Broadway: The Girl

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"A couple of weeks later, we were having a snowball fight at 2 o'clock in the morning at the Rockefeller Center skating rink. She threw pretty well, but I'm competitive and I have this hex on her. Anyway, I very delicately washed her face with snow and then kind of touched her lips. It wasn't very demonstrative. She's desperately insecure. She always thought of herself as an ugly duckling, and she made herself up to be weird as a defense. She liked me. I was the first person who liked her back."

Free Fragrance. With the fine flush of success, Barbra has hastily assembled some of the accouterments of the gracious life, but is plainly still out of phase with it. She has rented a penthouse duplex on Central Park West that was once the home of Lorenz Hart dur ing the great lyricist's last years. They have had the place about seven months, and it is still substantially empty, but Barbra is filling it with her own brand of antiques, the pursuit of which is her only hobby. She has an old dentist's cabinet for her ribbons and lace, an apothecary jar filled with beauty marks, a Wedgwood slop bucket, slabs of stained glass ready for installation, an old captain's desk, Portuguese chairs, 50 used hats, and 80 ancient shoe buckles on as many ancient shoes, which she wears.

Every day begins with Elliott shouting over the intercom from the floor below: "Barbra, come and get your chicken soup." In Hart's day, the apartment's focus was the bar. Now it is the kitchen, whose walls Barbra has covered with red patent leather. She neither drinks nor smokes, but she eats like a woman thrice her weight, which is 125 Ibs. The kitchen is a self-service delicatessen heavily stocked with matzo brie, gefilte fish, grapefruit wedges, kosher salami, pickled beets, tzimmes, caviar, corn fritters, brownies, ice-cream rolls, cottage cheese, sweet potatoes, and enough frozen chicken TV dinners to pave the Piazza San Marco.

She is also a connoisseur of baked potatoes; she particularly likes them baked one day and reheated two days later when they get "hard on the outside and mooshy on the inside." But her consuming passion is coffee ice cream, specifically in Breyers bricks. Elliott brought cartons of it to her while she was out of town with Funny Girl. She is installing a small refrigerator beside the bed upstairs so she can eat virtually unlimited amounts of it while lying under the covers and watching horror movies on TV.

The place is full of jaunty poltergeists. Whenever the phone rings, the TV set changes channels. There are only two books in sight: Franny and Zooey and How to Achieve and Maintain Complete Sexual Happiness in Marriage. Two dozen gardenias are delivered to the apartment each week. They float in an urn in the kitchen, a salad bowl in the dining room, a champagne glass in the bathroom, and a wooden bucket beside her bed. "A gardenia is like a free spirit," she says. "Its fragrance cannot be captured. It's like it doesn't want to be tied down and destroyed by all the sterility of the modern times."

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