In the introductory remarks, author Alma Bond noted that of the twenty-some books she has written during her long career, Barbra Streisand: On the Couch is her favorite. This is easy to understand. Dr. Bond, psychoanalyst with scores of years’ experience, is as natural as pie, with an unerring ear for style, cadences and voices. It is an enjoyable and easy read!
As with her other “On the Couch” series of books, Dr. Bond, aka Darcy Dale, invents a thin ruse to bring the subject to her office for analysis. In the case of Barbra Streisand, the ploy is gossamer-thin: that she has spent a gazillion years and dollars in analysis and nobody has “helped her.” Helped her what? The truth is, of course, that Barbra Streisand needs “help” about as much as a corpse needs a transfusion. But hey, no ploy, no plot.
So in comes La Babs, a genuine star of the first magnitude, in the public eye for six decades mind you, with phenomenal talents on many fronts. So what is the overwhelming “problem” that brings her to Darcy Dale’s couch? We have no idea, other than the fact she likes to talk about herself. (This is generally indigenous to the high egos of stars of the first magnitude.)
Her Jewish childhood in Brooklyn was one step above miserable: A distracted and distant mother, the usual poverty and the-kids-don’t-like-me, and a nasty and humiliating step-father (for a while). Then there is her relentless focus on the natural father who had the temerity to die when she was a toddler. It has consumed her. Of course she know this; she is not stupid.
She is also not lacking in courage or insight. It takes huge insight (as well as musical gifts) to craft the phrasing for the songs she sings so well. She makes you believe every word of them. She also has near perfect-pitch in selecting the songs she sings. Like Sinatra, she has had very few “oops” choices (and she likely knew it as she was choosing it). This is no small accomplishment. And the perfectionism with which she sweeps in and rules everything in her life is practically guaranteed to keep the kids from still not liking her. More common to women than men, as we know.
Barbra Streisand soared to stardom by the time she was twenty, and never loosened her hold on the diva-role. Her hold on personal relationships is a different matter, and has never appeared to cause her internal angst or anything more than a temporary whine.
Her first marriage to fellow New Yorker Elliott Gould was an up-and-down love-hate story for a decade, and, as Barbra suspects (on the couch), under other circumstances, they might still be together. They are/were cut from the same New York-Jewish-kinda-tough cloth. They understand each other. Her current husband, James Brolin is also of that cloth. Their marriage in now into their second decade.
But between Elliott and Jim, The Divine Miss S. has had a string of fly-by-guys, boy-toys and assorted pals for a time. Few (scratch that to none) have been her equal in terms of talent, whether singing or acting or directorial or production. Or money. Their ability to maintain the relationship was more whether they could put up with her initials.
Her only absolute relationship (other than her work and fixating on the long-deceased father-with-a-halo) is her son Jason Gould. She seems obviously proud and delighted that he is gay and promiscuous, worrying only slightly because he is HIV positive and who knows what else. His father Elliott seems to have had little to do with his upbringing.
Then there is the political Barbra, outspoken and passionate about those issues she cares about. And, in her behalf, she is willing to put her money where her mouth is. Whether anyone really cares what she thinks (other than a candidate in need of cash) is open to conjecture. She is, of course, entitled to her various opinions. Listeners are, of course, entitled to tune out if desired.
The one thing Dr. Darcy Dale does not tackle, nor does Barbra herself, is dealing with her public confession of stage fright, which has kept her body of work (i.e. concerts, live theater and appearances) extremely small, considering nearly 60-years of fame and sincere talent. Unlike Judy Garland, another star of the first magnitude who thrived on live performances, Barbra shuns the stage or the arena. She is a bona fide control freak by her own admission. She has an exacting and usually on-target sense of perfection. She obviously doesn’t wish to lose control for a moment, and you can’t reshoot a live performance. And she does not need the money.
If she wants to keep looking for the father she never had and imbuing him with sainthood according to Rabbi Barbra, she is also entitled. But it does get tiresome. One could picture Barbra and Pops meeting up by the Pearly Gates, where she is crushed to see that he has no halo, no harp and does not walk on water.
Barbra Streisand needs no shrink. She is the 600-pound gorilla. She can do what she wants. And Alma Bond, with her string of credits behind her, obviously knows this.
But Dr. Bond is a nifty and gifted writer, and long may she continue to find willing subjects for her always-delightful couch!
Dr. Alma H. Bond
Bancroft Press, October 2017