Singer, actress, director, producer, model, writer, and mall owner Barbra Streisand was a guest on the most recent episode of Alec Baldwin’s podcast Here’s the Thing, and made a number of revelations about her childhood that I found to be somewhere in the gray area between delightfully eccentric and sort of worrying. (Most divas lives in that gray area.)
While I’m not an enormous fan of Baldwin or his podcast (his tone isn’t exactly pleasant, and he has a tendency to ask less than respectful questions), I listened to this particular episode after it was suggested to me by multiple friends. And—papa can you hear me—it delivered.
The two most eyebrow-raising moments came about halfway into the interview, during a discussion of her teenage years in New York City. Streisand was certain she would eventually be a superstar, and rejected her parents when they suggested a different career path.
“My mother didn’t believe in me. She kept telling me, ‘Do what your father did, become a teacher…learn to type. And that’s when I let my nails grow long. So I couldn’t type. Believe me, I wish I could type now. I have to dictate everything into a tape recorder.”
But it’s after revealing that her current inability to type is the result of her rebellious that we arrive at this beautiful, slightly alarming anecdote about her time working as a theater usher:
“To make money, you’d get 4 dollars and five cents...to be an usher in the theater. So I would love to go see the plays, but in a sense I didn’t have enough money to see all the plays. So I became an usher in the theater so I could see the play..But meanwhile I was 16, 17, hat kind of age? I knew that I would be famous. Because I would hide my head so they wouldn’t see me at my face showing them to their seats ‘cause I thought, ‘You know, when I become famous, they’re gonna recognize me as the girl who showed them to their seats.’”
This is exactly the kind of bizarre, self-aggrandizing story you want from Barbra, from its out-of-touch phrasing (what does it mean to not have enough money “in a sense”?!?) to the fact that she’s absolutely mystified by her face-covering. “How do you figure that?” she asks after finishing the story. “That’s something I can’t explain.” I just love how bewildered she is by her own life.
You can listen to the full episode here.