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Streisand, Manilow Sing Political Tunes

Barbra Streisand emerged from semi-retirement Sunday night, headlining a Hollywood gala that raised some $6 million toward Democratic efforts to take back control of Congress.

The performer delivered a nine-song set on the stage of the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars. In the audience, celebrities including Christian Slater and Julia Louis-Dreyfus rubbed shoulders with top House Democrats including Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the minority whip.

The sum raised represented a fund-raising record for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said spokeswoman Jenny Backus.

Streisand, a longtime backer of liberal causes and candidates, created a stir last week when she sent Gephardt a forceful letter urging him to stand up to President Bush on Iraq and chiding, "It is time for the Democrats to get off the defensive and go on the offensive."

Gephardt joked about the letter in a speech after Streisand's performance.

"Some of the Republicans thought that was cute," he said. "Well, what I want to say to my friends in the Republican Party is eat your heart out. I get faxes from Barbra Streisand, they get faxes from Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson."

Streisand did not explicitly discuss the Democrats' position on Iraq, nor did Gephardt. The singer prefaced a rendition of "God Bless America" with the remark that it was, "a prayer for our Democratic leaders to continue to have the strength and courage to stand up for what is right."

The performer, who wore a sweeping, metallic green gown, also performed her hit, "The Way We Were," with lyrics altered to convey she missed a Democratic Congress and administration.

"Scattered pictures of the House we left behind," she sang. "Lovely Democratic memories, of the way we were."

Two years ago, Streisand said an official goodbye to live performing with "farewell" concerts in New York and Los Angeles, but she apparently couldn't pass up the chance to raise money for the Democrats.

The concert was dubbed the National Democratic Gala and billed as the Democrats' "marquee fundraiser" in their battle to undo Republicans' six-seat edge in the 435-member House of Representatives in November.

Some 3,500 guests paid $500 and up for tickets.

Performing in addition to Streisand were Barry Manilow, comedian Steve Harvey and the singing group Three Mo' Tenors.

By Erica Werner