After Barbra‘s audition for The Bon Soir, she, Barre and I went back to the Pam Pam where Barre gave her notes, comments on her performance — the pluses and minuses. I was sitting, reliving the experience — my mind going a mile a minute!
A little backstory: I’d studied classical piano most of my life with the thought of performing as a career. That all changed when as a finalist in a piano competition at San Francisco’s Steinway Hall, I was beaten by a young woman who, we learned later, had studied with one of the judges! Coincidentally. Of course.
My teacher Noah Steinberg, who’d been a friend of Schnabel and had himself retired from concertizing fatigued from the politics involved, just smiled — and I got his meaning.
So back to the Pam Pam with me remembering Barbra’s amazing instinctual musicianship … Barbra turned to me and asked, “so what did you think?” I tried to speak but I couldn’t produce a sound. Instead, my mouth opened wide and I felt tears welling and running down my cheek.
Barbra looked a bit alarmed and a bit embarrassed and went back to cross examining Barre for more advice — discreetly checking from time to time to see if I were alright.
Meanwhile, my life went on, exploring New York by subway and bus, which was just beginning a period of development not seen since the 1920s!
And Village coffee houses …
And bars, which was startling to my parents who entertained with liquor from the bar in our den only.
These were faces like none I’d seen in Los Angeles!
I decided it was time to really concentrate on building a visual personality for Barbra that would demonstrate how amazingly special she was. She was so self-conscious about her nose, really didn’t like it, and declared that as soon as she made enough money, she’d do something about it!
I hated the idea and told her that if she had a nose job, she’d need a bit of chin augmentation to balance, but would then look like everybody else! (“in Beverly Hills,” I was thinking).
But she was adamant!
I told her that if she had a nose job, neither Richard Avedon nor Cecil Beaton would ever be interested in photographing her. I proceeded to show her photographs by Avedon of some of the beauties Truman Capote had named “Swans.”
She liked the idea and the comparisons, but still — “AND IT WILL, of course, CHANGE YOUR VOICE!” I added.
That did it.
So she said, “what if the tip could be narrowed? Just the tiniest bit?”
“Maybe,” I said.