The salon at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is filled on New Year’s Eve with women applying glitter to eyes, nails, torsos, and hair. One woman is teasing a young brunette’s coif a good six inches out in every direction and lacquering it with enough spray to finish off the ozone layer. “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. She must really want to make a statement,” whispers another stylist, who’ll be toasting midnight alone. “My boyfriend is a chef in Paris,” she explains – meaning the casino with the faux Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.
The MGM employees are abuzz about the alleged memo issued to the hotel by the night’s star, Barbra Streisand, commanding staff not to look her in the eye (the bellboys walked into her room backwards). The rumors are reaching the ridiculous: “She’s even supposed to have two decoy Barbras walking around,” whispers a manicurist. “Do you think we would ever put something like that in a memo?” counters a Streisand spokesman. “Anyone in the business knows that putting something like that in writing would invite coverage.”
Rushing down the corridor to the show, past a store devoted to Barbra memorabilia – where sales of T-shirts, limited-edition champagne bottles, leather jackets, mugs, and sweatshirts have reportedly reached half a million – a man is reminiscing to a friend: “I saw Garland before she died, and I had to see Barbra – they say this might be her last show!”
A young man in seven-inch patent-leather stilettos and an ostrich coat stands next to a 12-year-old boy from Wisconsin and his mom, who has shelled out $5,000 for their tickets. “I couldn’t get through on the number, but my son did,” she explains. “So I’m here with him at midnight, and my husband is out gambling.” “This show changed our lives,” says a man with a group of friends he met on a Barbra Website, including the editor of the ‘zine Just Like Buttah. “And our bankbooks.”
“I’m completely in hysterics. I don’t have enough Kleenex for the second act,” sighs Jimmy, a 25-year-old waiter who spent $1,500 on his ticket. “He does a great Cher impersonation,” says his friend Sean, an employee of Chanel in Las Vegas. “And not a bad Barbra. C’mon, do it.” “No, I’m too emotional.” “Please?” “Okay. Hello, gorgeous,” Jimmy says, lifting his hands to his face and beaming. Another friend joins them, dressed in a purple pantsuit, his thick, shoe-polish-black do brushed back in a large wave. “He does impersonations too,” says Sean. Barbra – or Elvis? “No. He’s Joan Rivers.”