Streisand Sings Democrats' Praises at Benefit

Times Staff Writer

So you didn't make the Barbra Streisand party--the first time she's sung in public in six years, this time raising $1.5 million for Democratic senatorial candidates and the Hollywood Women's Political Committee. So you missed it. Eat your nonpartisan heart out.

The six-hour party and concert at Streisand's closely guarded Malibu estate Saturday night left Hollywood with two acts that will be hard to follow: the superstar Streisand herself, who avoids public singing appearances and has only performed in concert three other times in the past 20 years; and the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, which grossed as much money with its "at home" night as the Republicans were set to do the following evening with a massive hotel dinner--and the President of the United States.

A Raft of Stars

Brand-name stars were obviously knocked gaga by the whole event. No one was cool. Perched on wire lawn chairs (with pads, which the stars were asked to sign for future fund-raising purposes), were a gum-chewing Jack Nicholson (plump in a loose black silk suit) and steady, Anjelica Huston; swinging-with-the-music Goldie Hawn with Kurt Russell (whose not-liberal politics came in for some kidding); Whoopi Goldberg with her new young husband, David Claessen; Henry Winkler (minus his omnipresent video camera); director Sydney Pollock (who got a wink from Streisand as she sang "The Way We Were"); Jane Fonda (looking like a remake of her more youthful self); the very pregnant Bette Midler (curled up under a blanket beside hubby, Martin von Haselberg); singer Whitney Houston (whose eyes never left the stage or Streisand); the adorable Bruce Willis with Geraldo Rivera's former wife, Sherry, and Chevy Chase, trying hard but unsuccessfully to get some attention and looking as though he needed a "Vacation."

But the evening was about politics--and about money. An estimated net of $1 million was expected--with some 40% going to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (much of it designated for the hometown favorite, Sen. Alan Cranston), some 26% going to the HWPC and the rest being divided among five other Democratic senatorial candididates.

"This is more money than women have ever raised in history," said a jubilant Marilyn Bergman, the songwriter and HWPC member who was the moving force in getting Streisand to perform. Bergman looked around the tables on the tennis court, crowded with Hollywood heavy hitters chowing down on Wolfgang Puck's grilled this-and-that. And she credited the HWPC as "very sharp, shrewd women turning their energy into doing political work. They know how to do this."

The "they" are women like producer Paula Weinstein, publicist Pat Kingsley, actress Rosanna Arquette (adorable in a black bowler, bundling guests into the vans that brought them from a parking lot up to the estate), executive Barbara Corday, political activist Patricia Duff Medavoy, attorney Bonnie Reiss and restaurateur Pam Morton.

What "they" did is have powerful people pushing to pay $5,000-a-couple to get onto the dramatic Fantasyland that is Streisand's secluded home--or rather homes, since there are five houses spread along wide brick paths that wind between grottoes and gazebo. The houses were off-limits, but familiars explained that they are all decorated in different styles--art deco, Victorian, the "peach house," the old caretaker house.

A special amphitheater was constructed near the back of a pastoral spread and there, in a show produced by Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith (the much-praised producers of the Opening Ceremonies of Liberty Weekend who donated their efforts this night), Streisand sang 17 numbers--each one bringing increasing oohs and aahs from the crowd.

Familiar Numbers

The music was produced by her steady, the rumpled and handsome Richard Baskin. Heavy lights hung from the trees, illuminating a low, rustic stage on which a stunning, blond Streisand appeared from clouds of smoke singing "Somewhere." Her reluctance to sing in public is well known--and she apologetically shook her head and grabbed her throat at one point, mumbling something about her "voice." She was the only critic, however, as each familiar number--"Evergreen," "People," "Over the Rainbow," or a duet with Barry Gibb--brought more applause, more bobbysoxer cheers from this usually jaded (and sometimes maybe even jealous) crowd.

Streisand put her powerful talent where her politics are. "I could never imagine myself wanting to sing in public again. But then, I could never imagine Star Wars, contras, apartheid, and nuclear winters in my life, and yet they are in everybody's life. I feel I must sing again to raise money so that we send people to Washington who will solve problems, not create them."

Political Lines

And, when Streisand sang "Send In the Clowns," she finished it with new pointedly political verses, like "Throw out the clowns," with lots of references to Republicans in D.C. The political stage had been set by Robin Williams, in a lengthy bit that seemed too short. Imitating newly named Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist: "Do I have a hood on my new robe?"

Streisand ended with a double punch: what she called a "hopeful" rendition of "Happy Days Are Here Again," and then she lead the audience in "America the Beautiful," saying it was time for Democrats to "reclaim" the American flag and patriotism.

The enormous gross of the evening was made possible, in part, because HBO has a tentative deal with Streisand to put an hour of the evening on the air. "Barbara has the right for a few days to look at it," said HBO's Michael Fuchs. But, he said, the "complicated agreement" with Streisand means that even if she does not approve the performance for broadcast, the political organizers do not have to pay back what Fuchs said was "a lot of money" HBO paid "for this show."

$125,000 Returned

The closed-to-the-press evening was such a success that the organizers had to return some $125,000 sent in by hopeful ticket purchasers, and the number of guests was enlarged from 400 to 500. (A spokesman announced, at one point, that 67 gate-crashers had been stopped.)

Among those who accepted Streisand's invitations--personalized cassettes delivered in canisters filled with potpourri: Merv Adelson with Barbara Walters; the beautiful Jodie Evans on the arm of Max Palevsky (who claimed the orchestrated evening was "really produced like a movie"); the very rich William and Barbara Belzberg; Interscope's Ted Field with wife, Barbara; Warner Brothers' Bob and Nancy Daly; Marvin ("We didn't go on the bus. We drove right up to the door") and Barbara Davis (the dress was "Hollywood chic," an Alan Austin white leather and spangled cowboy suit with matching boots). Hugh Hefner brought Carrie Leigh (she in a dress with no back and minimal front).

Also present were longtime political activists Marge and Michael Fasman; Larry and Jeanne Lawrence; Stanley and Betty Sheinbaum; Jane Eisner with her son Breck and Luanne Wells; Veronica Hamel; Vidal Sassoon kissing Gary Smith's wife, Max, who announced "Hey, this is like a wedding"; Bonnie Franklin and hubby, Marvin Minoff; manager Sandy Gallin; 20th Century Fox's Barry Diller (who interpreted casual to mean that he could wear a T-shirt, "Miami Vice" style, under his sport jacket), and Quincy Jones.

Then there were politicians like Maine's Sen. George Mitchell, Pennsylvania's Rep. Bob Edgar, Colorado's Rep. Tim Wirth, South Dakota's Rep. Tom Daschle, Ohio Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, and locals like Rep. Mel Levine (who talked about the old days at UC Berkeley with Hands Across America's Ken Kragen) and Rep. Henry Waxman.

"If you had to do a social registry of who is important in the Democratic Party, this is it," said Darry Sragow, Cranston's campaign manager.

And he was right.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°