Misty watercolor memories

"I knew for the most certain sure that I would meet my idol on her Israel tour... [b]ut someone forgot to inform Babs of the plan".

Barbra Streisand 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Barbra Streisand 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I knew exactly what I would say to Barbra Streisand when I saw her: I would take her hand with those marvelous nails, control my breathlessness at actually seeing her breathe, and tell her how her music had been the soundtrack to my life. I’d explain that in the olden days I had sponja’d my floor to the floating sounds of “Memories,” and some of my own fondest memories are of washing up after Friday night dinner, with “And we’ve got nothing to be guilty – FOR!” pulsing through our home as Martin and I swung through the chores. “What a voice!” I would say, always, as she hit those high notes so effortlessly. “I LOOOVE her.”
“She speaks very highly of you, too,” my handsome husband would reply as he wiped down the surfaces.
“Now let’s have a cup of tea.”
I knew for the most certain sure that I would meet my idol on her Israel tour, that I would tell her about Martin, that we would become BFFs, as they say – best friends forever. But someone forgot to inform Babs of the plan, and she came and went without our date, though I did see her from the cheap seats at her (magical) show. However, I did get to spend a morning with one of her entourage: the manager of the stunning trumpet player, Chris Botti, and the wonderful violinist, Lucia Micarelli, who accompanied Streisand on stage. And have coffee with Bobby Colomby, manager to stars and a twinkling superstar himself. (If you don’t feel like Googling, Colomby founded and drummed for Blood, Sweat and Tears and provided the music for the film The Owl and the Pussycat – starring, of course, Barbra alongside George Segal.) You know his music, too: “What goes up, must come down / spinning wheel, round and round …’ and “You make me so / very happy, you make me so very happy, baby / I’m so glad you came into myy- y life.”
So there we were, Bobby and I, overlooking the sea from the lobby of his Tel Aviv hotel and chatting about his buddies: Bob, and Jimi, and Janis, and Paul and Joni, and Michael J. and the like.
Feeling good was easy now when Bobby told of how he headlined Woodstock and the days of sell-out concerts everywhere, including behind the Iron Curtain, where people came to hear the band’s innovative fusion of jazz, rock and pop for the first time ever. I knew about Woodstock, and I could sing along to the B, S & T songs, but who knew that their drummer was Jewish? Yup, the Colomby seniors fled Berlin in 1939 after Kristallnacht. Bobby’s father was briefly incarcerated in a concentration camp, and his mother was almost hanged by Nazis as she attempted to wipe “Juden” off the window of the family jewelry store.
Then it was time for photos. The drummer on “I’ll love you more than you’ll ever kno-o-ow” shows me how to use his camera, and he snaps 10 pictures of me and changes the settings and shoots some more, and then he shows me how to capture him on film. Fun.
“And now a shot of us together,” I say, although it’s pretty tacky. Barbara Walters would probably not ask for a snapshot, but hey, we can’t all be supercool.
So the man who produced Michael Jackson and offered advice to Mitchell and heard Paul Simon strumming new chords stands behind me and gives me a shoulder massage while a waitress captures it all as proof.
“Smile,” says the B, S and T legend.
“I can’t,” I reply.
“Why not?” “Because I’m sad,” I explain, unable to process that Martin was not the one behind the shutter as he always was when I was interviewing celebs – proud and happy and alive. And, of course, so, so gorgeous.
How can I be hearing about jamming with Jimi without my husband by my side – Martin adored Hendrix. And how peculiar to get this great massage from someone else’s hands.
“Why are you sad?” “Because I’m missing my husband,” I say, and I wonder whether I’ll cry.
“But your husband’s dead,” retorts Colomby, raising an eyebrow.
“Umm,” I say, “that’s why I’m sad.”
“GET OVER IT,” says the drummer – “he’s dead.
That’s the situation. Get. Over. It.”
“Oh, Bobby,” I say, and I manage to smile: “How simple is that? Why didn’t I think of it?” Ooofff, but it’s easier said than done. Meanwhile, it seems that life is a heartbreaking twist on another song of the 1960s. “Even the bad times are good / Soon as you get to me, Bai-bee” becomes “Even the good times are sad / Because you aren’t here with me, baby…” and Babs’s concert was a case in point. Our angel spoke about her precious dad and wrapped her voice around “Papa, can you hear me?” and, right in the middle of our ecstasy, my girls and I were demolished.
And then she brought out her sister, with identical hair, and in perfect harmony they told us what to do: Smile, though your heart is aching / Smile even though it’s breaking / When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by / If you smile through your fears and sorrow / Smile and maybe tomorrow / You’ll see the sun come shining through, for you / Just light up your face with gladness / Hide every trace of sadness /Although a tear may be ever so near / That’s the time you must keep on trying / Smile, what’s the use of crying? / You’ll find that life is still worthwhile / If you just smile … Barbra, can you hear me? You are still the soundtrack to my life.
The writer is a lecturer at Beit Berl College and the IDC. She collaboratively runs MaP workshops to discover one’s authentic voice through art and writing.