Memo to Barbra Streisand: Penny Brown isn't missing, either.
Forgive us for apprising La Streisand of a popular Internet hoax (Penny, per a much-circulated email, is a nine-year-old girl who has vanished from Calgary, Canada...and Austin, Texas, and...), but we figured the diva might need a brush-up course on such matters after falling for the old Julius Caesar.
The diva got herself into trouble after invoking a rabble-rousing quote from the Roman great--as penned, she said, by William Shakespeare--during a starry $6 million fundraiser for the Democratic Party on Sunday in Hollywood.
The bogus quote begins: "Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip citizenry into a patriotic fervor..."
One problem: Shakespeare never wrote it; Caesar, the fictional character and/or the real-life dictator, never said it.
"[Streisand] learned the following day that it is, rather, a passage which is widely circulated on the Internet as an excerpt from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, but which is, in fact, an anonymous composition, not Shakespeare at all," says a post in the "Truth Alert" section of the singer-actress-icon's Website, barbrastreisand.com.
The Streisand camp says the 60-year-old entertainer was supplied with the quote by a friend who, natch, found it on the Web. Indeed, the faux Shakespeare line is easy to stumble upon in cyberspace--the passage yields nearly 1,000 search-engine results on Google.com. Most of the citations, included on everything from personal Web pages to online magazines, regurgitate the 110-word anti-war spiel as either the real-deal words of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar or Caesar himself.
Touched by the message herself, Streisand chose it to intro her rendition of "God Bless America" at Sunday's benefit at the Kodak Theater. Using the new Hollywood home of the Oscars as her bully pulpit, the big-time Democratic booster spoke out about President Bush's push for an attack on Iraq.
"I find George Bush and [Vice President] Dick Cheney frightening," Streisand said Sunday, per the Drudge Report, which broke the story of the Caesar (mis)quote. "I find bringing the country to the brink of war unilaterally five weeks before an election questionable--and very, very frightening."
Streisand then recited the faked Shakespeare to an audience that ran the gamut from Christian Slater to House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt.
"Imagine that that was written over 400 years ago," Streisand said upon finishing the soliloquy. "It's amazing how history without consciousness is destined to repeat itself."
While admitting Tuesday she'd been duped, Streisand isn't backing down from the sentiment she, or the quote, expressed.
"The authorship of this is important," Streisand says on her Website. "But it doesn't detract from the fact that the words themselves are powerful and true and beautifully written. Whoever wrote this is damn talented and should be writing their own play."
So far, no one has stepped up to nab his or her development deal from Streisand. Per the Urban Legends Reference Pages, the "drums of war" Caesar quote began banging on the Web last December, growing louder this past summer. "No record of this quote has been found prior to its appearance on the Internet in late 2001," the Website reports.
The Caesar flap is just part of the fallout Streisand is dealing with in the wake of Sunday's appearance. Gossip maven Liz Smith writes today that she has received "a barrage of hate calls, faxes, etc." from readers who took exception to Streisand's remarks--and choice of singing material. (Included in the Oscar-winner's six-song set was a reworked version of "The Way We Were" bemoaning the Republican-controlled Congress.)
The entertainer, supposedly retired from the stage since a series of pricey farewell concerts in 2000, is also taking hits for a memo she drafted to Democratic leader Gephardt--a memo that urged him to take a stand against President Bush's Iraq plan, a memo that was mistakenly faxed to a Republican Congress member's office, and, a memo that misspelled Gephardt's name ("Gebhardt").
"It seems that when the Republicans don't like what you say, they attack you on the lowest and least pertinent level," Streisand's Website says.
The site goes on to defend its fearless leader as a "great speller, meticulous in her written communications!"
Per the site, James Brolin's more famous half dictated the Gephardt letter to a "new employee who sent out a first draft before it had been reviewed by Ms. Streisand or checked for spelling."
No word if the new employee is now a former employee.