Oprah: There's not another one like it. When did you know that?
Barbra: I don't know.
Oprah: You still don't know it! Do you listen to your own music?
Barbra: Never. Lately, I've had to play my old records because I'm preparing a show. For a few of the songs, I thought, This girl's good.
Oprah: Which songs?
Barbra: Seventies songs like "Since I Fell for You" and "Kind of Man a Woman Needs", which I may try to sing again.
Oprah: Let me ask you this: When did you know who you were?
Barbra: Very early. I was kind of a wild child, like an animal. I could never sit still at a table—not that my family ever sat down and ate a meal together. I used to stand over the stove and eat out of a pot. There was no mealtime. I have no idea when my brother and sister ate, because I came in whenever I wanted. I also taught my mother how to smoke when I was 10.
Oprah: She let you smoke?
Barbra: Actually, I went up on the roof and smoked Pall Malls.
Oprah: When did you stop?
Barbra: When I was 12.
Oprah: What a childhood! Did you have any refuge?
Barbra: Well, I didn't have my own room. I slept in the living room till I was 13. My brother had this tiny room, and one day when my stepfather was being mean, I went in there to get away. I was lying on my brother's bed and I had an out-of-body experience. I actually saw myself down on the bed from the ceiling. It scared the hell out of me.
Oprah: I heard that you once tried to contact your father's spirit with a medium.
Barbra: I did. My brother is a very meat-and-potatoes guy, no woo-woo. But he told me about a woman, a regular housewife, who had a spiritual guide who could call up "Daddy's spirit." My brother said he'd seen the table move across the room when he'd met her. I was very skeptical, and I said, "I've gotta see this for myself." For 39 years, I hadn't even visited my father's grave. So first, I went there and took a picture with my arm around his tombstone. It's the only picture I have with him. Then we met with the woman, and let me tell you, the table moved.
Oprah: Were there cards on the table?
Barbra: No. You start listing letters—A-B-C-D-E-F-G—and the table leg lifts when you get to the right one. It spelled M-A-N. S0 we asked, "Is it Manny?" That was my father's nickname. If the leg stomps yes, which it did, then you don't have to spell the rest of the letters. Then it spelled B-A-R—you know, a message for Barbra. I was totally freaked out. And that message was the simplest word: Sorry.
> I'm sure he was sorry. He didn't see my life. I couldn't talk to him about intellectual things. My father was a teacher and a scholar. He taught high school and juvenile delinquents at a reformatory.
On the plane home from that experience, I read one of my father's two doctoral theses. It was about how to teach English to prisoners. It was all about Ibsen and Shakespeare and Chekhov. When I was 16, I had devoured Chekhov and Ibsen—all the plays I wanted to act in. By the way, a week after I got home, my brother sent me the picture from the cemetery. On the tombstone next to my father was the name Anchel, which I hadn't seen when I was there. That happens to be the name of the character I played in the movie Yentl. I hadn't yet decided whether to direct the film or not. This made my decision.
We Hear You!