Friday, May 29, 2015
I LOVE BETTE MIDLER
BETTE MIDLER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ENTERTAINERS IN THE HISTORY OF SHOW BUSINESS. I have thought that ever since I saw her at the Continental Baths in New York. But first, let's talk about her Staples Concert. She is a showman/person of the first order. If she were totally alone on stage just with piano, bass and drums, with no costumes, she would still be (by herself) an entire Broadway musical.... plus pop star, cabaret singer, saloon singer, vaudevillian, 40s military entertainer, stand up or couch-seated comic. She does it all and can fill an entire stage with just a wink.
One night, many years ago, I was in NY with Dusty Springfield and her manager, Howard Portugais. He was a friend of a piano-player named Barry (who tuned into Manilow) and Barry told him to come see "this act with a girl named Bette." Frankly, it was a semi-terrifying adventure in a dark, steamy pool area surrounded by guys in towels. Bette and Barry were only about ten feet from the shallow end. Then she started to sing and do her wild act. There were no costume changes, no Harlettes--just a mic and a piano. It was like watching the birth of a new world. I had never seen anything like her. Dusty said right then and there that Bette was the best entertainer she had ever seen, and she felt that way until the day she died.
(No one knew with until now, but when Dusty was getting quite ill and we knew it was terminal, Bette wrote her a note that said something like, "Every time I go on I know my voice will never be as good as yours." Dusty kept that note on her nightstand always.) AND BETTE EVEN MENTIONED DUSTY SO GRACIOUSLY AT THE STAPLES CONCERT.
About six months later, Bette had been signed to a record deal and had finished her first album. Still, almost no one in the public knew who she was. People in the industry heard rumblings about her originality and genius, but most hadn't seen her. I was invited to a private press and record party by her label for her album release. The party took place in a small back room of Studio One, a gay bar/dance club. By the time she entered to do her show, the excitement was zinging across the room. I was feeling quite superior since I knew what was coming. Well, these executives in suits didn't know what hit them! Again, it was just Bette and a piano.
A few weeks later she was going to make her L.A. club debut at the Troubadour. She and Barry weren't making real money yet and Barry didn't have a place to stay. Howard Portugais let Barry stay in his extra bedroom near the Troubadour. Needless to say, she killed at the Troubadour, too.
Her first big concert in L.A. happened on new Year's Eve at the Universal Amphitheatre when it first opened and didn't even have a roof on it. Dusty and I went, and were so excited for Bette. That night, for the first time ever, she gave Barry his own spot and he sang "Could This Be Magic." He was a star five minutes later.
Since that time, I have seen Bette's shows too many times to count. This "misfit" from Honolulu has managed to have a marriage that works, a bright and talented daughter, and a calling for cleaning roads and saving highways. Like her audiences today, we have traveled on the same roads and have even more in common now. She has survived glowingly and is a shining star on every level that humanity or showbiz could ever expect. When she closed her concert last night, she was in tears and so were we. Love was flowing back and forth over the footlights. Hallelujah to us all.