The limousine with smoked windows swept up from Pacific Coast Highway , took a sharp left into the Californian coastal town of Santa Monica and glided to a stop outside the renowned Michael's Restaurant which has more stars than the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
About half a dozen biggish men in dark suits and glasses were waiting. So were a necklace of alert waiters around the patio and a clutch of earnest movie folk overdressed for a gala dinner -- and this was Sunday brunch. The smiles -- the Tinseltown teeth for once reclusive --were nervous.
There were shadows around and people talking into tiny microphones and one of the restaurant managers said there hadn't been such security since Vice President Al Gore came to dinner. His thoughts were interrupted as a valet parker lieutenant opened the door of the black limousine.
Barbara Streisand's hairdresser had arrived.
She seemed familiar with fuss. There was a quick nod in the direction of others in the Streisand advance guard and she was off upstairs with her magic grooming box. It was all that silly stardom thing but, in the circumstances, as strangely appropriate as such carry ons can be. Streisand's latest film ‘The Mirror Has Two Faces' is all about beauty and our perception of it.
Streisand was to talk about the third film she has directed -- after the musical ‘Yentl' and the psychological drama ‘Prince of Tides' -- this Sunday afternoon but also to be photographed. She guards her image like a Red Indian and no matter how many times she's told they're not going to steal her soul there's a tremendous amount of agony about it all. And a golden rule for the camera-clicking set -- only photographs of the left profile.
Suddenly from Stage Left , spirited through a private entrance, she was present with Susan the hairdresser by her side. She was elegant in a black silk dress, her hair shiny blonde, her skin radiant, shining with health like her famously long, cultured fingernails which seem to tap out D-I-V-A as she talks.
She'll be 55 in April and has been a superstar for more than three decades. The small talk centres on the business of being an icon. It must carry much baggage? ‘I'll say,' she says with understatement and a wary smile.
Apply the same approach to her work -- and Streisand is in the business of getting audiences to see her movie -- and ask if her icon status interferes with her film-making and we do better. Straight-faced she offers:
‘I'm a very normal person. I'm a stay-at-home nester. I'm always shocked when I go out in the world and people recognise me and I'm just like this: ‘' Oh,oh, I'm what's her name. Yeah, that's why they're looking at me.''
‘As a matter of fact that's why a lot of the times I don't like work because then it puts me in the public eye again and I get this false sense of attention. I enjoy me time alone and quiet times with people I love. I've never gotten used to this star stuff. I hate to wear high heels....'
But when she does she wears them perfectly. She has carried the perfectionist label with her for so long that it was inevitable that she would do something to celebrate life's imperfections.
She has always been contrary. She was a big show songster when everyone else was rocking ‘n rolling; doing screwball comedies when social statement movies were the vogue; a cheer and money leader for liberal causes (she raised millions for Clinton ) during the conservative 1980s and beyond.
She's been different , it seems, forever. She admits:' I was a strange kid. I was an honours student so I hung out with all those smart kids who wore oxfords and glasses but I always wanted to be an actress. I kind of dressed funny and bleached my hair and wore funny make-up. I was a real oddball.'
Which is what she plays in ‘The Mirror Has Two Faces' ( she carried the burden of star, director and producer) as college professor Rose who enters a no-sex-just-friends marriage with a colleague played by Jeff Bridges. It's laughing-through-the-tears romantic comedy material.
She's the dowdy professor (Streisand dressed down) whose platonic marriage becomes what we might call in America 's politically correct world sex-challenged when she becomes more sexually aware (Streisand all dressed up). Tears and trauma -- words that always seem to get into Streisand sentences -- follow.