Posts Tagged ‘ABC’

Israel at 30: When Streisand Sang for Golda

May 28, 2008

Barbra and Golda

I mentioned earlier that I had something up my sleeve for Israel’s 60th birthday celebration. It took more time than I wanted to put together. But here’s a piece for Nextbook that describes how America did it 30 years ago.

It’s hard even to believe now, but ABC put together a prime time variety show capped by an amazing Streisand performance. (This was, after all, the network that gave us “The Battle of the Network Stars.”)

I spoke to two great show business men to get the inside scoop — Buz Kohan and Charlie Fishman. Kohan is a veteran of scores of memorable t.v. shows, such as “Motown 25,” where Michael Jackson unveiled the moonwalk, to “Muhammed Ali’s 50th Birthday Celebration.” He is also the patriarch of a Hollywood family: his son, David, created “Will and Grace;” his daughter, Jenji, “Weeds.” For his part, Fishman is the head of Washington D.C.’s Duke Ellington Jazz Festival and a former manager of Dizzy Gillespie. Here is an excerpt of the piece:

“Fishman had brought Stan Getz to Israel in 1977, a trip filmed for the 1978 documentary Stan Getz: A Musical Odyssey. ‘How do you break away from the late night television?’ Fishman remembers asking himself. ‘I sat back and said, ‘What would be the hippest thing to do? What would be the biggest star-power thing to do?’ ‘

No other Jewish American performer of the time was as big as Streisand. This was little more than a year after the release of A Star Is Born, which had garnered her an Oscar for the song ‘Evergreen.’ Fishman enlisted producer James Lipton, now famous for Inside the Actors Studio, and director Marty Pasetta, another award-show veteran, and set to work getting Streisand. She was interested, but had her own conditions: She wanted to sing accompanied by Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. So that’s exactly what she got. And with the strength of Streisand’s name, Fishman and company sold the show to ABC.

In the days before the show aired, Kohan and Mehta went to Streisand’s home to help her prepare. ‘She wanted to sing ‘Hatikvah,’ only she didn’t know’ the song, Kohan recalls. Kohan picked up the phone, called his wife, Rhea, and asked her to sing the song to Streisand. ‘I hope she’s not intimidated,’ Rhea quipped before launching into it.

Streisand’s preparation worked. For the organizers, the result was transcendent. ‘She was remarkable,’ says Kohan. ‘Everybody was impressed with the last twenty minutes of the show.’ ”

You can watch Streisand here.

Obama v. Hillary: Showdown in Philadelphia

April 15, 2008

Showdown in Philly


Philadelphia won’t be the City of Brotherly Love tomorrow night when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debate for the first time in seven weeks. That last debate was a long time ago, some seven weeks, before Jeremiah Wright and before Obama called small town folk “bitter.”

This scenario holds a frightening prospect for Obama who is the favorite for the nomination but hasn’t put it away yet. Typically front-runners want to run out the clock. Plus, the debate will be televised on network television, which will lead to higher ratings than events on cable. “This debate could garner the most viewers of any of the debates — there have been more than 20 during the past year — according to a Northeastern University associate professor and expert on presidential debates, Alan Schroeder. Unlike most debates in this interminable election, which have been relegated to the backwaters of cable, tomorrow night’s discussion will be on network television, ABC, during prime time.”

Read my New York Sun column here.