Lame Adventure 370: People, People Who Need Barbra …

Banner outside Avery Fisher Hall.

Banner outside Avery Fisher Hall.

Are the luckiest people in the world — if they have a friend like Milton. The Film Society of Lincoln Center held their 40th annual Chaplin Award fundraising gala in Avery Fisher Hall on Monday night. This year the honoree was Barbra Streisand. Milton is a HUGE Barbra fan, and I am, too. Both of us have been fans since the 60s when he was a boy in Nebraska and I, a girl in San Francisco, decades before we were destined to join forces in 21st century New York City.

It was a black tie affair with Liza Minnelli, Wynton Marsalis and Tony Bennett performing. The speakers included Michael Douglas, Catherine Deneuve, Pierce Brosnan, Blythe Danner, Ben Stiller and, oh yeah, Bill Clinton was presenting the award to Barbra. With such a superstar honoree and that cast of stellar supporting players, the price of admission cost $200 to $500. Seats at the post-show dinner ranged from $1,500 a ticket to $100,000 a table. On my meager alms, no way could I attend. Milton was resigned to going solo and that bothered him.

A lot.

He is a long-time Film Society member. In March, he purchased his Barbra ticket the second they went on sale to members — members get first crack before the general public. He selected Tier 1, Box 3, seat 5. His seat was close to the stage, directly across from Barbra. The event sold out quickly. It generated $2 million for the Film Society, a million dollars more than any other Chaplin gala honoree. I suggested to Milton:

Me: Maybe they should have held it in Yankee Stadium.

Milton: For those prices, she’d have to sing.

As the honoree, Barbra’s job was to appear, soak up the adulation, accept her award from the 42nd president of the United States and give an acceptance speech. Nice work if you have the resume that rates it.

Last Thursday, something extraordinary happened. The Film Society announced that they were releasing a block of $25 partial view seats in Tier 3. Milton happens to know the layout of Avery Fisher Hall about as well as his own living room. For example, he can point out exactly where he and his mother sat when they saw Sarah Vaughn perform there in 1977. Milton scrutinized the cheap seats and he knew that Tier 3’s, Box 3, seat 15, would not only rock, but it was not partial view. In fact, this was the absolute best nosebleed seat in the house for it was in the box two tiers above his. He pounced and yes, I was there.

The coveted ducat.

The coveted ducat.

Damn fine view.

Damn fine view.

Nerd inside with collector's item Playbill.

Lucky nerd inside with collector’s item Playbill.

I was sitting directly across from Barbra’s box, too. From my bird’s eye view, I could even see where Hillary Clinton was sitting — center orchestra row six on the aisle next to a bald guy that looked a lot like former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. I doubted that was who he was. Other celebrities that I thought I recognized were Bill and Melinda Gates. They weren’t sitting in Tier 3. I saw them riding up the escalator as we were people watching in the lobby.

No bland muzak here; guests were serenaded by this fine harpist.

No bland muzak here; guests were entertained by this fine harpist.

The event was bursting with the Swells of New York. Milton being Milton, he did have some qualms with the way some of the attendees were attired, especially the young woman in the short hot pink sheath with tall black boots.

Milton: Hideous!

He did give the two gay guys in matching skinny blue suits with brown dress shoes a pass.

Milton: They’re making a statement.

Me: Like what, they’re both colorblind?

We both agreed that this gent's red patent leather tassled loafers were great.

We agreed that this sockless gent’s red patent leather tasseled loafers were great.

The overall crowd was quite gay or as Milton put it:

Milton: I see a lot of men with their mothers.

There was a significant lesbian turnout, too.

The entertainment, as expected, was top notch. Liza Minnelli took to the stage first. Even though she now has hip problems and was supposed to perform while seated, she forced herself to stand and she belted her heart out.

Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli

Wynton Marsalis serenaded Barbra on his trumpet with Hello Dolly and 87-year-old Alan Bergman, who co-wrote the lyrics to The Way We Were with his wife, Marilyn, sang a very poignant version of that song to her. He wrote some new lyrics celebrating The Way You Are.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

Presenters included some of her leading men. Omar Sharif and Robert Redford appeared on a screen in previously taped tributes. Kris Kristofferson, her co-star in A Star is Born was there. He recounted that “the bathtub scene” with her was “a lot of fun”. George Segal who starred opposite her in The Owl and the Pussycat, joked that he did not know what was more improbable in that film; his role as a failed writer or hers as a failed hooker. Amy Irving, who starred with Barbra in her directorial debut, Yentl, recalled that their kissing scene was, “The best girl on girl action a girl could hope for.” Meow!

