Bette Plays The Pitts-Burgh Tonight


Photo: Thank you so much Kathy B!

Mister D: Thank you Manilow Elf!

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette –
8 January 2004

“I remember her presence very well,” Midler said, “and the type of
atmosphere she created. I had a very strong attachment to her.

“I really do love the female voice. I’m a singer, so to me it’s interesting
to hear another singer.”

The idea of putting her own signature on “The Rosemary Clooney Songbook” was brought to her “out of the blue” by Barry Manilow, who had
accompanied her on the piano during the fondly remembered, if still a mite
scandalous, nights of singing at the Continental Baths.

“I was almost afraid to return the call,” Midler said. “I’d thought Barry
was through with me long ago. But when I did call him back, he said,
‘Bette, I had a dream. I had a dream that you and I did a tribute to
Rosemary.’ ”

The album, recorded soon after Clooney died in June 2002, has been a big
success. As a result, Midler has incorporated such Clooney standards as
“Tenderly” and “You’ll Never Know” into the repertoire for her current tour.

Midler, the ardent fan, and Clooney, the established star, became friends
after Midler’s move to the mainland, first to New York City, then Los
Angeles and Hollywood, in the 1970s.

“People loved Rosemary,” Mid-ler said. “She was such a wonderful human
being. I last saw her at a tribute in her honor by the Society of Singers,
a group of mostly big-band singers who look after their own. Everybody was
there: k.d. lang, Linda Ronstadt, Barry Manilow.”

Midler paused for a long moment, then added wistfully:

“If anybody needed an example of how to be loved by your peers, she really
was. She was so loved.”

Preparing for a rugged, continent-spanning tour such as this — Midler’s
first in four years — has been a physical and emotional challenge, the
58-year-old star said.

Never one to stint where her admirers are concerned, Midler turns every
concert appearance into a near-encyclopedic compendium of the songs and
characters with which she is associated, many of them in- your-face.

Big production numbers such as the “Delores del Lago” routine are
interspersed with single-spotlight interludes and often outrageous “Soph”
jokes, reminiscent of the bawdy wit of pioneering cafe entertainer Sophie

This time around, Midler said, she has tried to de-emphasize the dancing
and stress the singing as a way of lightening the demands on her seemingly
limitless stamina.

Still, getting a two-hour show ready for touring is almost always as
painful as the performances are exhilarating.

“The shows are fun,” she said, “but the rehearsal is very, very tough.
There are a lot of elements, a lot of personalities. Only a couple of the
people have toured with me before. There’s been a big turnover. It’s a
struggle, and you have to get used to new people.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Nothing personal, just business.”

Once the show is on the road, performing is, in effect, an aerobic
exercise. Before setting off, however, Midler works hard to get in shape,
running on a treadmill and using the Stairmaster.

Besides touring, the Divine One is dividing her time between feature films
and the concert stage. She’s a member of the ensemble cast of the
big-screen remake of “The Stepford Wives,” which is scheduled to hit
theaters in June.

“I’m happy wherever I am,” Midler replied in a distinctly un- diva- ish
manner. “I try to be right there and do it as I can. Each has something to
recommend it.”

But she made it clear that there is one vehicle she won’t try ever again: a
weekly television sitcom. Her last venture in that direction, the 2000
series “Bette,” was a misfire, and it taught her “a good lesson.”

“TV is too hard, so hard, so terribly hard. It’s a writer’s medium, and the
writer is king, and if you don’t have a really healthy, really productive
writer …,” she said, her voice trailing off.

By comparison, a tour like her “Kiss My Brass” extravaganza is safe,
familiar territory.

“I enjoy the crowds,” she said. “I love the sound of the laughter, the
applause, the stillness when they’re listening to a ballad. What keeps me
going is really the crew. I have a big staff and a lot of support and try
to live properly — like a monk, actually. You don’t see a lot, and you
don’t go out as a group. But it’s what I do, and how I make my living, and
I’m used to it.”

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