“And that was Kiki Dee and Elton John with ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.’ Thanks for listening to WLMNOP!”
I pressed stop on my Sony dual cassette player/recorder and ejected the cassette tape. I carefully placed it into my dual tape deck/CD player and looked on the floor for my most favorite cassette tape.
“Where is it?”
Where was it? I looked under the bed and found a red sock and what looked like a tooth and a brush full of Jenna’s golden dog hair.
“Where is it?”
I started to panic. I opened my closet door and dug through the pile of clothes. Jeans with elastic waists, striped turtle necks, oversized t-shirts, snow boots, but I couldn’t seem to find the tape. Where was it?
Where was Barbra Steisand?
The name of the album was Barbra: The Concert. The cassette was released a couple years before in 1994, with not just one cassette tape, but two, totaling 28 tracks by Barbra. Earlier that year I had read an autobiography on Barbra called Barbra: Her Life, by James Spada, a man who must have been just as obsessed with Barbra as I was because it was not only his first book about Barbra, but his third. The book was almost six hundred pages, weighing in at three pounds, but I could not put it down.
I wanted to live in a New York City flat with a bathtub in the middle of my living room. I wanted to be tormented by the rejection of auditions and coldhearted lovers. But most of all, I wanted to be a star.
Every day I would come home from school and every day I would watch Barbra on my VHS tape of Funny Girl, co-starring with her dark-haired hero, the handsome and charming, but sometimes devastatingly insensitive, Omar Sharif. When Barbra would sing, I would sing. If my family was home, I would go into the basement and throw up my arms, singing “I’m the Greatest Star” and one of Barbra’s most famous songs, “People”, which I would eventually sing in my elementary school’s talent show. While other kids sang songs from The Lion King or the theme from the 90s hit sitcom, Friends, I would wow mothers, grandmothers, and gay uncles, with my rendition of Barbra’s clingy love song, showing the world that people who are needy and overly dependent on their loved ones are the best people in the world.
I looked up at the stamped signed photo of Barbra on the shelf next to my bedroom window and my heart sank. I could hear her long fingernails click, click, clicking against the glass frame. Barbra was looking right at me. She was beckoning me. She was stage whispering, “Find me, Katie, find me.”
After ripping out the drawers of my dresser and turning the entire room upside down, I sat cross-legged on the floor and I began to weep silently to myself. Slowly, my sobs grew louder and louder until the room became an ocean of my tears. I wailed. I screamed. Not only would the radio show have to be canceled, but life itself would be canceled.
I began opening and slamming my door to let my frustration out on the world. While crying and screaming alone in my room got me nowhere with my parents, the annoying repetition of a door slamming and echoing out into the hallway always got me the attention I needed.
My dad unhurriedly rushed to my rescue.
“What is going on?” he shouted into my sniveling, chubby red face.
“I – can’t – I – it’s lost – I, I, I, she… Barbra!” I howled through hiccups and snorts, rubbing snot onto my 101 Dalmatians nightgown.
I could not stop crying. No one could console me. There was no longer any reason to go on.
I can think back on a lot of not-so-great things that my dad did when I was a kid. He had a severe drinking problem. He seldom was interested in any of the plays or choir concerts that I performed in. Sometimes he would eat all the cookies and treats in the house and blame it on me, so that my mom would take all her anger out on me and leave him alone for a day. But I will always remember that night, crying and coughing into my dad’s chest. I will remember him leaving the house and driving away in his baby blue Chevy pickup truck. And I will remember him returning, less than an hour later, with a brand new, cellophane wrapped cassette tape of Barbra Steisand’s Barbra: The Concert.
In 1999, when my brother would go off to college and I would take over his room, I would find my original Barbra Steisand two cassette, live album in the back corner of my closet. I would tell no one, especially my own personal, light-brown haired hero: my dad.