Ben Stiller, who referred to himself as Barbra’s “cinematic son” — she played Mother Focker to his Greg Focker, in some of the Fockers comedies, introduced Bill Clinton. Clinton declared that every great person is driven, “But if that person has massive talent, big brains and a bigger heart, you want to go along for the ride.”

Barbra at lectern; Bill Clinton sitting behind her.

Barbra at lectern; Bill Clinton sitting behind her.

Barbra delivered an eloquent acceptance speech. She recounted tales from her youth, how she longed to be an actress who would perform the classics, but “no one wanted a 15-year-old Medea.” When she was 16, she had to perform a love scene opposite a guy she felt no attraction to. What she did to make the scene work was place a piece of chocolate cake behind him so she could look longingly at it.  She admitted, “Thank God I was given a good singing voice.”  She knew that her vocal gift was the key that opened the doors to her acting, screenwriting, producing and directing careers or, as she called herself, “a hyphenate.”  As she closed her remarks, she mentioned memories and added, “I feel like I should sing a song or something.” The audience went wild, hoping to hear her rendition of The Way We Were, but she quickly waved away that idea.

Former President Clinton returned to the lectern and delivered one more introduction. This was for Tony Bennett. He closed the event by singing Smile. Charlie Chaplin wrote the music to that song which was first heard in the film, Modern Times. Thanks to Chaplin’s contributions to film, this prestigious honor was started in 1972. He was the first recipient.

Barbra in center on stage at event's close.

Barbra in center on stage at event’s close.

Afterward, I joined Milton outside. We agreed that we had just witnessed 90 minutes of bliss.

Milton: I’m so glad we live in New York!

Me: I’m so glad I know you!

Barbra Streisand, 71 years old today and she still has it. (Invision — Photo by Charles Sykes)

Barbra Streisand, 71 years old today and she still has it going on. (Invision — Photo by Charles Sykes)

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99 responses to “Lame Adventure 370: People, People Who Need Barbra …

  1. Snoring Dog Studio

    Awesome! Best evening, er blog post morning, I’ve ever had! What fun! Oh, I am so jealous! Yay for you and thank God for Milton. What a night. She is one heck of a star.

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  2. Lucky you! You and Milton provide excellent commentary to say the least!!
    Glad you got to attend!!!!

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  3. Many, many thumbs up!!!

    Thank you for sharing,

    R.

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  4. You were meant to be there, my friend. What a fabulous opportunity! And what a score on Milton’s part!

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  5. writerwendyreid

    I can’t believe that she’s 71. It makes me feel ancient. Glad you got to go. xo

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  6. What a great night! Loved the pic of you — you look so happy (and pretty!) and I’m so glad you had this opportunity, V. Glad you had some very nice moments of bliss — we all need those. You and Milton need to have “reality” shoe. :).

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    • It was a sensational night, Brig! I don’t know how Milton and I will ever be able to top it … I suppose it would be nice to sit together. Of course, we’ve known each other so long, just breathing the same air in that hall was good enough for us. I was content with my view.

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  7. Lucky gal!
    Love the shoe choice! well done!

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  8. What an amazing show! Only in New York.. I agree you and Milton should have your own reality show!

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  9. Thanks for the write up. Glad you got to go. Thanks for Milton. Maybe they’ve video recorded it and the rest of us will be able to watch it on DVD later. Thanks for these memories. 🙂

    (Also, thanks for reminding me how old I am — Barbra Streisand is my age, along with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how I got this old.)

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    • You have some pretty cool peers, buddy. I have people like the singer with the Divinyls who recently died and Danny Bonaduce. Sad stories or has beens that were never much to start with.

      I did not notice any camera set up, but they probably recorded it somehow. Maybe via lapel cameras on the security guards. I hope the sound quality is good for there was some fine singing, trumpet playing and memorable speech making.

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  10. LA Lucky Lady!

