GOOD MORNING: Barbra Streisand now knows why so many of her closest friends were acting so mysteriously for the past few weeks. They wanted to avoid revealing the following scheduled surprises from Thursday night’s AFI Life Achievement Award honoring her. As a camera was focused on Barbra throughout the show, it was obvious how surprised, delighted and emotionally moved she was. Her longtime friends and musical partners Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Marvin Hamlisch wrote “On the Way to Becoming Me” as the show’s opening — sung by 14-year-old Lauren Frost, who had played the teenage Barbra in her final concert (which recently aired). She sang, “In a world full of ‘evens,’ I’m an ‘odd.’ In a tank full of salmon, I’m a cod. On a tray full of scotch, I’m a vodka. And on plate full of crepes, I’m a latke!” Hamlisch remained on stage for the rest of the show to accompany the intros, songs and singers. Hamlisch was the sole “orchestra” … The first to toast Barbra was Phyllis Diller. Phyllis Diller? Yeah. Barbra, at 19, opened for Phyllis at N.Y.’s Bon Soir. “So,” said Diller, “I thought that I’d open for her tonight.” When she was young, Streisand had once revealed she was a fan of singer Joni James. They never met until last night, when James sang “The Way We Were” … A letter was sneaked out of Barbra’s home for the event. Henry Fonda had written it to her when he saw her on B’way in “Funny Girl.” Elizabeth Taylor read the letter. Dustin Hoffman told of the days when both were in acting school, where janitorial chores were included. Dom DeLuise told of their Off B’way bow in “Another Evening With Harry Stoones,” which lasted one night. A clip of Barbra singing “Evergreen” to President Bill Clinton at his first inaugural ball was followed by a clip taped by Clinton last week (at home in N.Y.) … The clip from “Yentl,” her first feature directorial stint, was intro’d by Clint Eastwood, followed by appearances from her father in the film, Nehemiah Persoff, followed by a touching foto of Barbra at her own father’s gravesite. “Yentl’s” Amy Irving also contributed.
ANOTHER SURPRISE FOR BARBRA was the participation of son Jason. He had earlier said he was too timid to do so. But he disappeared from his seat at her table to appear on stage for “The Prince of Tides” seg, in which he played her son. Others who participated included Robert Klein (“The Owl and the Pussycat”), Ryan O’Neal (“What’s Up, Doc?”), Sydney Pollack (“The Way We Were”), also Kris Kristofferson, Quincy Jones, Anjelica Huston, Cis Corman, Billy Friedkin, and Lauren Bacall and Jeff Bridges (“The Mirror Has Two Faces”). Sidney Poitier, partnered with Streisand in production company First Artists, was himself honored by the Directors Guild this week and made the AFI presentation to Barbra last night. She closed her thank-yous saying, “So now what? To tell you the truth, I’d like to do nothing for a while. I’d like to take some time so that when inspiration knocks at my door, I’ll be ready to be deliciously consumed again, only this time it’d be different — I’d have someone special to come home to. There’s still more to do, so much more to learn before I can truly be worthy of this tremendous honor and, who knows, maybe some day I’ll play Hedda Gabler,” she laughed, having earlier revealed her early dreams to play roles like Joan of Arc, Medea or Gabler. The program was exec produced by Gary Smith, who also directed along with Allan Kartun. And produced by Dan Netter and Bob Gazzale, who also scripted. Every table in the BevHilton’s International Ballroom boasted a Tiffany lamp; the tablecloths were lace, topped with flower petals. The room was decorated by Maxine (Mrs. Gary) Smith. The stage by Roy Christopher also reflected the art nouveau feeling of a room in the Streisand-Brolin house … To research the program, Gary Smith interviewed Barbra for hours, telling the story of her life and her work in her own words — many of which were heard last night. Imagine how nice it would be today to hear the personal words of previous winners like John Ford, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, etc.
SOME VITAL STATISTICS: On the longhorn from London, Roger Moore reports he attended (Sir) John Mills’ 93rd birthday held at the Royal Naval Academy; the lavish party boasted many admirals. Moore also attended photog Terry O’Neill’s wedding to Lorraine Ashton, daughter of noted designer Don Ashton. (O’Neill previously was married to Faye Dunaway.) Sunday, Moore presents the Carl Foreman Newcomer Award at the BAFTA Awards at the Odeon in Leicester Square … Radie Harris, the N.Y.-based columnist who wrote for Variety as well as the Hollywood Reporter, died Thursday at the Englewood, N.J., Hospital. She’d been living at the Actors Fund Nursing Home for the past six years. Harris was 96. She was one of the originators of the Stage Door Canteen, and for many years was on the nominating committee for the Tonys … Claudia Martin (Mrs. Jim Roberts), daughter of Jeanne and Dean Martin, died Feb. 16 after a two-year battle with cancer. Her mother, six brothers and sisters, and their 14 children attended the funeral service in Reno … A memorial tribute to Loretta Young (who died Aug. 12) will be held March 10 at Palm Springs Air Museum, with Gerald R. Barnes, Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino, heading the evening to raise funds for Serra House and a chapel to be named for Loretta. Her longtime friend (and a friend to many in Hollywood) Virginia Zamboni is coordinating the fundraiser.