The 6 People Streisand Wants at Her Dinner Party

By THE NEW YORK TIMES

At a gala on Monday night Barbra Streisand will receive the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Chaplin Award for lifetime achievement. The society cited in particular her work on “Yentl,” the first movie to credit a woman as director, writer, producer and star, along with other big-screen turns behind the camera (“Prince of Tides” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces”) and in front of it (“Funny Girl” and “For Pete’s Sake”).

Before the gala Ms. Streisand answered readers’ questions, and hundreds took to the ArtsBeat blog to declare their affection and post their queries.

Amid a few invitations to dinner and to sing at weddings, readers touched on a range of topics — the cinematography on “Yentl,” potential new projects (like “Gypsy”), Ms. Streisand’s years at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, the recent Duck Sauce hit song named after her. Here she answers those questions and more:

Q. I’m sure you heard about people naming the six people they would want at an intimate dinner party. You are always on my list, along with Jacqueline Kennedy, Buddha, Mary Magdalene, Martha Mitchell and David Hockney. So, my question: Who’s at your dinner table? OLDE WACHOVIAN, New York

A. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Edward Hopper, Gustav Klimt and Fanny Brice.

Q. What’s the biggest public misconception about you? DEB, New York

A. It takes a lot of time to answer a question like that. At the moment, I’m not that interested in myself.

Q. At the premiere of “Yentl” Steven Spielberg famously said it was the most auspicious directorial debut since “Citizen Kane.” I expected that to mark a turn in your career toward directing, but you have only directed two films since then. Was directing just too all-consuming, or was it hard to get funding for the kind of films you wanted to make? MARK, Key West, Fla.

A. The latter. I tried for 25 years to get funding for “The Normal Heart” and couldn’t. My latest project about Margaret Bourke-White and Erskine Caldwell was also very hard to finance.

Q. One of the most wonderful things about “Yentl” (among many) is the gorgeous cinematography by David Watkin, your director of photography. My favorite scene is when Yentl arrives at the yeshiva and we hear “This Is One of Those Moments” as the light streams in through the windows and pours over the books and tables in the library. Can you tell us a little about your collaboration with Watkin in terms of how you arrived at your vision for the lighting and the look achieved in the final film? It’s absolutely sumptuous to watch, especially on the big screen. Many congratulations on your well-deserved Chaplin Award. And please keep making movies. INWOOD 207, New York

A. Thank you. David Watkin was wonderfully talented. I showed him Rembrandt paintings as an example for the look I wanted. Then I flew to see those Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I wanted to see up close how black the blacks were in order to decide what film stock to use.

Q. I really enjoyed your direction and acting in “The Prince of Tides.” What are a couple of the specific challenges when a person both directs and acts in the same film, and in this case is also the producer? How do you retain objectivity in carrying out all these different roles for one film? JONATHAN, Tamarac, Fla.

A. It’s actually easier to direct and act — takes less time, fewer people to debate with. Producing allows you to weigh decisions based on the financial versus the artistic, which can lead to interesting creative choices. As for being objective, I am very objective about myself. It is always “her” up there and never me.

Q. I remember you screened “Yentl” for a class of University of Southern California cinema students back in the ’80s. As I watched from the audience, I thought “Yentl” might help open the doors for women in film. What are your impressions about the industry today? Do we find fewer women assuming those major roles — director, producer, writer and star — because the jobs are so specialized, or are there other factors? CAROL, Atlanta

A. After all these years I don’t think women have come far enough in the industry. When it comes to assuming more than one major role on a motion picture, it’s something men are admired for. However, it seems that women are still perceived as a threat.

Q. The world is coming to an end and the artistic treasures of the world are being sent out into the universe in a space capsule in hopes some civilization in the future will retrieve and preserve them. There’s only room in the capsule for one of your movies. Which one do you want to save? RSB56, Evanston, Ill.

