Hairdresser Uncle Joey’s Greenwich Village apartment bustled with tight energy. A glorified single without a separate bathroom on Christopher Street. The sink in the kitchen was the only running water. It served multiple purposes including washing the hair of his customers. No shower. There was a tub covered by a wooden plank to be used as a table. The toilet was hidden in a closet. The bed was on a shelf on the wall to save space. Without windows, the darkness was overpowering. Yet Joey’s illuminating personality made it a delicious haven.
Once a month we visited from Long Island so that my mom and grandmother could have their hair colored. The Li-Lac Chocolate shop was nearby on Christopher Street and my mom needed to submerge her chocolate fix.
Joey is responsible for my parent’s marriage. In 1949 when my mom was visiting Manhattan from St. Louis, her girlfriend Miriam had been dating Joey. The double date sparkled as Joey’s older brother Michael enchanted my mom. No surprise that Joey and Miriam broke up while my parents married the following year.
But this twelve-year-old was bored after absorbing this enclave that was so different from their New Hyde Park Cape Cod twenty miles away in Long Island.
Uncle sees the dilemma. “I want you to listen to this record.”
He slipped the vinyl out of its sleeve and gently placed the needle in the groove. I hear a clear toned, clipped, exaggerated phrasing emanating from the speakers.
“Now you say you’re lonely, you cried the lone night through.”
The hairs on my forearm tingle. My mouth opens as I realize a voice singing to me. The snarling belt that ends the song chills me. I grab the album jacket. The black cover has a girl standing in front of a microphone. The label states The Barbra Streisand Album.
I listen to all eleven songs. Then I immediately play them again. I can’t get enough. Hooked. For the rest of my life I wanted to be Barbra Streisand. Sing like her. Own the world like her superstar status.
In 1965 I saw Barbra on Broadway in Funny Girl. In 1972 she took hold of the Los Angeles Forum for the Concert for Mc Govern. 1977 brought her to the Studio One Backlot audience for her step sister Roslyn Kind’s debut. She sat with Jon Peters in the dimly lit cabaret. The last time I was gripped by Barbra live was at the Anaheim Pond for her concert return in 1995.
Every Streisand record, cd, DVD and book has been captured by me. I’ve seen Funny Girl ten times. I’ve dressed up as Barbra and will lip synch to her greatest hits. People, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and My Man in full drag. My addiction and obsession with Barbra is fully satisfied.