When Babs Was Fab

Barbra Streisand appeared on the Jack Paar Show in 1961 when she was a little-known singer performing at Detroit’s Caucus Club

YouTube, the wildly popular video-sharing site (youtube.com), is a mammoth hit with youth and was devised by three young guys.

But hiding among the avalanche of mostly contemporary content are some bites with throwback appeal. For instance, we ferreted out one clip with a Detroit connection, a 1961 segment from The Jack Paar Show featuring the network TV debut of a largely unknown chanteuse by the name of Barbra Streisand.


What’s that have to do with Detroit? At the time, Streisand had a gig at The Caucus Club in the Penobscot Building, and as guest host Orson Bean explains, the show had the singer “flown in from Detroit” so she could perform on the New York-based program. In the intro before she comes onstage, there’s even a still photo showing Streisand, then 19, at the downtown Detroit club. After singing an expressive “A Sleepin’ Bee,” with her distinctly clarion voice, a starry-eyed Babs chats with Bean and fellow guest Phyllis Diller, who trumpets Streisand as “one of the great singing talents in the world.”

Streisand, who’s never made a secret of her stage fright, complains how cold her hands are, at which point Diller surrenders her white gloves to the singer. Streisand tells Bean that her friends in Detroit are watching, and that they sent flowers. She also thanks the Robinson Furniture Company in Detroit because they provided the upholstery for a dress she’s wearing.

The old clip may not eclipse the politically infamous “Obama Girl” in popularity, but the famously Democratic Streisand today is an Obama Girl in her own way. She’s donated money to Barack Obama’s campaign, as well as to Hillary Clinton’s and John Edwards’.
— George Bulanda