People may need people, but if they were the type who need George W. Bush — and, in fairness, who knew we had those in Manhattan? — they were very unlucky at Barbra Streisand’s latest farewell concert at Madison Square Garden last night.
It was her first show at the arena since a previous farewell concert in 2000, and Streisand larded it with shtick including a skit starring a Bush impersonator. The bit got mostly applause but also some jeers. After one fan yelled something — we couldn’t make it out, but witnesses suggest it was “Communist!” — Barbra had had enough. “Shut the fuck up, would you?” she yelled back. “Shut the fuck up if you can’t take a joke.” Ah, the art of making art.
Among Streisand’s most natural constituency these things went over only somewhat better. “She’s got balls,” said George Gustafson, 49, of New Haven, after the show. He was there with his partner Gary Gustafson, also 49, but Gary wasn’t as forgiving. “He’s the leader of our country, and I think we should respect him.” Oy. On her way out, a woman behind us muttered, “We’re not paying money to see politics.”
Paying money they certainly were — $754 for floor seats at face value. Many fans felt they could do better, and the scalper section by the Penn Station taxi stand on Seventh Avenue was a buyer’s market. A guy named Michael held up two $354 tickets, which he’d hoped to sell for $500 each on Craigslist. Eventually he got $200 for the pair. (He may not have been helped by his location, alongside a parked police van that kept announcing, “For your protection, do not buy tickets outside Madison Square Garden.”) Just before the concert began, around 8:25, another scalper was willing to dump a seat for $30. Indeed, demand was so low that George and Gary Gustafson happily gave us their extra ticket.
Which is how we can report that until her outburst, Barbra kept her chatter light. She made references to Yonah Schimmel’s knishes and Zabar’s bialys. Spotting Oprah Winfrey in the front row, she gushed, “Hi, Oprah! You look so thin.” And she didn’t meet every fan’s outcry with an invective. When one shouted out, “I want to marry you, and I’m gay!” Barbra responded, “There are gay people here?”
— Zachary Pincus-Roth