6 Bizarre Barbra Streisand Performances That Are Weirdly Endearing

Barbra Streisand is a powerhouse. Her rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” made Funny Girl a show worth watching and gave Lea Michele something worth covering at the Tony Awards. Also, say what you want about Carol Channing, but Barbra owns Hello Dolly!. Some people even like Yentl, probably.

There’s a reason why every thrift store has at least four different Barbra Streisand records: because she’s ridiculously talented and record players are way too expensive for non-hipsters. I have nothing but respect for her. That being said, you can’t be in the business as long as she has without having moments that seems strange in retrospect. So happy belated 70th birthday, Babs. Here are some awkward things you were a part of.

“I’m Five” and “Sweet Zoo”

This is actually one of my all-time favorite Barbra performances. “My Name Is Barbra” was her first television special, and you should definitely watch the whole thing if you get a chance, but this is my favorite part. It’s just so madcap and strange and wonderful, it’s hard to dislike. Sidenote, this is also the special that gave the world “People.”

Color Me Barbra

Barbra on the TV, Special #2: Now with animals!

A Star Is Born

This video is 1976, and it’s not sorry about it.

The Belle of 14th Street

I feel like the general concept of this video is “Barbra being Barbra and also vaudeville!,” and it kind of works, but it mostly gives me second-hand awkwardness.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

I would give you context if I had it. I feel like somewhere, someone’s good idea went horribly wrong.

“Tell Him” with Celine Dion

When she was 21, Barbra recorded a duet with Judy Garland, and it was basically flawless, and eventually Glee covered it, so I think we could call that one a success. This video, however, is a totally different story. It’s like they had a meeting and decided that they’d be harder to impersonate if they were singing together.

Ok, tell me all about your Barbra feelings!

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Grace Ellis has been writing and making hack-job graphics for Autostraddle since 2011 and is a co-creator and co-writer of the comic book series Lumberjanes. She is mostly an intern in name only. (Mostly.) She lives in Columbus, Ohio because why anything. Also, she wants to write the Black Widow movie and feels like if she just keeps telling people, eventually she will be allowed to do it. She has a Twitter and a Tumblr, both of which are pretty above average.

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  1. Hello, Dolly! I love this movie so so much (also, did you know she was only 27 when she filmed that and part of the controversy was that she was super-young for the role?). She kills it (and comes off as older without being old).

    • Babs in Hello, Dolly! totally helped spur along my queer awakening as a confused teenager. Something about the ginger updo and the flirting, and wee, 15-year-old me went *Oh*.

  2. When my daughter was a baby I’d sing little songs to her all the time, and one of them was “Hello Dolly” except I replaced “Dolly” with her name. In this way I turned my infant into a Babs fan. Somehow “People” entered the rotation and quickly became her favorite song. When she was barely a year old, she’d watch this one video on YouTube of Barbara singing “People” at some concert over and over and over. If my child ends up being teased at school for her taste in music it will definitely be my fault.

    • DON’T EVEN WORRY ABOUT IT. My 13-year-old theater geek cousin has a framed autographed photo of Barbra hanging in her room, and she is legitimately the coolest kid I know and very popular amongst her lovely peers.

      • Good to know! Although now that she’s almost 3, she pretty much thinks all music is from Glee. Because of this thread, I asked her last night if she remembered the “People” song and she said yes and then I asked her who sings it and she said, “Glee.” Then I said, “No, it’s not from Glee. Do you remember who sings it?” and she goes, “Umm… Santana!”


  3. omg I am so glad this was written… Barbra used to own my heart. As in, I used to store my complete collection of her DVDs in a fireproof box just in case a natural disaster occurred. Her awkwardness is just glorious!

    • Whatev, there is no shame in liking Yentl. It has Mandy Patinkin in as well as Barbra! It should be embraced, this is what I say.

  4. Oh Yentl.

    Even the name tells you that it’s going to be a guilty pleasure.
    Speaking of guilty pleasures…I’m a big fan of the Celine/Babs number.

    So much nostril…so much vocal….and oh so much pretending I don’t have it in my iTumes.

  5. I once sang a duet of “Tell Him” at karaoke with my current roommate/best friend since I was 12, wicked drunk, on a fine night in 2007. Given the quality of our respective impressions, IT WAS NOT A HIT.

    You know who doesn’t love Babs in “Hello Dolly”? NO ONE THAT’S WHO BECAUSE SHE IS A GODDAMN SMASH IN “HELLO DOLLY.”

    (even though you know I love you CC I LOVE YOU)

  6. Yentl was one of my queer awakenings! It came out in 1983, when I was 15 and in high school. My parents went to see it in the theater without us kids. Mom and Dad were HUGE Streisand fans, so when they got home and were strangely subdued about it “Oh, it was all right” I thought it was really odd. The cross-gender-binary-dressing marriage-to-a-girl thing freaked them right the hell out.

    Then it came on HBO in 1984, and Streisand was dressed as a dude, the almost kiss with Amy Irving…. my little gay heart exploded. I must have watched that 50 times. I had a HUGE crush on Amy Irving. My mom was disturbed by my fascination with it – which is one of the things she later noted as “that should have been a clue.”

    I came out a couple years later. So yay, Yentl. Yay Barbra. Thanks for singing “No wonder he loves her” – because boy did I understand that song.

  7. Context:

    “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

    If memory serves me correctly, following 9/11, the Emmy’s were postponed as the nation mourned the tragedies of Pennsylvania, Washington DC and New York City.

    When the Emmy’s were finally broadcast, Barbra sang this song as a tribute.

  8. Hi, I’m the girl who likes (no, perhaps loves is a better word, I am the girl who loves Yentl with a firey burning passion. Its one of my top ten “sick in bed and need comfort musical films” and my second favourite barbra film. “Papa Can You Hear Me” was the outlet to my 14 year old daddy issues in a way that angsty punk-pop songs could not.

    Anyways, just thought I should identify myself.

  9. Hey does anyone remember the TV special, early-nineties I think? Or is it just my mother that recorded it (VHS FTW) and watched it over and over again. Anyway, best line was from the SNL Coffee Lady who made a guest appearance.

    “The Prince of Tides has nothing to do with princes or tides. Discuss”

  10. OK I’m just going to be honest, as a professional musician I feel so dumb for not knowing all of this, this whole thing made my day…I had no idea Barbra was so hilarious, oh AS teach me the ways of the lesbian.

  11. I love this post! My favourite films have to be Funny Girl, and The Way We Were where she brushes Hubble’s hair from his eyes! gah! its amazing!
    My mom calls me her funny girl, and when I told her I was engaged the first thing she said to me was “Awe! My baby is going to be a Sadie!”

  12. Wow, only Barbra sings better You’ll Never Walk Alone than the Anfield Stadium in a match of Liverpool vs. Manchester United. #YNWA!!!

  13. That vaudeville one kind of reminds me of Anita O’Day at the Newport Jazz Festival which is also wonderful and must be seen. Barbra, though!! I love her singing I’d Rather Be Blue on roller skates. It’s one of the best things on the planet.

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