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  11. I miss so much living in the city for that sorta things.
    I now envy the last 2 nights you had with Milton.
    She should have yielded and sung a song.
    I’m surprised Liza is still “kicking it”, last time I saw her she was in really bad shape.

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    • When she performs in concert, Leo, as she did when she went on tour last year, she commands top ticket price, so no way is she going to spontaneously sing. I also think she does massive preparation for when she does sing. She seems to have taken exquisite care of herself. Milton saw her when she played the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. I couldn’t afford it, and that was bummer for me, but hey, it wasn’t meant to be.

      As for Liza, since you have alluded to her health, yes, she does not look well. Milton even referred to her as “sad”. Walking was so difficult for her. Her hips are shot and she’s had surgery, but maybe she had more recently. She did mention something about her back hurting. To put it politely, I think she’s lived much harder than just about anyone in the world who has not been crushed by a megaton boulder.

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  12. Wow, you and Milton rock! I enjoyed the vicarious thrills. (When I saw the photo of the sockless gent’s red loafers, I immediately thought maybe ex-Pope Benedict had snuck in for a delicious evening of star-studded entertainment. Hey, it could happen…)

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    • I was there and I couldn’t believe I was there, so much of it was so surreal. As for ex Pope Benedict’s alter ego, I can say with authority that is a very handsome fellow barely a third B’s age — and very charming.

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  13. I’m really happy for you WV. The only equivalent I can think of for me would be spending a day fishing with Patrick McManus (the greatest outdoor humor writer of all-time). After reading your post, I can’t get the tune, “The Way We Was” (grammatically correct in Arkansas) out of my head.

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  14. This is really awesome! I’m happy for you. It sounds like you guys had a lot of fun. And I’m no starf***er, but it would be really neat to see all those worthies (‘celebrities’ seemed inappropriate for a gathering that includes the Clintons and Gates) in one place. I’ve seen Clinton from a distance and I’ve actually performed for Carter as part of a group, but never so much concentrated star-power (and just power-power–maybe that WAS Greenspan).

    Your enthusiasm is really refreshing, and makes this fun to read. Having said that, I don’t really “get” Barbara Streisand’s mega-appeal. I mean, I get her basic appeal–she’s talented and beautiful (I’m not put off by prominent noses, and in Streisand’s case it IS her distinguishing physical feature), but it would be fair to say that Ms. Streisand is BELOVED, and that’s kind of a head-scratcher for me. Perplexing or not, your enthusiasm for her is charming.

    Milton is from Nebraska? That’s really cool. Sometimes the most interesting people come from seemingly uninteresting places.

    And is taking your mom to an event a gay thing? Yikes! I once bought tickets for me and my mom to go to an ERASURE concert! Sadly, she ended up too sick to go, and (much less-sadly) I invited a friend of mine who would later be my wife. I can only speculate what might have happened had things gone differently.

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    • First of all, Smak, you have clearance to write “starfucker” here. You’re amongst friends. We had a great time. It was wild seeing all those folks there. My brother can’t stand Barbra, but my sister is a fan, but not as crazy about her as me. Some people loathe her. My colleague, Godsend, thinsk she’s okay whereas my former sidekick, and now friend, Greg, is not a fan of hers AT ALL. But Greg is not an asshole about that. Monday night Avery Fisher Hall was packed with many of the most ardent members of her following. A lot of gay men and lesbians, a lot of blue hairs, but what was really cool, there were members of the younger generation. She seems to be transcending generations, but it’s true, she doesn’t rock everyone’s world.

      You almost took your mom to an Erasure concert! If Milton saw you, oh yes, he would have thought you were indeed a friend of Dorothy’s. Of course, though, you worked it out and took the woman you’d marry.

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      • First of all, Smak, you have clearance to write “starf****r” here.

        I’d rather not sully the internet with that kind of filth. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that you seem to be a fan of potty-mouthery.

        My colleague, Godsend

        Of course you have a colleague with the appellation ‘Godsend.’ Poor ‘Milton’. Classic author or not, I think you did him wrong.

        oh yes, he would have thought you were indeed a friend of Dorothy’s

        I’ve seen Erasure nine times thus far, and have a photograph of myself and Andy Bell. Make of that what you will.

