Lady Gaga appears to be on the edge of Emmy glory. Her HBO special Lady Gaga Presents The Monster's Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden, is nominated for five Emmys, including Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special.
Gaga, who is 25, is vying to become the youngest performer to headline a special that won in this category since Barbra Streisand, who was just 23 in 1965 when her landmark special My Name Is Barbra took the award.
These two women have more in common that it might at first seem. Both are New Yorkers (Streisand was born in Brooklyn; Gaga in Yonkers). Both became very big stars at a very young age. Both made it on audaciousness and talent more than on conventional beauty.
Gaga's strongest competition is the annual Kennedy Center Honors, which has won in this category six times, including the last two years in a row. The current installment saluted Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, country legend Merle Haggard, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and choreographer Bill T. Jones.
Bette Midler, who won this award in 1978 with Ol' Red Hair Is Back, is back in the running with her HBO special Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On. Two other HBO specials round out the category: Carrie Fisher In Wishful Drinking and The Pee Wee Herman Show On Broadway.
Specials starring some of the biggest music icons of all time have won in this category over the years. In addition to Streisand, the roster includes Fred Astaire, Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, John Denver, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, Cher and Tony Bennett.
I like the fact that a broad range of music has been honored, from Broadway to Motown; from classical to the rock-dominated America: A Tribute To Heroes special. Three composers have been saluted: Burt Bacharach, George & Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin (twice).
Here's a recap of every music special to win for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. (The name of the category changed numerous times until the academy settled on the present wording in 1978.) Let's fire up the time-travel machine and go back to 1959, the first year the award was presented.
1959: An Evening With Fred Astaire (NBC). The movie musical legend starred in this show, which aired on Oct. 17, 1958. The special won nine Emmys, including Most Outstanding Single Program Of The Year and Best Single Performance by an Actor.
1961: Astaire Time (NBC). Fred Astaire scored again with this special, which aired on Sept. 28, 1960. In addition to winning for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Variety, it was nominated for The Program of the Year. Astaire won for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series.
1962: Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic In Japan (CBS). The series Leonard Bernstein And The New York Philharmonic had won for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music the two previous years, but this time the award was for a single episode. It aired on Feb. 6, 1962.
1963: Julie And Carol At Carnegie Hall (CBS). Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett headlined this hour, which aired on June 11, 1962. Andrews had achieved Broadway stardom with My Fair Lady and Camelot. Burnett was a rising TV star. (She won an Emmy for this show for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program; Andrews wasn't nominated). A soundtrack album reached #85 on The Billboard 200.
1965: My Name Is Barbra (CBS). Barbra Streisand took a break from appearing on Broadway in Funny Girl to tape her first TV special, which aired on April 28, 1965. The show broke all the rules of variety specials (there were no guest stars, for one thing). Streisand won for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Entertainment. A soundtrack album peaked at #2 and received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
1965: What Is Sonata Form? (CBS). This aired on Nov. 6, 1964 as part of the series New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts with Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein won for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Entertainment.
1966: Frank Sinatra: A Man And His Music (CBS). Sinatra's special aired on Nov. 24, 1965, three weeks before the star's much-publicized 50th birthday. Conductors Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins won for their work on the show. A double-disk anthology of Sinatra's career, also titled A Man And His Music, peaked at #9 and won a Grammy as Album of the Year.
1967: Brigadoon (ABC). Robert Goulet starred in this adaptation of the 1947 Broadway musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. "Almost Like Being In Love" is the standout song from the score. The show aired on Oct. 15, 1966.
1971: Singer Presents Burt Bacharach (CBS). The peerless composer starred in this special, which featured a memorable guest turn by Barbra Streisand. The show aired on March 14, 1971, nine months after Bacharach appeared on the cover of Newsweek in a story titled "The Music Man 1970."
