STREISAND: Her Life by James Spada


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A standard issue rah-rah show-biz bio of one of the most influential women in entertainment today. Such is Barbra Streisand's power that when one of the two films she has directed, The Prince of Tides, was recently televised, she called the network, mid-movie, and got them to lower the volume on the commercials. With 15 films, 50 albums, Grammies, and an Academy Award (for Funny Girl) to her credit, she has enjoyed an almost relentlessly successful career. And her notoriously zealous fans have treasured every moment, revering her in a manner usually associated with putative messiahs. Hollywood biographer Spada (More Than a Woman, 1993, etc.) does a thoroughly adequate job of recounting the highlights of Streisand's career, tracing how a homely, awkward girl from Brooklyn, through dint of sheer, single-minded perseverance, became ""the last great star."" Her first successes as a singer, however, were almost accidental--she wanted to be an actress and had never even taken voice lessons. But on a goof, she entered a nightclub's amateur night; two years later she released her first album. All along, fame was what she really wanted--recompense and redemption for the many miseries of her childhood--and she pursued it ruthlessly. Gently, gently Spada recounts her casual cruelties, her epic kvetchings, her fanatical need to control every last detail of her performances. If she'd been a man, she'd have been called a perfectionist, but Hollywood had choicer names for her. Spada writes evenly and entertainingly, but he largely ignores the careful scholarly standards of biography. Don't look for footnotes or extensive bibliographies or penetrating insights or a keen critical awareness. And despite some judiciously dished dirt, there is little to lift this biography above the chattering herds of banal historiettes. Two cheers for Streisand, one for Spada.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Crown