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Sunday, 3 December 2006

In Praise Of Marty -- New Barbra Byte

In Praise of Marty

by Allison J. Waldman

A funny thing happened while I was watching the new DVD release of “A Star Is Born.” I gained a new appreciation of Marty Erlichman. Don’t laugh – I’m serious. Its time to step back and evaluate the amazing job this man has done supporting, nurturing and enabling Barbra’s career for nearly five decades. The moment that brought Marty into focus for me was when Barbra pointed him out in “A Star Is Born.” Barbra’s commentary explained that Marty was playing a producer, a role he understood because he’d been a producer, and the behind the scenes look at the money men talking about the concert receipts while the artist is still on stage was likely a scene Marty had played in real life many times over. Then, almost casually, Barbra says, the moneymen only care about money, “But not my Marty.”
Wow! Doesn’t that say it all – “my Marty.” By using the possessive pronoun, Barbra reveals that Marty isn’t just anyone in her life; he’s her guy. Big brother, father confessor, loyal advocate, sage advisor, unflinching devotee, chief cook and protector extraordinaire – Martin Erlichman has been to Barbra Streisand just about the most important asset in her career.When Marty first entered Barbra’s life, she was truly a neophyte.
Barely out of school, struggling to make it as an actress while being wooed as a singer, an agent had already duped her. She was justifiably suspicious of the burly, young man who offered to be her personal manager. He convinced her of his sincerity by simply stating that he had no desire to change her; furthermore, he envisioned her future as grandly as she did. They shared the same dream. She would live it, he would facilitate it. Early on, Barbra realized that Marty wasn’t like other show biz handlers. She once said, “Others care about money; Marty cares about me.”It’s ironic that Barbra’s reference to Marty in “A Star Is Born” caught my attention because in reality, that was the film that caused a break in their relationship. For a while there, Jon Peters was acting as Barbra’s personal manager and Marty went off to work on other projects. You can read into that what you will. To me, I think it was a wise move by Marty.
He never lost touch with Barbra, but he let her live her life, and at that moment in time, Jon mattered most to her.Marty was back for “Yentl,” and everything since. He’s been hugely important in Barbra’s concert work, and he’s made sure to pave the way for whatever Barbra wants to do professionally. Reportedly, the only agreement between Barbra and Marty is a handshake. I don’t know if I believe they’ve never formalized their business with a contract, and if they haven’t, more power to them. Clearly, whatever the vibe, however they work it, somehow it’s been beyond successful. It’s funny -- I always knew Barbra had great talent when it came to entertaining. Now, I know she has a great talent for people, too.

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