Tag Archives: barbra streisand

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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Lame Adventure 93: Back Again

Last month I had my annual mammogram.   This is a routine exam I have done every year at Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s downtown diagnostic center.  For anyone unfamiliar with what this exam entails, it is an x-ray that is a screening and diagnostic tool for breast cancer.  The procedure is one that is not particularly pleasant, but it is important so I do it.  A friend’s description of it being akin to laying a breast on a cold cement floor and then having a refrigerator slam down hard on it is an accurate account of what a mammogram entails.

Since I am minimally breasted, the technicians are challenged, but they have always managed to get the shot, even if that means I depart the premises significantly welted.  A few weeks after my exam they send me a form letter announcing the results.  It usually starts that they’re “pleased to report that the result of your breast examination on [date] showed no evidence of cancer.”

This year was different.

I got a phone call.

The second I heard the caller, a very pleasant woman, say she was calling from the diagnostic center, an alarm bell rang so loudly in my head that I was initially deaf to what followed.  All I was thinking at that moment was:

Me:  I’m gonna die!!!!!!!!!!

While I proceeded to hyperventilate into a brown paper bag, the Caller calmly continued.

Caller:  The doctor couldn’t read the image of your right breast.

I groan loudly and hope my family remembers that I want to be cremated.

Caller:  We think everything is normal.  We just need to retake that one image to be sure.  This happens occasionally.

Realizing that this is probably nothing more than a routine snafu, I resume thinking about other things such as US Open Tennis, what films I want to see at the upcoming New York Film Festival, and how close I came to accidentally gargling with toilet bowl cleaner instead of Cool Mint Listerine.  I was very tired, not paying attention to what I was doing, and they both smelled minty.

Less filling. Tastes great.

The one thing that does make me think of having to take this test again is that The Flusher, the crazy drunk neighbor that lives below me, is uncharacteristically nice to me.  I call him The Flusher because he has this annoying habit of flushing his toilet repeatedly.  One night, when a friend was visiting, we counted 77 flushes in a row.  He has also done this when I’m showering.  Every so often I nearly suffer a third degree burn.  The Flusher, reeking of alcohol at 8:30 in the morning, is returning from a cheap beer run just as I am leaving for work.

The Flusher holds the door for me.  He never holds the door for me.  Ever.  Immediately, I’m suspicious.  He also speaks.  The last time he spoke to me was so many years ago, he still had hair to comb over.  He issued a torrent of  anti-Semitic slurs in my direction.  I’m not Jewish.  I do not feel warm or fuzzy towards this guy.

The Flusher:  Ya got a lear there.

Me (confused):  I’ve got a what where?

The Flusher points at the radiator cover where tenants often dump their junk mail.  Isolated from the pile of junk is an envelope addressed to me from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Apparently, it was delivered in someone else’s mail box.  The Flusher’s?  I take my letter.

My lear.

Me:  Thanks.  I didn’t notice that.

The Flusher looks at me spooked.  He might now think my name is Marked For Death.  He probably fears my ghost.  It was just a form letter about calling the diagnostic center to set up the second appointment.  When The Flusher figures out that I still have my health, I expect that he’ll revert back to his regular loutish self.  If he’s feeling sentimental, he might call me something anti-Semitic.

On a very hot and humid day, I return as scheduled to the diagnostic center where I have the one image of my right breast retaken.  When the attendant asks if I remembered to not apply deodorant, I assure her:

Me:  Yes, I’m not wearing any – much to the dismay of all my fellow passengers on that 2 train.

Blame me.

They do not make me sit for very long in the waiting room.  I only have to hear a single bastardized version of Barbra Streisand’s first huge hit, People.  When I was last there I recognized several songs I loathed that I had not heard in decades such as Anne Murray’s Snowbird.

The procedure itself was swift, which is as close to painless as a mammogram can be.  They made sure I went with their gold medal technician this time.  Within ten minutes, I was given my diagnosis, a clean bill of health, so I was free to slather myself with deodorant and not see them again for another year.  Phew!