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Huge Barbra Streisand collection poses a dilemma

Mara Papalas stands inside one of the six storage units that her father filled with Barbra Streisand memorabilia. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Julia Carmel

Los Angeles Times

Countless iterations of Barbra Streisand currently occupy six storage lockers in the Coachella Valley. There — sandwiched between corrugated metal walls and hefty layers of dust — the star’s iconic profile graces thousands of items, ranging from posters and record jackets to clocks and nesting dolls.

It’s not unusual for Streisand to be everywhere: she has sold 68.5 million albums over the course of her career and is one of just 24 people who have completed an EGOT. She’s currently promoting her new memoir, “My Name Is Barbra,” and infiltrating households through the news, public radio, late night TV and plenty of magazines.

But these Barbras — the ones in the California desert — are part of Louis Papalas’ personal collection.

Lou, who discovered Streisand in 1963 on “The Mike Douglas Show,” spent the last 60 years buying a myriad of items related to the iconic performer. But when Lou died earlier this year, his youngest daughter, Mara, inherited what’s known to be the world’s largest collection of Streisand memorabilia.

Though Mara recently cataloged more than 12,000 items, the estimated size of the collection has ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 items over the years. “For 20 years, I knew ‘I’m gonna have to handle this,’” Mara said, as we sat inside one of Lou’s former storage units. “It’s not me, but I get it. I understand his genius-slash-brilliance-slash-dreams.”

As someone who isn’t a Streisand fanatic, Mara doesn’t have any interest in keeping the collection for herself. Though she appreciates her father’s love for collecting, she also inherited the steep monthly bill for his six storage units.

“This expense and the stress is not sitting pretty with me,” she said with a chuckle.


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