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Barbra Streisand Shares the Heartbreaking Advice Judy Garland Gave Her

She also writes that the alleged rivalry between them was totally fabricated.

Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland might seem like they exist in distinct periods of entertainment history. After all, they each starred in versions of A Star Is Born, 22 years apart. But the two not only crossed paths, they also collaborated. In 1963, Streisand sang with the older star when she guested on The Judy Garland Show. They stayed in touch after that, and in her new memoir, My Name Is Barbra, Streisand opens up about their friendship. The singer reveals the truth behind their rumored rivalry and also shares the ominous advice Garland gave her that Streisand would only understand after the legendary performer's death. Read on to find out more.

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They were at different points in their careers when they met.

Streisand appeared on The Judy Garland Show in October 1963. At the time, she was 21 years old and her first two albums had just come out earlier that year. She had already made her Broadway debut in I Can Get It for You Wholesale but was yet to star in Funny Girl, which premiered in 1964.

Garland, who was 20 years older than Streisand, had been famous for her voice and her film roles since she was a child star in the 1930s. Her series, The Judy Garland Show, lasted for 26 episodes from 1963 and 1964.

On the show, Garland and Streisand sang "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "Get Happy" together and also sang "There's No Business Like Show Business" along with Ethel Merman. Streisand was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for her appearance on the show.

Streisand says their rivalry was "made up."

Streisand writes in My Name Is Barbra about how she was often pitted against Garland.

"People were looking for some sort of rivalry between us. And when they couldn't find anything, they made it up," she writes (via People). "I found Judy to be completely generous. We sang a medley of songs, taking turns, and she wasn't just focused on herself. She watched me and responded to me. She would reach out and brush back a strand of my hair, like a mother. And Judy's own daughter, Liza Minnelli, says that her mother's first reaction on hearing me sing was to say, 'I'm never going to open my mouth again.' She was like that, very self‑deprecating. And deeply vulnerable."

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Garland gave her a piece of heartbreaking advice.

Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland on "The Judy Garland Show" in 1963

Streisand goes on to write that she and Garland became friends. "We spoke on the phone, and she came to one of the rare parties I gave at my New York apartment (four in thirty‑five years)," Streisand recalls. "I think she arrived late. And I remember her saying something I never quite understood: 'Don't let them do to you what they did to me.' I should have asked her what she meant, but I didn't want to appear too nosy."

Streisand continues, "Six years after we did [The Judy Garland Show], she was dead at the age of forty‑seven. What a tragedy … and such a loss. She was an extraordinary talent."

Garland died of an accidental drug overdose in 1969. Her history with pills intertwined with her experience in the entertainment industry. She had been given stimulant pills as a child star so that she could work long hours, and her addiction grew from there.

Streisand looked back on Garland differently as she got older.

Judy Garland in London in 1963
Central Press/Getty Images

In 2012, Streisand told NPR how her view of Garland changed as she got older herself.

"I can remember it distinctly," she said of filming The Judy Garland Show. "She was holding my hand and I thought, 'Gee, she seems nervous.' At that time, I wasn't nervous. I was still very young, I think, about to do Funny Girl, and now, when I think back on it, I think, 'Oh, my God, I know exactly what she's feeling.' Or, you know, the fears."

She explained, "It's like, as you get older and people are kind of looking for you to fail more, I think—not people, not the audience— but, you know, critics or producers or whatever. And I just felt her. I felt her anxiety … Part of me is much more relaxed than I've ever been, less frightened, less anxious. On the other hand, it's a coming-of-age-thing, and she was much younger than I am, but there are things with careers. … I just understand the anxiety even though in a sense I'm calmer. It's a dichotomy. It's hard to explain … You wonder, 'Well, do I give it up? Do I retire? Or do I get more in before my time is up?'"

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She has fond memories of singing with her.

Barbra Streisand receives The Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award in July 2023
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Dwight D. Opperman Foundation

Streisand told USA Today in 2021 that performing with Garland was a "wonderful experience."

"I was a late Judy Garland fan. I didn't know of her when I was very young," Streisand said. "And then I happened to walk by a recording session she was doing in New York somewhere and I thought, 'Oh my God, this woman is fantastic.' But doing that with Judy was a wonderful experience. We fell in love with each other and we became good friends afterwards. She was just a wonderful, vulnerable creature with this glorious voice. I'm so happy that [performance] is still around somehow."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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