In Tune with June!

She has a career spanning six decades and her rewards are so many that I can only sum it up by saying she’s been honored with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, and also a Peabody. I’m referring to Barbra Streisand. Her early life was not an easy one. After her first birthday her father died suddenly at age 34. Streisand’s family fell into near poverty and she still remembers those early years as always feeling like an outcast. “Everybody else’s father came home from work at the end of the day. Mine didn’t.” Her mother couldn’t give her daughter the attention she craved. “When I wanted love from my mother, she gave me food.” Streisand always wanted to be somebody, to be famous. “You know, get out of Brooklyn.” Her desires were strengthened by wanting to prove to her mother that “I could be a star.” The multi-talented gal improved her stage presence by speaking to the audience between songs and she discovered that her Brooklyn-bred humor was received favorably. During an early phase of her career she sang “Happy Days Are Here Again” and it became her signature song. Two others, “People” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade” as entertainer Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” were also signature songs. Recently I caught “Funny Girl” on TCM and thoroughly enjoyed it. Among her many famous roles there was one with Robert Redford, “The Way We Were.” Did you ever wonder why she dropped the second “a” from her first name? The answer is simple: she disliked her original one. The lady is an individualist, always interesting – the sign of a true star. Barbra Streisand has been a pop culture law unto herself. She’s known to struggle with stage fright but you’d never know it from the easy relaxed way she interacts with her adoring audience and appears very comfortable. Her live shows are both intimate and grand. Telling some stories before or after a song, she explained “that was long ago when a tweet was what a bird did and the only people who had cell numbers were in jail.” Chuckle! One headline says “The Way She Was, and Still Is.” Barbra Streisand is a true star.

Every time I see Nathan Lane in the theater or on television I smile and even laugh out loud. I can remember much of his work including his role as Albert in “The Birdcage.” That film is often repeated on Turner Classic Movies. If you are fortunate enough to catch him in that role I think you’ll do more than just chuckle. The actor/writer has been working in the theater and on television long enough to garner several awards and nominations. In 2008 he was inducted into The American Theater Hall of Fame. Nathan Lane was born Joseph Lane but after appearing as Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” playing the character he helped himself to that first name. For his performance he received several awards. In “The Birdcage” it was the role which supposedly was written especially for him. Lane’s childhood was not a happy one. His father died from alcoholism when he was eleven and his mother suffered from manic depression some years later. Amazingly he was able to turn all that into humor. He loved comedy but says “you love different performers for different emotional and intellectual reasons.” It surprised me to learn that Nathan Lane’s fictional hero is Sherlock Holmes. That seems odd. Hear, hear, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

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Quincy Jones, born March 14, 1933, is an American record producer, actor, conductor, arranger, composer, musician, television producer, film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive, and humanitarian. Wowee! His career spans six decades in the entertainment industry plus many awards. The impresario has a library of concert videos and future documentaries. He’s expecting to make Qwest’s films widely available to bring the youth up to date on the history and present day life of jazz. A multi-faceted jazz and pop singer, Quincy Jones became the most Grammy-nominated artist in history. Jones has been married three times and has had other relationships. He has a total of seven children. Guess he’s not a lazy man! Ha! Raised in Seattle, Washington, Jones developed an interest in music at an early age and attended the Berklee College of Music. (As a personal aside I visited the school when I was in Boston. Impressive indeed!) His musical career included rhythm and blues, funk, soul, big band and swing. Quiincy was introduced to music by his mother who always sang religious songs, and by his next door neighbor who played stride piano. (Another personal aside: my mom played stride piano – and so do I!) His mom recalled that after he heard her she could not get him off her piano if she tried. Jones has said his father had a saying:”Once a task is just begun, never leave until it’s done. Be the neighbor, great or small, do it well or not at all.” Obviously Quincy Jones listened to his dad. His instruments include trumpet, French horn, drums, vocals, piano, synthesizer. “Frank Sinatra took me to a whole new planet. I worked with him until he passed away in ‘98. He left me his ring. I never take it off.” There’s so much to tell about Quincy Jones that I’ll guess you don’t know and I didn’t know his whole name is Quincy Delightt Jones, Jr.! Wonderful!

It was a queasy, gorgeous and smart show: HBO’s miniseries “Big Little Lies.” My particular friend wasn’t interested in it and admittedly I’m sorry I didn’t listen to him. I was attracted by the cast and decided to follow through. If you missed it it was about three mothers with many twists and turns and oh! the cast: Nicole Kidman, bewitching and bruised, Reese Witherspoon, high strung and glorious, Shailene Woodly as an outsider too young and too poor, Laura Dern, a CEO and power mom. The series received sixteen Emmy Award nominations with eight wins including Outstanding Limited Series. Normally, I don’t enjoy watching stories that usually include murder and in “Big Little Lies” the show’s central mystery was a brutal murder at a glitzy fund-raiser at an elementary school in Monterey, California. The series had extended flashbacks and I rarely enjoy flashbacks. In this case it leads the viewer back to the night of the crime. There were seven episodes and, although I was drawn to watch, I didn’t sleep well on the nights I indulged. “Big Little Lies” is highly addictive, twisted, thrilling, enlightening. The first-rate cast made it almost impossible to ignore and I had many moments when I wanted to turn it off but I didn’t. I was so glad it was over. In “Big Little Lies” Shailene Woodly was nominated for a prime-time Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series. In discussing the Emmys and feminism “we all play very different roles and there was no competition.” “Big Little Lies” is a gripping mystery that puts women in the forefront. The extraordinary cast, real powerhouses, and, to quote Shailene Woodly, “life is big and I’m young.” Let’s see… we’ll be watching as the miniseries unfolds.

You can e-mail June Sturz at

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