Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Saw a bit of "Funny Girl" last night, the Barbara Streisand movie loosely based on the life of Fanny Brice.

I remember Fanny Brice from her radio program, Baby Snooks, in which she was a sort of female Dennis the Menace to Hanley Stafford's Mr. Wilson.

Apparently at 18 she had a beautiful voice and was a member of the Ziegfield Follies.

She became a noted comediene. While she became famous for her ethnic humor based mainly on the lives of Jewish imigrants, she was born in Brooklyn and picked up her characterizations from her early days working in her father's bar.

She tried to distance herself from her humble beginnings and when she had cosmetic surgery the satterist, Dorothy Parker, coined the phrase, "She cut off her nose to spite her race."

The love of her life, Nick Arnstein, was portrayed in the movie by the sophisticated Omar Sharif as a high roller gambler. Actually, Nick was a small time con man who was in and out of prison.

Ms Brice spent a fortune on defense when Arnstein was caught in a bond heist. At one point the prosecutor referred to him as the mastermind of the gang. Brice shouted out, "Nicki couldn't mastermind his way out of a paper bag."

If one is to believe the book, Hit andRun: How Jon Peters and Peter Gruber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood" by Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters there is a paralell with Streisand.

Their version of the story is that Jon Peters, a Rodeo Drive hair-dresser, told all of his clients that he was personal hair-dresser to Barbara Streisand the fact being he had never met her.

When an order came to the salon for an emergency house call, Jon slipped the fellow assigned to the job a couple of hundred dollars and sped out the Streisand Malibu home. The authors maintain that over the course of the set and rinse Jon became her lover and business manager.

He produced a record album for her and a couple of highly successful movies.

He was more then a Svengali to her Trilby. She had tended to be shy and reclusive. He built her confidence and after he left her to become co-head of MGM studios through contacts he made made managing Ms. S and at which the authors claim he bilked Sony out of billions she went on to produce, direct and star in Academy award quality movies.

Just as the movie glamorizes Arnstein, in the book on Peters I don't remember the authors mentioning that his family owned the upscale beauty solon and that he had made millions selling a cosmetics line before he met Streisand.


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