorado's Amendment 2 forbade the passing of laws offering legal protections to GLBT people, Streisand stepped to the podium. "The moral climate of Colorado is no longer acceptable," she stated, urging people to boycott the state.
In 1992, Ellen and Rosie were still in the closet. LGBT people were largely invisible in popular culture. Streisand was one of the very few Hollywood stars who was willing to take a public stand in defense of the gay community at that time. On December 28, 1992, The Baltimore Sun published Art Buchwald's op-ed How Barbra Streisand Messed Up Colorado. Streisand ignored the criticism, and proceeded to work on Back to Broadway, her next album. In 1993, Back to Broadway reached number one on Billboard's Top 200 chart.
Streisand has also been vocal in her opposition of President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, and is actively involved in women's health issues. During a CNN interview with Larry King in 2010, she expressed her concerns for the effect heart disease was having on the lives of women. She has, in fact, made a generous endowment to Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to benefit women's cardiovascular research and education.
Through it all, she has continued recording albums, performing in concert, and appearing in films. Her 2009 album Love Is the Answer showed that, at age 67, her voice has lost none of its power.
Now, as she approaches the milestone age of 70, Streisand shows no sign of retirement. Her latest film, The Guilt Trip, will be released later this year, and there's talk of one more great big Streisand musical: a remake of the classic Gypsy in which the star will play Mama Rose, the most famous stage mother in history.
"Turning 70 is a different number these days," stated Steven Brinberg. "It's not the beginning of the end. She might just become as popular in her 70s as she was during the 1970s."
Happy birthday, Barbra!