ALLAN JEFFERYS: Who Are Show Biz Types To Tell Us How to Vote?
If they have not already done so, this is the time celebrities come out of the woodwork and tell us how to vote.
This has long baffled me. Does the fact that a man can hit a golf ball 300 yards qualify him to tell us what car to buy? Can a singer with a golden voice pick our next president?
One of the most vocal political activists has been Barbra Streisand. She is part of the limousine liberal set that rolls up the bulletproof windows and drives slowly through downtrodden neighborhoods -- looking neither left nor right.
No, that's not true. Looking only left.
Barbra, herself, has never been downtrodden. She burst onto the entertainment scene in her early 20s and was an overnight success -- winning her first Tony as best supporting actress in a musical in "I Can Get It For You Wholesale." She then went on to pick up another Tony for "Funny Girl." Sandwiched in all of this was a string of best-selling albums. Barbra had one of the best voices around and knew instinctively how to sing with a marvelous simplicity.
Hollywood beckoned, and she proved herself to be an extremely deft actress and director. She did not, however, win awards for being easy to be around. Barbra takes over and demands that things be done her way. Frequently, she is right -- which may be why she gets away with it.
I met her just once, soon after she finished the run of "Funny Girl." She was headed for London, and the only place we could film an interview was in a tiny room at JFK airport. The only time was at 8 a.m., which may account for this being one of the worst interviews I ever did. Both Streisand and I were used to late nights, so maybe we can be excused for not being our best at the crack of dawn.
The crew and I arrived a little after 7 a.m. to set up. The lighting man placed gaffer's tape on the wall and affixed lights to it; the cameraman barely squeezed his big tripod into the room, and we set up two chairs. Finally, our prima donna showed up.
"Where do I sit?" she asked.
I pointed to a chair.
"Where do you sit?"
I pointed to the chair opposite her.
"I want to sit where you sit. If the camera is there, it will only see my bad side."
I choked back a reply about her not having a good side and explained, "Most of the interview will be shooting you over my shoulder, and so if you sit where I sit, all people will see is the back of your head."
The reason for shooting over my shoulder had to do with editing. Single-system film (unlike videotape) separated audio and visual by 26 frames and required cutaway shots to eliminate lips moving with no sound. (It's too complicated to explain.)
She persisted, so the crew tore everything down and moved lights and the camera to accommodate Ms. Streisand. Meanwhile, I made a valiant effort to get to know her. Finally we were ready. Now we could concentrate on seeing her best side. Just before we rolled the film, she popped a huge wad of chewing gum in her mouth, which destroyed any effort to make her look even presentable.
Since I had done literally hundreds of interviews, I knew enough not to ask questions that could be answered with a word or two. Or so I thought. Barbra was determined to be uncooperative.
"What are you looking forward to about your first trip to London," I asked, as I sat back and awaited a good solid answer.
"To see it," she responded. Period. No explanation, no follow-up. Each subsequent question received a monosyllabic reply.
One other Streisand story: Mimi Hines and Phil Ford were good friends of mine, so I was delighted when Mimi was signed to replace Barbra Streisand in "Funny Girl." To slide easily into the role, Mimi sat through three weeks of the show. Thus she witnessed three weeks of unprofessional behavior.
This big musical -- the story of legendary Fanny Brice -- had a long waiting line for tickets. Therefore, when a member of the audience finally entered the theater, that ticket holder deserved to see a show as close to the one on opening night as possible. It was not to be with Streisand's last few weeks.
"Look at me," she seemed to say. "Look at the star. Forget the show. I'm what you came to see." She "camped" her performances, boosting her ego at the expense of the production.
Is this the kind of person qualified to tell us how to vote? Are we so awed by celebrities that we follow them into the polling booth? Who will succumb to their ploys this time?
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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