For more than 40 years, Barbra Streisand has been fielding offers to write a book about her life. “I kept turning them down, because I prefer to live in the present,” she admits in My Name Is Barbra, her long-awaited memoir. She also felt scared. “After six decades of people making up stories about me,” Barbra says, she worried that “I’m going to tell the truth, and nobody is going to believe it.”
Despite two Oscars, eight Grammys and millions of records sold, Barbra spent years searching for personal happiness. At 19, she met actor Elliott Gould when they costarred in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, the play that would make Barbra a star. “I still wasn’t sure I was ready for marriage,” recalls Barbra, who eloped with him to Las Vegas anyway.
In 1964, she opened in Funny Girl on Broadway opposite Sydney Chaplin (a son of Charlie Chaplin) as her love interest. There was a mutual attraction at first. “When you’re playing a character who falls in love,” she explains, “sometimes the two people actually do fall in love … [but] it’s not real love, in most cases.” Feeling guilty about Elliott, she backed off, enraging Sydney. He spent the next year trying to undermine Barbra onstage, planting the roots of her lifelong battle with stage fright.
The episode with Sydney also hastened the end of her marriage. She and Elliott separated in 1969 and divorced in 1971, five years after the birth of their son, Jason. “He was, and always has been, the best gift,” Barbra says.
In her book, she also recalls romances with Omar Sharif, her costar in the Funny Girl film, actor Anthony Newley and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau — whom she considered marrying. “My fantasy was I would move to Canada and really learn French,” she says. But at age 27 to his 50, their lives were in different places. Around this time, Marlon Brando also became a confidante. “I would stay on the phone with Marlon Brando for hours,” she says.
Barbra praises Ryan O’Neal, her two-time costar, for bringing “some laughter into my life,” but their romance wasn’t built to last. “I think I was too serious for Ryan,” she says.
Jon Peters, her hairdresser-turned-producer of A Star Is Born, was Barbra’s love from 1973 to 1982, but she recognized their life together was too volatile. “I’d prefer to have all this drama in my movies, not in my life,” she quips. Other romances with composers Peter Matz, Richard Baskin and James Newton Howard, actor Don Johnson and tennis pro Andre Agassi bloomed but eventually faded. “I kept choosing unavailable men,” Barbra confides. “There was something that scared me about relationships.”
Nobody compared to James Brolin, whom a friend set Barbra up with in 1996 when they were both in their 50s. “Jim and I met at a point in my life when I had basically given up on finding someone. And frankly, I was all right with being on my own,” says the performer, who was charmed by the Marcus Welby, M.D. alum’s honesty, emotional availability and wicked sense of humor. Finally, she found where she belonged. “I no longer had to rely on work for satisfaction,” says Barbra, “[I] was happy to set it aside so I could spend more time with Jim.”