November 27, 2013

"Memories" - Back 2 Brooklyn

Barbra Toasts the Crowd at Barclays 
"Happy Days Are Here Again"... Barbra is back in the news. So to celebrate the DVD/CD release of Barbra Streisand's "Back to Brooklyn" Concert and the PBS Special, I've decided to share one of my most popular posts again. Of course there are a few changes made to the original post. Since my initial story,  I finally got to see Barbra in concert for the first time at "Back to Brooklyn". The story I wrote about meeting Barbra was also published and included in "Barbra Memories" coinciding with her concert. I attended the book signing in NYC and the book was even presented to Barbra by the author Ally Waldman.  

So what do you do when you finally get a chance to meet a celebrity you've admired your entire life? I am not a fanatic, but Barbra's career has been meaningful to me ever since I can recall. My daily vocabulary usually includes lines from her movies or songs. "Don't tell me not to live just sit and putter..."

My connection to Barbra was only through her work, that has been the extent of it. I was never fortunate enough to see (or able to afford) one of her rare live concerts. We both have a similar rhythm that comes from being native New Yorkers. I learned to question things and see things differently because she made me aware of this at a very young age. I am eternally grateful to her for that. "Papa, can you hear me? Try to understand me..."

I entered a contest through Sony Records that coincided with the release of her recording "What Matters Most" and during the filming of "The Guilt Trip" (originally titled "My Mother's Curse"). There was one winner and it was ME... OMG! I was chosen to meet Barbra Streisand in Las Vegas on the set of her movie. "It's gonna be a great day..."

That's ME on Barbra's Official Website
Sooooo, what the hell do you say to an icon when you finally get to meet her? I had a list of things I wanted to say, but I was just overwhelmed with emotion and not able to do my "checklist". The first glimpse I caught of her is when she appeared on the set. I was about 20 feet away from her and I could not believe I was watching Barbra shoot a scene and I was actually gonna meet her in a few minutes! My armpits were wet, my mouth was dry, my lips were tense and I was doing my deep breathing to help calm me for what seemed like an eternity. "There are moments you remember all your life. There are moments you wait for and dream of all your life. This is one of those moments..."

During a break in the filming, she looked my way and rushed towards me, almost tripping over the velvet rope. She pointed at me and said "Ohhhhh you're the winner!" and then extended her hand towards me. Holy shit! She came towards ME and spoke to ME. (And yes her hands were incredibly soft "like buttah"). I was almost at a loss for words, which is rare for those that know me. I introduced myself and she was "sweet as pie" not "tough as leather". We talked about her upcoming album and I told her I loved one of the preview cuts I heard. She asked which one, so I sang a few lines. OMG, I sang to Barbra Streisand - what chutzpah! I wished her Mazel Tov on the success of her new CD. When I told her that she was my first wedding gift, she looked at me like I was crazy. "Whaddya tawkin' about, kid"?
"Ohhhhh you're the winner"
I explained that my partner and I would finally be "allowed" to get married and were returning to NYC to do it! She wished us lots of luck and said "it's about time, I'm so happy for you." She immediately asked her photographer to take some photos and he suggested to shoot on the set, since the lighting was better. I agreed! We walked over to the set together, which was in the lobby at Caesar's Palace in Vegas. I said "Wait a minute, I wanna get my good side". She looked at me and said "Which is your good side"? I said "you tell me, you're the director". She laughed. OMG! I made Barbra Streisand laugh AND congratulate me all within a few minutes. She was so warm, engaging and genuine. After the photo shoot, she told me to ..."stick around for as long as I want to...". Wow! She liked me, she really liked me! But I kept thinking -  "Nicky Arnstein, Nicky Arnstein... I'll never see her again." NOT true, I was on and off the set for the rest of the night and she even asked if I wanted to be in a scene at the slot machines - OMG, yes! Somewhere in between all that, I gathered up the courage to ask if I could get some vintage magazines autographed that I brought with me. She not only signed them, she signed them in the specific color markers I brought! WTF? "Extra, extra I'm in love. I'm gonna thank my lucky stars above..."

Book Signing of "Barbra Memories"
At the end of the night, which slowly turned into morning, I was exhausted. I was leaving the set when Barbra's publicist asked if I was leaving already? I said it's really late and it was one helluva night for me, BUT if Barbra wants a glass of champagne when she wraps, I'll be waiting for her. The anticipation, the preparation, the traveling, the uncertainty, the meeting, the conversation, the photos, the laughter all the "memories" truly made it a once in a lifetime experience and I was one lucky guy. I mean "How lucky can you get?" And as Barbra said in "Yentl"... "Nothing is impossible". Of course she was right... once again!

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