Happy birthday and a big “Hello, Gorgeous!” to Barbra Streisand, who turns 80 today. Eighty! This isn’t possible.
So much is known about Babs and I’ll try to be brief. Like so many before and after her she was born in Brooklyn. Her father died when she was very young and she was raised in semi-poverty by her single mother, who was a bookkeeper. She went to Erasmus Hall High School, which was an incredible incubator of talent. While there she sang in the choir with classmate Neil Diamond and would have rubbed shoulders with Bobby Fischer, also in her class, who by the time he was in high school was a chess grandmaster. Another classmate was Lainie Kazan, who we’ll be seeing next month here at Celebrity Sunday Matinee.
Streisand really wanted to be an actress, ever since she saw her first Broadway play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” starring Susan Strasberg. But people wanted her for her singing and when she was about 18 she booked her first gig, as the opening act for Phyllis Diller at Manhattan’s Bon Soir nightclub. Reread that last sentence. This is why I love writing these.
And etc. She goes on LOTS of talk and variety shows and becomes a household name. Perhaps her most famous appearance was when she appeared on Judy Garland’s variety show. Judy Garland was a smart woman and knew an “All About Eve” situation when she saw one coming, and during their duet Garland squeezed Streisand’s hand as hard as she could, hoping she’d screw up, but she didn’t, of course, because she was from Brooklyn and was made of sterner stuff. Here’s the clip. I’ll wait while you watch:
AS IF that wasn’t enough, later on that same show Ethel Merman drops by. Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand sing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
I will refrain from speculating about which segment of the viewing audience was most delighted to see this trio belting this out, except to observe that I would have been among them.
Now you know the rest. Streisand is an EGOT many times over, and she starred in three of my favorite movies, “What’s Up, Doc?” “Funny Girl,” and “On a Clear Day.” She’s only been married twice, first to Elliott Gould (coincidentally, he’s my guest for next week’s Celebrity Sunday Matinee) and her current husband, James Brolin. She has one child, Jason Gould. However, throughout the 70s her “partner” was Jon Peters. Imagine spending the 70s with Jon Peters. He was in the news recently because he was briefly married to his fifth wife, Pamela Anderson, but they both married and got an annulment in 2020. That’s one way to spend the opening year of the pandemic.
Along with all her EGOTs Babs has a psychological phenomenon named after her. That is “The Streisand Effect,” so named because in the early days of this century she tried to suppress photos of her Malibu estate which, of course, made everyone suddenly want to see photos of her Malibu estate. This is formally known as “psychological reactance,” a perfectly normal condition, whereby if you learn that some info is being withheld from you you work all the harder to find that info and to share it widely.
Speaking of that Malibu manse: “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” said Streisand to Harpers Bazaar. Barbra Streisand has a shopping mall in her basement, filled with her own stuff.
“Barbra Streisand’s” Cupcakes
The reason why I put this in quotes is because legend has it that Babs fell in love with a certain cupcake from the Sprinkles cupcake chain and one day asked them whether rather than frosting with buttercream they could top with chocolate ganache. They did, of course. Make some of these to celebrate La Streisand’s Big Day.
For the cupcakes
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
For the ganache
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 325ºF and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a medium bowl. Stir the vanilla into the milk in the measuring cup.
Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 2–3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Lower the speed to medium-low and one at a time, add the egg and egg whites, mixing well between each addition until the mixture is creamy. Gradually add half the flour mixture and beat on low speed. Then add the milk mixture and beat on low speed and finally the rest of the flour, beating until just blended after each addition.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cups and bake for 18-20 minutes until light and slightly golden. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool the rest of the way on the rack.
To make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan to a simmer and then pour over the chocolate in the bowl. Let sit for a minute and then stir gently to melt until entirely smooth.
Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes into the chocolate. [Take the cupcake in hand, turn it upside-down, and push into the ganache, and try not to get the ganache all over the paper lines.] Let dry for about 20–30 minutes and then dip again. Let the ganache set and then serve.
Store leftover cupcakes at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap for 3-4 days.