The exceptionally robust roster of performances that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have lined up for the 85th Academy Awards includes a tribute to movie musicals, Adele, Norah Jones … and Barbra Streisand, returning to the Oscars for her first performance in 36 years. It will, no doubt, be an electric moment, but Zadan and Meron had better be prepared for some drama before she walks on stage — as always from stage left, because that‘s her good side.
A few examples from the supreme pop diva‘s fascinating and occasionally stormy Oscar history may give some idea why one crew member watched the elaborate precautions that were undertaken before Bart the Bear appeared on the show in 1998 — an electrified fence, a special enclosure behind the theater, an armed guard — and muttered, "A lot of special preparations. But nowhere near Streisand."
1968: Appearing for the first time, Streisand gave the Best Original Song award to "Talk to the Animals," which beat out a field that also included "The Look of Love" and "The Bear Necessities." When asked afterward why she appeared so unenthusiastic, she was quoted (erroneously, she later insisted) as saying, "Quite honestly, I don‘t think any of the nominated songs were worthy of an Oscar, so I couldn‘t pretend any excitement I couldn‘t feel."
1969: Streisand was a Best Actress nominee for "Funny Girl" — and the object of grumbling because she'd been invited to join the Academy before the film was even released. "When an actress has played a great role on the stage and is coming into films for what will obviously be an important career,“ explained AMPAS president Gregory Peck, "it is ridiculous to make her wait two or three years for membership."
The vote ended in a tie between Streisand and Katharine Hepburn — so if Streisand voted for herself, she owed her Oscar to Peck's early-entrance policy. She accepted the award wearing what appeared to be see-through pajamas and greeted the statuette with her iconic line, "Hello, gorgeous!“
1974: Streisand received another Best Actress nomination, this one for "The Way We Were." According to Academy president Walter Mirisch, she agreed to attend the ceremony but didn‘t want people to know she was there unless she won. She didn‘t (Glenda Jackson did), and she spent the entire ceremony backstage.
1977: Streisand sang the "A Star Is Born" theme "Evergreen," then won her second Oscar for co-writing the song. "In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would win an Oscar for writing a song," she said. Added her co-writer Paul Williams, "I was going to thank all the little people, and then I remembered I am the little people."
1992: "The Prince of Tides" received seven nominations, including Best Picture. But director Streisand was overlooked, just as she had been seven years earlier when her previous directorial effort, "Yentl," got five noms. "I‘m trying not to take it too personally," said Streisand, who nonetheless watched the show from a front-row seat.
1997: Nominated for co-writing "I Finally Found Someone" from "The Mirror Has Two Faces," she again was passed over for directing and starring in the film. She declined to perform on the show, but when her sub, Natalie Cole, got sick two days before the Oscars, Streisand‘s manager called producer Gil Cates and sent up a trial balloon: If Barbra was able to perform, could they clear enough rehearsal time to accommodate her? (They couldn‘t … and went with the lower-maintenance Celine Dion.) Streisand was not in her seat during Dion‘s performance — her publicist said she was in the bathroom — but during that same segment, she was spotted watching from a tunnel inside the auditorium but outside of camera range.
2005: Appearing to present the Best Picture award with Dustin Hoffman, Streisand came in through the loading dock rather than walking the red carpet. As she ducked into a freight elevator that would take her downstairs to her dressing room, she shielded herself from photographers by holding a small dog in front of her face.
2010: After years of being snubbed by voters in the Directors Branch, she got revenge of sorts. At the 82nd Academy Awards, she was asked to present the Best Director award, which went to the first (and only) woman ever to win it, "The Hurt Locker’s" Kathryn Bigelow.