1972: Jack Lemmon In 'S Wonderful, 'S Marvelous, 'S Gershwin (NBC). Jack Lemmon starred in this salute to the timeless music of George Gershwin and his brother Ira Gershwin. The show, part of Bell System Family Theatre, aired on Jan. 17, 1972.
1973: Singer Presents Liza With A "Z" (NBC). Liza Minnelli followed her performance in Cabaret, which would bring her an Academy Award, with this special, which aired on Sept. 10, 1972. The special was produced by Bob Fosse, who directed Cabaret, and Fred Ebb, who co-wrote that classic musical. Fosse won three Emmys for his work on this special. A soundtrack peaked at #19.
1975: An Evening With John Denver (ABC). This special aired on March 10, 1975, when Denver was neck-and-neck with Elton John as the hottest act in pop music. A double-disk album of the same name hit #2. It was recorded at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
1977: The Barry Manilow Special (ABC). Manilow's first special aired on March 2, 1977, while Manilow was listed in the top 10 with the elegant ballad "Weekend In New England." The special featured Penny Marshall of the top-rated Laverne & Shirley,
1979: Steve & Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin (NBC). The husband-and-wife team of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme headlined this special. Berlin, the legendary songwriter of "Cheek To Cheek" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band," was 90 at the time.
1983: Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (NBC). Michael Jackson unveiled the moonwalk on this two-hour concert special, which aired on May 16, 1983. The show also featured reunions of the Jackson 5 and Diana Ross & the Supremes. Jackson and Richard Pryor were both nominated for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
1985: Motown Returns To The Apollo (NBC). For the second time in three years, a Motown special walked off with top honors. The show received 10 nominations and won two. Gregory Hines and Patti LaBelle were both nominated for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
1988: Irving Berlin's 100th Birthday Celebration (CBS). The venerable songwriter turned 100 in May 1988. (He lived to be 101.) Ray Charles was nominated for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
1990: Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration (ABC). Michael Jackson and Gregory Hines were among the artists who participated in this tribute to the trailblazing performer. Davis, who was marking his 60th year in show business, was battling throat cancer. He died in May 1990 at age 64. Jackson was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics for co-writing the poignant "Gone Too Soon."
1995: Barbra Streisand: The Concert (HBO). Thirty years after winning her first Emmy, Streisand won two awards for this special: as a producer and for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. Marvin Hamlisch also won two Emmys for his work on the special, which was recorded in June 1994 at Madison Square Garden. A video of the show was #1 on Top Music Videos for 16 weeks. A double-disk album, The Concert, peaked at #10.
2002: America: A Tribute To Heroes (multiple networks). Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder were among the performers on this telethon, which aired on Sept. 21, 2001, just 10 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A video of the show was #1 on Top Music Videos for six weeks. A double-disk album peaked at #17.
2003: Cher-The Farewell Tour (NBC). This special was filmed at a Miami concert on Cher's Living Proof: The Farewell Tour. The special aired over Thanksgiving weekend 2002. It won three awards, including one for Bob Mackie's costumes. A video of the show was #1 on Top Music Videos for two weeks. An album, Live: The Farewell Tour, peaked at #40.
2004: Elaine Stritch: At Liberty (HBO). This D.A. Pennebaker documentary captured Stritch's one-woman Broadway show of the same name. That show earned Stritch a Tony in 2002 for Best Special Theatrical Event. This special brought Stritch an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
2007: Tony Bennett: An American Classic (NBC). Bennett marked his 80th birthday with this classy special. Rob Marshall, who directed the musical Chicago, won three Emmys for his work on the show. Bennett won for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. An album, Duets: An American Classic, peaked at #3 and won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Photos: Paul McCartney by Paul Morigi/WireImage; Frank Sinatra by Martin Mills/Getty Image; Shirley Maclaine by Ron Galella/WireImage; Barry Manilow by Bobby Bank/WireImage; Mikhail Baryshnikov by Joan Adlen Photography/Getty Images; Patti LaBell by Joe McNally/Getty Images