At long last: “The Television Specials.”
For many fans of Barbra Streisand, the five-DVD set released Tuesday has been the home-video Holy Grail. Three of the five specials produced for CBS from 1965-73 were released on VHS and laserdisc in the late ’80s, but never on DVD. The other two, “The Belle of 14th Street” (1967) and “Barbra Streisand ... and Other Musical Instruments” (1973), never received an official video release until now.
The first special, the Emmy-winning “My Name is Barbra” (1965), catapulted Streisand from Broadway and pop artist to international superstar. Streisand, 63, spoke with The Associated Press by phone from her Los Angeles home about the experience.
AP: Fans have been waiting forever for this. What took so long?
Streisand: You know? I don’t know. I’m always doing something. I’m building a house. I’m doing an album. I’m doing my garden. Today, you know, I just came in, my feet are killing me (laughs), walking on the rocks, ’cause I’m building these stones and planting flowers and — I don’t know. I would constantly say to Marty (Erlichman), my manager, “When are these things ever gonna come out?” It is crazy, isn’t it?
AP: What’s it like for you to go back and watch these shows?
Streisand: I don’t watch them. No. Why would I watch it? I know them very well. I don’t have time. I just, you know, I had wonderful experiences. I had such a great team when I was making (them), especially the first two: (music arranger) Peter Matz and (choreographer) Joe Layton and (director) Dwight Hemion and (monologue writer) Robert Emmett. It was so fun. This was very exciting at this period of time, I remember, because they didn’t have one-woman shows, one-man shows in television. They were all guest stars with a host. I was never comfortable with that role of being a host, “And now I’m going to introduce you to so-and-so.” It just felt so odd to me that I wanted to — I had to find some other way to present myself, you know?
AP: These DVDs are really all about the music. Does that approach help them not seem dated?
Streisand: Well, I hope they’re timeless. (For “Color Me Barbra”) I wanted to work in a museum, where I could go in and out of the paintings. The Philadelphia Museum was amazing because we could only work from when the museum closed, I think it was a Sunday night, ’til it reopened Tuesday morning. So, we worked around the clock for — I think it was 36 hours. And I had this kind of head thing on my head and I couldn’t stop and do my hair over, so I remember sleeping on a block, like, for an hour, like the Japanese (chuckles) sleep on a head block. I remember seeing the cameras. It was one of the first color shows, I believe, “Color Me Barbra.” It was so exciting to see that, and to film in this incredible museum. And Dwight took beautiful pictures. We just had a good time. It was very, very creative.
AP: Do you have a favorite special? A least favorite?
Streisand: My favorites are my first two, ’cause they’re kind of bookends. I loved the idea then to break the idea into three acts, ’cause I was from the theater. And I was kind of used to that format: having a theme for first section, a theme for the second, and then the simplicity of a concert stage for the third section — one being in black and white, the other being in color. ... My least favorite, probably, is “Belle of 14th Street” because there’s a great 45 minutes in it, but I would have cut some of it, you know. We tried. That’s where we tried to have guest stars, and I don’t think it works as well.
AP: Is there any more fans can expect on DVD? I’d love to see a video version of your career-spanning CD box set “Just for the Record.”
Streisand: It exists! I’ve worked on it for years. It’s four hours long. You know, it took so long to do the ’60s, the ’70s and the ’80s, that I’ve never done the ’90s or not to mention 2000s. It was supposed to be released with the — I never thought that it was quite good enough. Actually, when I saw that about a year ago, I thought, “Man, this is good.” (Laughs.) I underrated it. It has to come out soon. I also did the director’s version of “Yentl” and I also talk through “Star is Born,” as the executive producer. And I don’t know when those are coming out.
AP: It’s been an extraordinary for you recently: “Meet the Fockers,” the CD “Guilty Pleasures” and now this. Do you view success differently today than when you started?
Streisand: I have more of a life now. So, it’s kind of less important. But it’ll always be nice — my God! — if you get nice reviews for something or you’re appreciated by people you respect or, you know, if you touch people’s hearts in some way, if you change their lives in some way. If they use your music to feel sad or replenished or hope, it’s always — that’s the point, you know? To move people or to make them think or feel.