A. Probably “Funny Girl.”

Q. Thanks for being an inspiration to so many. Obviously you love films. What specific films have inspired you the most over the years as a person and filmmaker, perhaps from your early childhood to today? Include movies you never tire of watching or have in your DVD collection. Heartfelt thanks and please make more movies as a director or actress! BRUCE ROGER, suburban Philadelphia

A. “The Hairdresser’s Husband”; “Sunshine” with Ralph Fiennes; “Mrs. Brown”; and “On the Waterfront.”

Q. How do you feel about Duck Sauce naming that disco hit after you? Appalled? Flattered? Indifferent? MARY, New York

A. Flattered!!

Q. Wondering, in your long, great career, what’s your biggest regret? Something you did and fell flat, something you didn’t get to do. BAPPLE30, New York

A. I always loved “Up the Sandbox.” It was a complete flop, but I still love it. What do I regret not doing? “Cabaret,” “Klute” and “Julia.” I was offered those roles before such wonderful directors were attached. If I had known that the directors were going to be Bob Fosse, Alan J. Pakula and Fred Zinnemann, I would have said yes immediately. But I’m glad my girlfriends Liza Minnelli and Jane Fonda delivered such strong performances.

Q. Barbra, you recently returned home for your concerts in Brooklyn. As far as I’m concerned there is one more homecoming you should make: a return to the Broadway stage. Have you given thought to bringing your career full circle with a return to the theater? DOUGLAS CURTIS, St. Paul

A. If I only could do four shows a week!

Q. I am a native New Yorker and a lifetime fan of your music! What is your fondest memory of Erasmus Hall High? My dad is a fellow alum. LISA, Vancouver

A. The architecture and the Choral Club.

Q. Are you still planning to play Momma Rose in “Gypsy”? Please say yes! JIM C., Seattle

A. Yes.

Q. Hubbell Gardner or Nicky Arnstein? Why? L. BEZOZO, New York

A. It’s like choosing between your two kids ... . I can’t!

Q. During 1965 I sat at a desk in my earth-science class at Erasmus, which had the following carved into the desk: barbra ’59. I always wondered from that time on if it was really you who wrote that? LINDA KLASSEL, Baltimore

A. I would never hurt a piece of furniture!

Comments for this News article

Only one woman....oy

I love the questions they asked you. Especially about who would be your favored guests for a dinner party. We have something in common because I named Albert Einstein myself. I also named you. I thought you as well as many great figures in our country and others and of course some incredible people who have passed on. That would be a dream get together of intelligence and such talent. I would sit people next to one another who have of course never met and who I thought would have the most interesting of conversations. I can only imagine. I actually asked this on my Facebook page. I asked everyone to answer who would be the top 10 guests they would invite to a dinner party living or passed away.. The answers I got were quite amazing. I had a list that was really great. I had you sitting next to a political figure because I do remember you stated that you didn't find many conversations that interesting except for politics. So we would have you sit next to an incredible politician. What a lovely thought.. Even the place I had in mind, something you're already used to, an ocean view because I'm completely drawn to the ocean. I feel like I had a past life near the ocean because I'm so moved by beautiful pink and orange sunsets and the beach is heaven to me. Being near it, actually working on a cruise ship as well to be on the ocean. I felt most at peace when I was out there.. It was amazing. I was a cruise director. I did it for three years and found it really exciting because I got to be near the water. My favorite. The sunsets and that time of day, dusk is my favorite time of day. I can see why your dream home was overlooking the ocean. Your home is just stunning. I think you should do another book. I do hope you write a book about your life. That would be an amazing thing to read. Thanks for all the greatness and awareness you have brought into our world. Especially about women and heart disease. It's amazing the awareness you've brought to it. Thanks Barbra and see you in France when you play in Paris. A great show to see and I can't wait.

On June 6th you give a concert in Amsterdam (I am so happy to be there!). Are you give the people the opportunity to ask questions? And as owner of a dogwalking business and a big lover of dogs (as you are) I wonder if you bring you'r dog with you? Excuses if my English is not perfect.

Wishing you a Happy Birthday and a year of good health, peace and much happiness!!

My wife and I have been fans for many years and your music has always been part of our relationship. The engagement ring was in the middle of a 45RPM of Evergreen and both were placed in a Macy's department store shirt box. We danced our first dance at our wedding reception to "you and I" from the Lazy Afternoon album! and enjoyed all of your music and movies through the years.

