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On Barbra Streisand

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Her first book, as both author and photographer, My Passion For Design, was critically acclaimed and debuted at Number 2 on the New York Times bestseller lists. Recipient in 1995 of an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Humanities from Brandeis University and an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2013, Streisand has also received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton; The Humanitarian Award  from the Human Rights Campaign, and France’s Légion d’honneur, presented by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Ms. Streisand’s Barwood Films, through its TV arm, Barwood Television (in which she was partnered with Cis Corman), has had award-winning success as well. In 1995, Serving In Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, Barwood’s television dramatic production, won 3 Emmy awards, and was nominated for an additional 3. The story investigated the military harassment and civil rights repression of gays in the military. It was acknowledged that the critically praised production wouldn’t have been realized on network television had Barbra Streisand not put her executive producing talents and considerable artistic and social-issue influence behind it.

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Barwood Films has continued to place great emphasis on producing dramatic television explorations of pressing social, historical and political issues. Rescuers: Stories of Courage, a highly acclaimed series of 6 two-part dramas on Showtime, in 1997 and 1998, pays tribute to non-Jews who heroically saved Jews from the Holocaust. The company’s 2001 telefilm, Varian’s War, told the story of an American-Christian who secretly transported Jewish intellectuals out of occupied France. Barwood’s The Long Island Incident, which aired on NBC in May 1998, inspired a national debate on gun control. It chronicled the true story of Carolyn McCarthy, a wife and mother who surmounted tragedy to win a seat in Congress after initiating a crusade to achieve sensible gun control laws.

Since her return to the concert stage on December 31, 1993, Barbra Streisand has since set a long list of attendance records.

Virtually every aspect of Barbra Streisand’s 1994 concert tour was record setting. Those twenty-six appearances were her first paid concerts in nearly three decades, all intervening concerts since 1966 had been fund-raisers for various social or political causes. The tour initiated with the celebrated 1994 New Year’s performances at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas and continued to set attendance and box-office records with immediate sellouts in London, Washington D.C., Southern California, Detroit, San Jose, and New York’s Madison Square Garden. Over 5 million phone requests were recorded in the first hour when tickets for the first American leg of the tour went on sale. The tour also generated over $10.25 million for charities the artist supports, channeling money to significant causes in each locale. Reflecting Streisand’s social concerns, over $3 million went to AIDS organizations, with other gifts addressing such urgencies as women and children in jeopardy, Jewish/Arab relations and agencies working to ameliorate relations between African-Americans and Jews.

Ms. Streisand’s Millennium New Year’s Eve concert, Timeless, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, December 31, 1999, set an all-time Ticket Master record for one-day sales of a single event, virtually selling out in the first few hours of sale eight months before the performance. The New Year’s concert was widely covered as one of the key events of the worldwide millennium celebration.

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Her two-night Madison Square Garden engagement in September 2000, and two preceding Los Angeles live appearances at Staples Center, also were record-setting successes. Similarly her second national concert tour in the Fall of 2006, received rave reviews and broke the house records in all 16 of the cities in which she had not already set the venue record. The tour, Streisand – Live In Concert 2006, was recorded in three sites, also became a top-selling album release. In 2007, the tour continued with performances in Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ireland. A designated portion of the proceeds were again directed to charities through The Streisand Foundation.

Barbra Streisand’s home video releases have created records of their own, 9 having been certified gold, 6 platinum and 3 multi-platinum. Barbra Streisand: The Concert, became a quadruple-platinum home video as well as a triple-platinum 2-CD release (exceptionally rare for a multi-disc set). Most recently, in 2009 her three-DVD disc offering, Streisand The Concerts, held the #1 position on the Music DVD Billboard charts for three weeks. Her 2010 DVD One Night Only – Barbra Streisand At The Village Vanguard, which also debuted at #1. The home video/DVD of the Timeless concert was gold and platinum as well, with 6 other home videos also being certified gold. In 2004, Barbra Streisand – Live at the MGM Grand was released on DVD, and was quickly certified platinum. In November 2005, the 5-DVD Barbra Streisand-The Television Specials was certified quintuple (5x) platinum, within 6 weeks. The DVD release of her 1986 One Voice concert was also certified platinum.

