BootLeg Betty

Kiss My Brass Made For “The Fans”

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Photo: Brian P.

Midler divinely inspired
Pop diva and actress sees a lot to like about her “Kiss My Brass Tour” that is coming Saturday to the Wachovia Arena.
By ALAN K. STOUT

It’s been four years since Bette Midler’s last tour, and though she’s been in show biz for nearly 40 years, even the seasoned and world renowned Grammy-winning diva admits she likes what she sees and hears when she takes the stage each night. The “Kiss My Brass Tour,” she says, serves as a celebration of her career on both music and film, and – equally important to her – it looks good.

“It’s very, very pretty,” says Midler of the show’s staging. “It’s set in a kind of a ‘Coney-Island-of-the-mind.’ It’s just a fantasy land, based on the old Luna Park. Of course with Coney Island, or any kind of a carnival like that, there’s a seamy side, but it also has an exhilarating side. It’s got characters, freaks of nature, death-defying acts and all those sorts of things. It’s really kind of wonderful, and I’m very pleased with it.

“It has a touch of magic.”

Midler, 58, says she doesn’t think she’ll be the only one pleased on the 40-city tour. As a life-long professional entertainer, she says it was designed with her loyal audience in mind.

“There’s plenty of surprises, the band is kicking, the girls are beautiful and the show itself is a really pretty show,” she says, again noting the attractive staging. “It’s a step up, and I think they’re going to love it.”

Midler says she’ll be singing songs she never had before, including numbers from “The Rose,” and that there will be lots of video accompaniments, most of which were made just for the tour. There will also be several selections from her new album, “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook,” on which she collaborated with longtime friend Barry Manilow.

“I was just enchanted by her,” says Midler of legendary pop/jazz singer, who passed away two years ago. “I really loved her voice, and I loved her style. She was a very relaxed singer, she had a great sense of phrasing. But besides that, she was also a really wonderful soul.

“I met her – more than a couple of times – and I considered her a friend. She was such a big-hearted woman, and she went out of her way to make everyone feel that they were the only people in the world that mattered to her.”

Interesting enough, Midler’s tribute to Clooney has been nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Traditional Vocal Album” category. Another nominee is Clooney, who got the nod posthumously for her “The Last Concert” CD.

“I hope she wins,” says Midler, a four-time Grammy winner herself. “I just thought she was a consummate musician.”

To millions, Midler has been the consummate entertainer. She’s starred in hit comedies such as “Ruthless People,” successful dramas such as “Beaches” and “The Rose,” for which she was nominated for an Oscar. She even won an Emmy for her performance on the “Tonight Show,” when she brought a retiring Johnny Carson to tears.

Midler, when reflecting on her career, has a hard time picking out a milestone moment that she remembers best.

“It’s the little, tiny things, really,” she says. “The very small things. I remember making some pictures very, very vividly, and some are just a blur, where it was just treading water. Some records were the same way.

“But what stands out – and what I think I’m kind of amazed at – is how busy I always managed to be, and I wonder if it’s an illness,” she adds with a laugh. “I wonder if it’s some kind of compulsion that I’m afflicted with. I don’t know … . It’s been a lot of fun.”

Midler says she doesn’t see herself as more of an actress than a singer, or vice versa. Both careers, she says, come with ups and downs, and she’s always enjoyed the challenge of delivering quality work.

“It can be very hard when you’re working with people that have no vision or have no ability to communicate,” she says. “That’s very difficult. Then you’re on your own, and you’re at sea, and you have to do the best you can, and that can be drudgery. But when you’re working with great people, you just fly, and I think that’s what art is about – losing yourself in the process.

“All of it is fascinating, especially if you have good help,” she adds. “If you’re playing with great musicians, it can be so uplifting to sing, and if you’re acting with great actors, or you’re working with a great director, it can be completely eye-opening.

“I enjoy all of it.”

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