For four decades Barbra Streisand hasn’t just belted out hits, she has (inspired lasting memories. Rosie O’Donnell remembers sitting in her kitchen at age 4, listening to her mother sing “Second Hand Rose” while making chicken noodle soup. Actress Lorraine Bracco, who as a kid wore out the grooves of her Funny Girl album, says Streisand “made me believe that a girl from Brooklyn can do or be anything.”
And so they came, the believers, the famous and uncelebrated alike, to see Streisand, 58, perform in her final four concerts, two at L.A.’s Staples Center on Sept. 20 and 21, then two at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Sept. 27 and 28. No price was too high (top seats went for $2,500; nosebleeds for $125), no inconvenience too great. For a Manhattan show, Brooke Shields jetted in from Canada. In L.A., Salma Hayek flew her mother from Mexico because “it was her dream to see her all her life.”
The singer, who held court for two hours at each of her shows, was far from the awkward Brooklyn girl who opened for comedian Renee Taylor at Manhattan’s Bon Soir in 1961. Taylor, 67, the mom on TV’s now-defunct The Nanny, recalls how Streisand used to borrow her stockings, then whip them off as she came offstage so Taylor could use them herself. “Stockings were a lot of money back then,” she says.
Before closing with “People,” Streisand, married since 1998 to actor James Brolin, 60, said that she was quitting the concert stage, though not the silver screen or recording studio, to have “more time to live life.” But people—people who need Barbra—refuse to accept this. Says the diva’s longtime friend Jesse Jackson: “We demand an encore.”