BookExpo America at the Javits Center is an annual conference of book – and celeb power! Here I am chatting with Gayle King right after she interviewed keynote speaker Barbra Streisand about her new book My Passion for Design.
As you can see, Ms. King is dressed in tactful off-white. After her close reading of Ms. S’s text and taste, Ms. King changed her wardrobe (three times) and repainted her toenails! (La Streisand hates hot yellows!) “Too bad,” laughed King, “We could be homies!” Making nice, Streisand allowed that she does like “butter yellow – creamy yellow.”
One of Streisand’s fav colors (revealed in her book) is burgundy – maybe because as an anemic child, she was sent to a health camp where she wore a standard blue uniform. The only individuality she was allowed was a sweater of burgundy wool.
Ms. S also adores pink – like the hand-knit wool sweater over a hot water bottle that little Barbra used as a doll substitute. “I don’t regret being poor,” says Streisand. “We couldn’t afford dolls, so I learned to use my imagination.”
That imagination, belief in her own potential, talent, and meticulous taste has taken Barbra from Brooklyn poverty (where an “ugly” couch was a beloved luxury) to a world of historic homes and Tiffany lamps.
As Streisand and King wondered about the secret of Tiffany’s deep ruby reds, I suddenly realized that I knew it. I had just picked up this tidbit of information from a dancing partner – Dennis Lynch, stained glass expert/collector/designer/restorer:A Stained Glass”.
Tiffany used to drop a twenty dollar gold piece into the red glass when it was liquid. You can see this effect in Tiffany lamps and some stained glass windows- often in old churches. This golden secret is known only to stained glass connoisseurs. The effect is exquisite!
Streisand fills her own homes and jewelry boxes with treasures – that she may only occasionally use or wear. She loves antiquing – “the fun is in the hunt.” Also, unlike many celebrities, she doesn’t enshrine her numerous awards in glass cases – in fact, they’re stored in hard-to-find rooms off the main living areas. Why? “I think it’s egotistical to display them to your guests” shrugs Streisand. “Besides, I like to look forward and out – not back.” Looking out, Streisand plants (and replants) her gardens in colors that extend the hues of her interior designs.
This same fastidious attention to detail shaped the perfection of her song recordings – which Streisand no longer listens to. Nor does she have a favorite song. When Ms. King asked her to pick one, Streisand said, “Don’t ask me that! That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. I don’t want to offend the songs.”
Streisand’s musical artistry is beyond question – plus, of course, her talents as an actress and director. Now it seems, she is also a gifted photographer (she took all the photos of her gorgeous homes for her book, selected and revised architectural designs, and supervised construction (“My voice got hoarse, shouting over the machines”) .
Flowing through Streisand’s design sense is a theme – the tension of opposites – masculine vs. feminine. She’ll throw a crushed velvet fabric (feminine) over an oak wooden frame (masculine).
So where does Streisand stand in this yin-yang push-pull rhythm of the sexes – and gender stereotypes? She has, after all, been accused of being a demanding control-freak – and she does admire an architect who demanded revision when a construction was 1/16th of an inch off. (Streisand barely tolerates a misplaced inch on a distant ceiling beam and visibly winced at Gayle’s question “Who would know?” Barbra, it was clear – would.)
Streisand sweeps back her long hair with an elegant feminine gesture, and said, “I strive for excellence.” When a man does it, we say he’s assertive; a woman does the same thing – she’s pushy. A man is a perfectionist – a woman is a pain in the a**!”
Does this perfectionism extend to the decorating taste of husband James Brolin? Streisand shakes her head, “I honor his vision – though I do wish he would cover his television set – I can see it when I exercise…maybe a nice mahogany cabinet….”
- Use your imagination, believe in your potential! A hot water bottle can be a doll. A poor, fatherless girl without conventional prettiness can become, as Streisand sang in Funny Girl – “the biggest star! ” By the way, Funny Girl was based on the life of Fanny Brice, another poor ethnic girl who developed exquisite taste.
- Surround yourself with beauty – even if you can’t afford Streisand’s magnificent homes, you can bring home flowers and have fun coordinating colors – including the color of your eyes. Notice how Streisand’s silvery blue couch and wrap compliments her eyes.
- Bring life – animal or plants into your your own life and home. Notice Streisand’s dog in the book jacket photo and her love for flowers.
Have a passion for excellence – but allow for the “imperfections” of life – the bumps in the handwoven fabric, the partner who loves big televisions when you hate them, the unusual, interestingly shaped nose – that colors Streisand’s unique vocal tones…
Susan (“Dr. Sue”) Horowitz, Ph.D.
Entertaining Motivational Speaker-Author-Educator-Singer/Songwriter.
Book: “Queens of Comedy”
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