The filmmaker/entertainer was born Barbara Joan Streisand on April 24th in Brooklyn to Diana and Emanuel Streisand. Her father, who passed away when Barbra was 15 months old, was a highly respected teacher and scholar. An honor student at Brooklyn’s Erasmus High School, the teenage Streisand plunged, unassisted and without encouragement, into show business by winning a singing contest at a small Manhattan club. She developed a devout and growing following at different clubs which began hiring her, and was soon attracting music industry attention at such night spots as the Bon Soir and the Blue Angel.

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Streisand signed a contract with Columbia Records in 1962, and her debut album quickly became the nation’s top-selling record by a female vocalist. Following her award-winning stage debut in the musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale, she was signed to play the great comedienne Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl. When the curtain came down at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 26, 1964, Streisand had become a certified superstar. Her distinctly original musical-comedy performance won her a second Tony award nomination. She soon signed a 10-year contract with CBS Television to produce and star in TV specials. The contract gave her complete artistic control, an unheard of concession to an artist so young and new to the medium. The first special, My Name Is Barbra, earned 5 Emmy Awards, and the following 5 shows, including the memorable Color Me Barbra, earned the highest critical praise and audience ratings. In 1966, Streisand repeated her Funny Girl triumph in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre. London critics voted her the Best Female lead in a Musical for that season. Few movie debuts have been as auspicious as Streisand’s in Columbia Pictures’ Funny Girl. In addition to winning the 1968 Academy Award for this performance, she won the Golden Globe and was named Star of the Year by the National Association of Theatre Owners.

After appearing in the films Hello, Dolly! and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, she starred in the non-musical comedy The Owl and the Pussycat, released in 1970. The following year, 1972 brought another resounding comedy hit, What’s Up Doc?, followed by Up the Sandbox, one of the first American films to deal with the growing women’s movement. It was the premiere picture for her own production company, Barwood Films. The memorable motion picture The Way We Were brought her a 1973 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. A Star Is Born, released in 1976, was the first movie to benefit from her energy and insight as a producer and won six Golden Globes. The soundtrack album topped the charts and has been certified quadruple-platinum.

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When Streisand read the short story Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy, she’d hoped to make it her second film. However, it took 15 years of development and persistence before the dream came true. Yentl, a romantic drama with music, is about a courageous woman who discovers that nothing is impossible in matters of the heart and mind. It is a movie that celebrates women trying to fulfill their capabilities, not allowing traditional restrictions to deter them. The film also was the first big budget project ($15 million) which was instrumental in opening doors to women in film on a higher professional level. Streisand’s directorial debut received 5 Academy Award nominations in 1983. She received Golden Globe Awards both as Best Director and as producer of the Best Picture (musical or comedy) of that year. The 10 Golden Globes she has received throughout her career are the most achieved by any entertainment artist. In January 2000 she received that organization’s coveted Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.

Her follow-up film to Yentl was Nuts, the unusual story of a smart woman shaped into an angry, anti-social character because of her childhood experiences. In addition to starring, Streisand produced and wrote the music for the powerful drama released in 1987. Her second creation as a film director, The Prince of Tides, concerning the consequences of childhood traumas by exploring family relationships, achieved 7 Academy Award nominations and a nomination for her direction from the Directors Guild of America, making her only the third woman ever so honored. Referring to The Prince of Tides, Streisand explains “It’s about how love and compassion can heal and liberate the soul. I’m interested in telling stories about positive transformations and the potential for human growth.”

After working with her for two weeks, the book’s author, Pat Conroy, gave Streisand a copy of his novel with the inscription: “To Barbra Streisand: The Queen of Tides…you are many things, Barbra, but you’re also a great teacher…one of the greatest to come into my life. I honor the great teachers and they live in my work and they dance invisibly in the margins of my prose. You’ve honored me by taking care of it with such great seriousness and love. Great thanks, and I’ll never forget that you gave ‘The Prince of Tides’ back to me as a gift. Pat Conroy.”

