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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Fans of Barbra Streisand are going to love this latest book, the 23rd from the On the Couch series written by Alma H. Bond Ph.D. In this fictionalized series, Alma H. Bond, a psychoanalyst, combines her extensive knowledge of why folks do what they do with her all-encompassing research into books written about and by the celebrities themselves. Added to that is her study of their media appearances and what they have actually said and done. So…what do we have in Barbra Streisand: On the Couch? An absolutely delightful read with fabulous insight into the Barbra we love, but most likely will never really know, because she won’t tell ya anyway… to use Barbra’s style of speaking!
When Barbra first shows up for an appointment to suss out Dr. Darcy Dale as a therapist and see if just maybe this one can help her because none of the others have, the good doctor doesn’t really like her and hopes she doesn’t come back. But back Barbra comes, time and again, even when Dr. Darcy makes her cry, or makes her mad because the doctor tells her time’s up or she’s taking a week’s vacation. As we learn, Barbra is used to calling the shots, whether it’s about a record she’s making, or a movie in which she’s starring. Others don’t tell Barbra what to do: she tells them what she wants. Barbra’s theme song could be Sinatra’s “My Way.”
But underneath all that bluster and bossiness is the real Barbra: the one who won’t get her nose fixed for fear it might ruin her singing; the one who sports super long, beautifully lacquered red nails to compensate for being told since she was little that she was ugly. She tells Dr. Darcy time and again that she’s always been a “mesquite…a girl no guy ever gives a second look at.” Yet, tell that to the slew of men who have seen past the nose and the slightly crooked eye to the beautiful woman inside: Elliot Gould, Jon Peters, Omar Sharif, even a former prime minister of Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and one of her dearest loves, Jon Peters, renowned hair stylist and lover of Hollywood’s most beautiful women. Their marriage was so hot, it sizzled. Add to that list Ryan O’Neal and her current husband, James Brolin, and it’s hard to believe Barbra Streisand still questions her beauty.
The thing is that, despite all her success on stage, in film and as a recording artist, buried underneath is a sad, insecure little girl who lost her daddy when she was very young and never truly got over it. Barbra often mentions “the hole that can never be filled” when a child loses his/her father. And what of her mother? With Dr. Darcy’s help, Barbra comes to understand her less positive feelings about this woman who rarely praised her daughter, even when she was at the top of her career, all of which provided Barbra with many reasons to keep proving her worth to herself and others. She was so driven to succeed, she wouldn’t let failed auditions, rejections, critical reviews or painful comments on her looks get in her way. Perhaps she felt if no one else loved her enough, she needed to love herself more, even when she hated herself. Over the course of the therapy sessions with Barbra Streisand, Dr. Darcy comes to love this crazy, larger-than-life woman on the couch who spills her guts, tosses in lots of Jewish phrases, bursts out laughing one minute and sobs in the doctor’s lap the next. She also realizes why so many people dislike Barbra Streisand.
The uber-talented “mesquite” from very humble, poor beginnings whom we meet in Barbra Streisand: On the Couch is a marvel. There is just about nothing she can’t do when she puts her mind to it. It’s impossible to come away from this book with anything but a warm, fuzzy feeling for this much adored songbird, as famous for her beak and her quirky, funny ways as for her voice and acting skills. Alma H. Bond has captured all that so well in Barbra Streisand: On the Couch that at times you feel you are watching Barbra on the screen, letting Dr. Darcy have it right between the eyes. This is the Barbra Streisand of Funny Girl behind the scenes. Just a wonderful read.