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Monday, 29 August 2011

Piers Morgan - UK Column

David Foster, genius music producer for singers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson, came on my CNN show a few weeks ago with little Jackie Evancho – the 11-year-old America’s Got Talent superstar with the voice of an angel – and after the interview, he asked me who I’d most like to have as a guest.

‘Well, Barbra Streisand would be pretty high on the list,’ I said.

‘She’s a good friend of mine,’ he replied. ‘Why don’t I throw a dinner party for you both at my Malibu home so you can get to know each other?’

Tonight, I arrived at his sumptuous beachside house, and found myself among 14 other guests, including Donna Summer, legendary U.S. TV presenter and game-show host Regis Philbin and Dr Phil, the male version of Oprah Winfrey in America.

At 8pm, the great lady herself, Ms Streisand, swept into the room.

‘Mr Morgan,’ she exclaimed, ‘I loved that Christine O’Donnell interview!’

We were seated next to each other at the dinner table, and for the next two hours we barely exchanged a word with anyone else.

It’s so rare to meet a personal hero who lives up to expectation, but Barbra was if anything even more impressive than I imagined: smart, funny, warm, engaging and politically astute. 

Halfway through the meal, David Foster suggested I sing to the group. He was joking, but I seized the moment, dropping on bended knee, grasping Barbra’s hand and launching into a quite spectacularly bad rendition of The Way We Were – the movie is one of my all-time favourites – as Foster rapidly accompanied me on the piano.

As I wailed away, I caught sight of Donna Summer grimacing in a way that suggested either sudden acute appendicitis or sheer agony induced by the power of my vocal range.

‘That was very... nice, thank you,’ said Barbra, trying to be gracious, before exploding into fits of giggles.

‘Will you sing for us later?’ I asked.

‘Nooooo,’ she replied, firmly. ‘I never sing at parties.’

‘Why not?’

‘I feel uncomfortable performing to an audience where I can see the faces looking at me. I’ve always suffered from stage fright, but as long as I can’t see the faces, I’m usually OK. Singing at a dinner party like this would freak me out!’

I, tragically, have no such qualms.

Later in the evening, during an impromptu group sing-song, I performed again, belting out Let It Be on the piano until I was howled down.

Fortunately, the night was saved by Donna Summer singing Amazing Grace, Regis crooning Sinatra and Foster’s hot new act, a very talented group called the Canadian Tenors, performing an exclusive set just for us.

‘How about an interview?’ I asked Barbra as we left.

She smiled. ‘Maybe.’

Then came the immortal words: ‘Piers, can I have your phone number?’

I scrabbled for a pen and paper.

‘I’ll be in touch,’ she purred.

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