Simone meets my first crush, Barbra

10 Jun

Simone’s new favorite movie is Hello, Dolly!

She loves it. As it was one of my dad’s favorites, too, I watched it a lot when I was growing up. It isn’t cool—it’s too long and the acting is uneven—but it’s fun. But the acting is histrionic and spotty; even Walter Matthau, one of the great under-players in cinema, seems over the top. But some of the song/dance numbers are great, Gene Kelley was a very fine director, and it has a young Barbra Streisand. Simone changes into a dress and ballerina shoes when “Put On Your Sunday Best” comes on. It’s adorable.

Here she is, my first flame.

Streisand, it must be said, was my first crush. Blame What’s Up, Doc?, one of the few screwball comedies that hasn’t dated much at all. It’s still really good. Streisand is witty and sharp, conniving and gorgeous with those otherworldly eyes. She radiates a sexual intelligence, a charming worldliness. To my ten-year-old eyes, she was stunning. (There’s a scene where she stands up in a bathtub . . . and my chaste childhood self transformed, momentarily, into a pervert.) She was, in a word, the cat’s meow.

Yep, still the cat’s meow.

I next saw Streisand in The Owl and the Pussycat, opposite John Segal. I haven’t seen it since I was 13, but I remember her being beautiful and funny, curvaceous, liberated. I can still see the black negligee with the purple paws.

I never really got over my crush on Barbra, even after I heard her middle brow records, saw Yentl. She was replaced with a variety of actresses in my youth: Donna Reed, Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, Kelly Kapowski. But she remains fixed in my memory, the beginning of something other than innocence and play and youth.

Revisiting her after all these years is a strange experience.

Simone, for her part, seems indifferent to Michael Crawford’s charms.

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