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        • Okay, indulge your Emily Post side, if you prefer.

          Actually Godsend is formerly Under Ling, who next became (not) Under Ling (anymore). It’s taken us almost 15 months to finally hit on her LA name.

          I think you love Erasure almost as much as Milton loves Barbra!

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  15. It’s is absolutely marvellous that you could attend and sitting in such a good seat too, thanks to Milton’s quick action and thorough knowledge of the seating plan. I’m excited just reading through your very lively account. And… great photos, good that they allowed them inside. And for Barbra, she has my utmost admiration and respect. That last photo looks like she’s just fresh out of college. BTW, your post reminds me of my one and only time at the Lincoln Centre listening to NY Philharmonic in the 70’s, and indeed I was sitting in a seat with a partial view. Good that it was a concert.

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    • Milton really knew how to work that Tier 3 deal well, Arti. We weren’t technically allowed to take photos, but attendees with iPhones were taking them left, right and center from start to finish. No one got kicked out. Yet, I heard there was a no camera policy so I reluctantly left mine at home. I feared it might be confiscated and then I’d have to pay a fine to get it back. No thanks.

      You’re right, Barbra looks terrific. Milton thinks she hasn’t even had work done, but I imagine at 71 she has a great dye job. Of course, I’ve been coloring my own tresses since 40 …

      The New York Philharmonic plays in Avery Fisher Hall, so you have been there. Cool!

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  16. I want to echo so many of your loyal readers by saying I am quite happy for you and Milton. Alas my schedule was booked solid this past Monday. Surprised there wasn’t a Ryan O’Neal sighting. Far and away her greatest cinematic achievement to date: “The Main Wvent.”. No Hoffman either? I guess he award explains Stiller’s courtside seat last evening at MSG sandwiched between Marcia Brady’s doppelgänger and Spike Lee.

    As we say in Jersey, Cool Beans.

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    • Ryan only showed up in film clips — and one was from “The Main Event” — so you would have gotten your fix of that chestnut. And DH was also glimpsed in a clip from a Fockers film. Her film career was well covered. This event was very cool beans, indeed!

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  17. I’m so glad you live in New York too because you can go to these events and then tell us all about them. I’m not even particularly a fan of Barbra Streisand and this evening sounds like it was magical!

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    • It was pure New York City magic, Emily! Frankly, I don’t know how the Film Society can top this one unless they can somehow persuade Woody Allen to accept it, but his crowd would be much different and he still rubs a lot of people wrong. There are those that will never forgive him for the Mia-Soon Yi debacle. Milton simply thinks that his last good film was Manhattan. As much as I love Woody, I can’t really argue with that.

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  18. That is the coolest ever!!! Talk about a fly on the wall! You had an actual seat. I can’t believe they sold them for $25!!!
    You have to rename your blog after this one…

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    • It was practically a last minute sale, Susie, and there were only a limited number available at that price. Most attendees sitting in Tier 3 paid $200 and most $25 seats were the worst in the house — not where Milton got mine. What should I rename my blog to? My adventures are still primarily lame. Milton’s vertigo kicked in when he took that great shot of the view from my seat. Had he fallen over the railing, that would have been our lamest adventure ever, but right now, that adventure remains The Manhattan Project which is almost ready to be announced. Milton and I are going to meet about that very soon.

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  19. well done, sugar! milton is an absolute doll! xoxoxo

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  20. Cheers to you being able to go …. but the I’m very impressed with Milton’s seat knowledge of the theater.

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  21. You are so cool! As is Milton. Did the guy with the red shoes know you were taking his picture? Pretty fab shoes. How was Liza? I love her. I’ve never seen her although I have seen Tony Bennett in concert.

    Do you think, as I do, that Bill and Babs have had a little sumpin on the side?

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  22. thumbs up for you ! Lucky indeed

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  23. That’s an incredible night for only $25. Also, it’s Chaplin-related, so I am extra enthusiastic for you. 🙂

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  24. All that for $25? I LOVE MILTON! What a friend you have and what an evening you all had. It was great fun to hear all about it from you. I didn’t know that Chaplin wrote the words to “Smile”. Cool!

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  25. Wow were you ever lucky to get one of the $25 seats. Thank you for taking us with you.

    Like

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