Sincerely,
Frank and Linda from the Suburban Philadelphia, PA area.

Barbra,

I would like to wish you a very happy birthday! My birthday is also today and, for as long as I can remember, I have always been told I look like you. When I was in high school, I was approached to perform on a stage lip syncing to your music, to which I declined. I was asked if I was you at the drive thru window at Chick-fil-A- I told them yes, but I still had to pay for my meal. My aunt's birthday is also today. She sang opera many years ago. Between your amazing voice and her singing ability, you would think the birth date might have something to do with it, but I am here to prove that wrong! So, for our birthday, I am giving the gift of humming! Happy birthday!

Sincerely,

Fran Kovach

Just wanted to wish you Happy B-Day! Have been a loyal fan since the 60's. Own most of your albums and movies (CD's and DVD's). Many good times for you in the future. Looking forward to more music and films! Love to you, always.Jack Shockley, Columbus, Ohio.

Hi Barbra, I want to wish you a wonderful birthday and many, many, many more. By the way, you and my aunt share the same birthday. Two terrific people! Your dinner party sounds exciting!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BARBRA! I just thank HaShem with all my heart for putting you here! If I could I would have you at my Dinner Party! My ancestors were really and truly friends with George Washington and fought the Revolutionary War. I love hearing your answers above. Yentl was a film that greatly impressed my heart and life, in ways I never thought possible. There was something in it that connected to your father that I recently discovered. I feel you must direct another film like this one. Yentl is like a Rembrandt. It is a work of art. I have found that it is rather impossible for a woman to enter the field of music. I am thankful to God that I am living when you are, so I have had the great honour and blessing of your music, life and wonderful personality. Maybe I will meet up with you in Jerusalem sometime soon at the arrival of Mashiach! That would be spectacular. I love the person that you are and I thank you for blessing my life with so many beautiful songs and orchestrations. You make such a difference in this world and I am forever blessed by you and your voice! With love and sincere blessings for a very Happy Special Birthday...Kimberly Ballard

Just wanted to wish you the happiest of birthdays! Also, have a safe and fun tour.

I want to wish you a very Happy, Healthy Birthday...Congrats on your most recent award and have a safe tour in Europe.. You and your family are in my daily prayers. God Bless.. Your Noochness.. Oh and you and your family too...

Happy Birthday Barbra!!!! I had the HONOR of seeing you Monday at the Chaplin Awards Gala. Needless to say, it was a well deserved tribute!!! It was a night I'll never forget. You are now, always were, and always will be my favorite person! Dee Dee

Happy Birthday Barbra !!!! Have a great day !!! Love you with all my heart and God bless Karyl Zitis

Happy Birthday, Barbra. I wish you a beautiful birthday with love and happiness.

add a 7th myself
really just want to say glad you are going back behind the camera , a real film event...
got a role for shirley mcclaine?? a up and coming actress.... congrats on your award A GREAT BIRTHDAY PRESENT. You deserve it... best wishes tom crotty

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BARBRA! I wish you happiness and good health not only on your birthday but all the days of your life! How I wish I could see you in concerts but very unlucky I am not an American or European that it is very impossible to reach you in person. but still happy to live with your CD's concerts, movies and albums. all of them becomes spice of my life. Thank you for bringing happiness to me. More Birthdays to come.

Happy Birthday to you, Ms. Streisand! Smiling I hope you have a wonderful day surrounded by family and friends! Wishing you lots of love, peace, and happiness on your special day!! May you have a blessed year!

Happy Birthday Barbra...I hope you have a beautiful birthday......

Happy Birthday,Barbra for me with any doubt the greatest star with the biggest soul.love you!

Dear Barbra,
I am reading your book My passion for Design! I love the barn house! Happy Birthday to you.I love the sweet shop and the antique clothes. That looks great for the party. you should invite me sometime!I sell tupperware but I studied acting.
you can find me under my sag name on facebook. thatshollywood@yahoo.com

Sincerely,

c.kandi

p.s. christian dior has the same initials . I love fashion too