In 2004, Barbra Streisand returned to film acting (her first performance on film since The Mirror Has Two Faces) in Meet The Fockers, a comedy which teamed her with Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. It quickly became the highest grossing live-action comedy film ever, the first to earn more that a half billion dollars. The DVD had similar success, selling three million copies in its first 24 hours.

Like the true renaissance woman Barbra Streisand is, her life and her art are dedicated to the humanities as reflected by The Streisand Foundation, which is committed to gaining women’s equality, the protection of both human rights and civil rights, the needs of children at risk in society, women’s health and the preservation of the environment. Through The Streisand Foundation, she directly funded the United States Environmental Defense Fund’s research and participation in the Global Warming world summit conference in Kyoto. Her environmental dedication is also reflected in her donation to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy of the five-home, 24-acre Malibu estate on which her One Voice concert had been performed. The site has been dedicated as a center for ecological studies.

Her fall 2006 16-city tour was undertaken in large part to enable her to direct many millions of dollars to The Streisand Foundation to fund urgent efforts in three areas; environmental (with special emphasis on addressing global warming,) education and women’s health issues. Eleven million dollars from the US and Canada tour were distributed by The Streisand Foundation for charitable causes. The first million dollar donation from these funds was a contribution to the William Jefferson Clinton Climate Change initiative, the lead contribution to that cause, bringing to nearly $16,000,000 her charitable contributions from the tours. She contributed $10,000,000 and raised an additional $12,000,000 for the Women’s Heart Centre at Cedar-Sinai Medical Centre. In recognition for her efforts the Centre was renamed in her honour, The Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Centre.

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Recent honors reflecting the range of her involvement in charitable and social causes include the 1992 Commitment to Life Award from AIDS Project Los Angeles for her dedication to help people living with that disease, the ACLU Bill of Rights Award for her ongoing defense of constitutional rights and the Humanitarian Award from The Human Rights Campaign. Ms. Streisand’s feelings about the rights and obligations of artists to participate in the political process were brought into sharp focus by her 1995 speech at Harvard University under the sponsorship of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. The address won unprecedented reportage and reproduction in such print media as the New York Times and the Washington Post. It was carried a record number of times on C-SPAN and is included in Senator Robert Torricelli’s book, “In Our Words: The American Century,” a collection of important speeches of the 20th century.

Prior to the 1986 elections, she performed her first full-length concert in 20 years, raising money for the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee to disburse to liberal candidates. Taped on Sept. 6, 1986, before 500 invited guests at her California home, the concert was called Barbra Streisand: One Voice and aired on HBO on Dec. 27, 1986 to enormous acclaim. The money raised that night helped elect five Democratic Senators, which restored a Democratic majority in the Senate. Additionally, she headlined concerts which raised millions of dollars for each of the successful presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton.

To date, over $27 million has been channeled to charities through the Streisand Foundation, which continues to occupy much of the star’s energy and resources. A concert at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, headlined by Ms. Streisand in support of the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign, raised over $5 million, the Democratic Party’s largest “hard money” intake ever. Her celebrated speech in support of the Gore candidacy later was played in substantial excerpts on several national television broadcasts. $6 million was brought to the presidential campaign of John Kerry by her 2004 performance at Los Angeles’ Disney Hall. She repeated her fund-raising effort on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential candidacy.

Barbra Streisand’s passionate political activism continues. Convinced that 1998’s national general election was one of the most crucial in recent history, she applied herself to the election of candidates and issues she felt essential. She was one of the first and most outspoken critics of the Republican Congress’ use of the impeachment issue as a means of blocking or undoing the social achievements of the Clinton administration. Ms. Streisand contributed financially to support the campaigns of 35 candidates in the general election, 27 of whom won. Similarly, she also supported specified candidates by endorsing 194 of them on her web site and then recommending consideration of this list when she did her AOL get-out-the-vote chat on election eve. Of the candidates she endorsed, 155 were elected and 39 were not. In both instances, that is a won/lost ratio of nearly 80%.

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