You already know Barbra Streisand is one of the most talented and successful artists of all time. And you probably already know she’s from Brooklyn. You might even know she went to Erasmus Hall High School and sang in the choral club with classmate Neil Diamond and was married to Brooklynite Elliot Gould, but did you know she used to work in a Chinese restaurant or why her name is spelled the way it is? Here’s what Babs had to say about growing up in Brooklyn.
On keeping true to her roots.
“I think of myself as a girl from Brooklyn.”
On growing up in Brooklyn.
“I was raised on the streets, in hot, steamy Brooklyn, with stifled air.”
On what made her different.
“I was the kid on the block that didn’t have a father but had a good voice.”
On what Brooklyn means to her.
“Brooklyn to me means the Loew’s Kings, Erasmus, the yeshiva I went to, the Dodgers, Prospect Park, great Chinese food. I’m so glad I came from Brooklyn — it’s down to earth.”
On realizing she had a good voice.
“I remember when I was 5 living on Pulaski Street in Brooklyn, the hallway of our building had a brass banister and a great sound, a great echo system. I used to sing in the hallway.”
On her first time singing in public.
“The yeshiva didn’t have a stage, so we had to go to PS25, which was so fascinating for me to go to, you know, a normal public school and see this big stage that they had.”
“I always wanted to be somebody, to be famous . . .You know, get out of Brooklyn.”
On her part time job at Choy’s Chinese restaurant.
“It was a part-time job between my 12th and 16th birthdays. I started out baby-sitting for them and worked up to waitress and cashier. I showed people to their tables. Muriel Choy used to tell me about things. About love and life and sex. I loved idea of belonging to a small minority group. It was the world against us in the Chinese restaurant.”
On high school.
“I was the wise guy. I always got good marks, so I was never in what you’d call real trouble, but everybody looked on me as the odd one. I used to dye my hair platinum blonde and wear strange color lipstick and eyeshadow.”
On changing her name from Barbara to Barbra.
“Well, I was 18 and I wanted to be unique, but I didn’t want to change my name because that was too false. Let’s see, if I take out the ‘a,’ it’s still ‘Barbara,’ but it’s unique.”
What’s your favorite thing about Barbra Streisand film or song? Tell us in the comments.