Hello Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand by William J. Mann - A Review

This biography of Barbra Streisand is a timely release, marking her fiftieth anniversary in show business. While the singer/actress giant is still actively performing (sold out for her tour at age seventy), Hello Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand covers only the first four years of her career in show business. It is a detailed account of how this petite-sized young woman and her "out-sized" personality" took the entertainment industry by storm.

"In these early formative years, Streisand learned how to dazzle, how to connect, and how to get what she wanted." The sixteen-year-old who wrote book reports only on Stanislavsky and acting knew her only ambition was to act. Lest we think she was merely an attention grabber, the book explores in depth her yearning to be loved, her craving for artistic affirmation, and the depths of her vulnerability. She thrived during a time when talent and artistry mattered rather than infamy, and she brilliantly marketed herself as a performer. She strove for excellence and made people admire her quirkiness. She had great instincts in her choices of friends, fashion, songs and roles. Getting to the heart of her character was an ever-present goal.

Here are some tidbits of Streisand's early years to whet your interest:

· Streisand battled tinnitus.
· She answered the phone in different accents to keep her acting alive.
· Adding her own razzmatazz to a song was a great challenge and delight to her.
· At age eighteen, she had never had a singing lesson in her life.
· Singing became a vehicle for acting, her first love.
· She used belligerence as a protective shield in the entertainment industry.
· Elliot Gould felt his wife, Barbra, was the more talented of the two.

Kudos go to William J. Mann for researching the truth and debunking damaging myths. Twenty percent of the book is devoted to archival sources supporting the truth about one of the greatest performers of the twentieth century. Mann doesn't come across as a blind fan, but rather an observer apart who is fondly respectful and in awe of his subject. His writing is honest and to the point. The book is a meaty tome, full of details. For those aspiring to "make it", <i>Hello Gorgeous</i> is first an instruction manual, but more importantly it is an honest assessment of Streisand's unconquerable strength and artistic gifts.

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