Hello Gorgeous! A Streisand Shrine in S.F.
Barbra. Babs. Streisand. The woman is everywhere these days, bigger and more popular than ever. She stars in movies. She directs the movies she stars in and then she records the soundtracks. She launches comeback concert tours, charges the highest ticket prices ever and sells out. Her critics call her demanding, difficult and egocentric. Her ever growing legion of fans say she has integrity, vision, talent and chutzpah. Her icon status was sealed when the worship of Barbra became a character in and of itself in the Saturday Night Live skit "Coffee Talk." With a track record like that, something like this was bound to happen...Walking down the main drag of the Castro District, San Francisco's Gay epicenter, I stumbled across Hello Gorgeous! a tribute museum to Barbra Streisand. At first I thought "This can't be?!" but then I thought "But of course, it HAD to be!" All things Barbra led to this.I could have walked right by the place, tucked away as it is between a shoe repair and clothing store, were it not for the TV hanging above the side walk playing Funny Girl. I stopped looked up and saw the green neon "Hello Gorgeous" sign, saw the first of several life-sized Barbra mannequins in the window and thought heck, I'll pay the $2.50, this I gotta see.The brain child of curator/owner Ken Joachim, "Hello Gorgeous" is part museum, part tribute and part gift store galore. A long-time fan, Joachim felt inspired to pay homage to Streisand and her incredible body of work while pursuing his dream of running his own business. To him, like many fans, Barbra represents the odd one out who turned things around and made them work for her. Building this shrine was a way of living his dream and he hopes this will bolster that feeling in other people as well.The museum part has several different kinds of displays. There are life-sized mannequins throughout, representing Streisand in different movies or periods of her career. Each mannequin is hand carved, made-up and dressed as one of her characters in her movies. The curators choose one movie every few months to recreate throughout the museum. Funny Girl was the pick this month so there was a mannequin dressed up from the scene in the movie where Fanny Brice dresses up as a pregnant bride. This particular mannequin will be eventually donated as part of the Jewish Museum of Chicago's exhibit on Jewish Humor. Not too shabby!Some of the exhibits are so-called "interactive," which may be more impressive when they have the animatronic mannequins installed (a dream for the future) but right now consist mainly of pressing a button and hearing a Streisand tune crackle through tinny speakers. An exception to this is the very clever "My Name is Barbra" display which celebrates her first television special. An all aqua living room has been recreated circa 1965 complete with TV dinner and portrait of J.F.K. The gallery room exhibits oil paintings of some of the most famous Streisand photos and movie scenes. They cover her 35 year career and you can wander the room and see how her hairstyles, makeup and clothing changed through the years.Although a little weak on the actual Barbra memorabilia, the museum is slowly acquiring actual Streisand articles. There are shirts she wore in "The Main Event" and "Yentl" and several items purchased at the famous Malibu Deco house auction . There's a touching showcase honoring Barbra's Jewish heritage (featuring a Barbra head wearing a Talit) and the playbill from her first Broadway play Another Evening with Harry Stoones (it closed after one night).Now the part you've all been waiting for: But what can we buy? This is where a place like this gets truly surreal for a fair weather fan like myself.Everything is Barbra. There are Barbra watches, postcards, t-shirts, hats, mugs, sweatshirts, ties, blankets, super Karaoke cassettes, bags, cards, any magazine that she's been in or on, posters, clocks, votive holders, jewelry, key chains, scripts, stills, photos, and of course the reproductions of the oil paintings from the gallery.You can not only get stuff about Barbra but you can purchase stuff inspired by her such as sunglasses, hats or berets. They also sell packets of fake nails called "Nails Like Buddah."They carry every recording still in print and then some. Most are on CD or cassette, some even on 8-track and LP. There are videos of her films and specials and several magazines devoted solely to Streisand including Just Like Buttah, Barbra Quarterly, Barbrabilia and the museum's own Hello Gorgeous. The gift store also carries items on consignment from collectors many of which are one of a kind and always changing. If you can't find it here then it probably doesn't exist and you sure don't need it.Although off to a modest start, Hello Gorgeous! is gaining a reputation among Barbra aficionados. Tri Star pictures requested they provide several mannequins for the premier of The Mirror Has Two Faces Streisand's latest directorial feature. Fans are also flocking to the monthly "Talk Amongst Yourselves" lecture series featuring experts on Barbra memorabilia as well as other Barbra related topics.Has Barbra herself been here? That, according to owner Joachim, is the most frequently asked question. Unfortunately the answer is no which upsets her fans a great deal. But after spending sometime here, it seems to me that this place, although dedicated to all that Barbra has done and represents, is not a place for her, but a place for her fans and admirers to celebrate all that is Barbra Streisand.Her longtime manager did come in one day and checked the place out. Shortly there after, a note arrived from Barbra herself which reads "A Jewish Shrine? Thanks and Best Wishes, Barbra Streisand." Kind of says it all.