1996: Manchester On Midler

This interview ran in OutSmart magazine, July 15, 1996.


Speaking of “normal,” were you as lucky as Bette to sing in the middle of towel-clad guys in the middle of New York’s Continental Baths?

Well, you know, the funny thing was that Bette and I were working in different clubs on the same street. She was working at the Continental Baths, and I was working at a club up the street called The Focus. She and Barry Manilow were working together, and I had worked with Barry many times in the studio. Bette was never a studio singer; she only had this fantasy picture of what a background singer was.

So she and Barry came up to see me on one of her nights off, and this was at the beginning of her career. She was getting ready to do her first Carnegie Hall concert. So knowing as much as I did about background singing, after my set was done, I went over and talked to her for a while, and I told her how excited and happy I was for her, and I asked her if she was thinking of using background singers. She took a beat and she said, “No, would you like to sing in back of me?” I said, “No, I’d like to sing INSTEAD of you . . . meantime, I’d be happy to sing in back of you.” We sang together for six months.

Then you sang backup, obviously much later, in the movie For the Boys. Was it sort of like old times?I

t was great. We’ve stayed in touch, and that’s nice. It was very sweet.

Another Bette-related question: She’s got a large gay following—are you aware that you have a lot of gay and lesbian fans?

Yes, yes. And I’m really grateful.

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