Photo: BaltoBoy Steve
By TOM SIME
The Dallas Morning News
No one present at American Airlines Center would have dreamed or dared to ask, but Bette Midler answered the question anyway. “I’m not retiring, and you can’t make me!” she vowed.
Her fans wouldn’t let her even if she tried. Ms. Midler spent her Thursday evening wrapped in adoration as tight as her fetching sailor pants for the Dallas stop of her “Kiss My Brass” tour. The show has a vintage Coney Island theme, and Miss M made her entrance on a flying carousel horse. “This is the biggest show I’ve ever done,” she said. “I’m just tryin’ not to get killed up here.” We had to leave before the end, but Bette no doubt survived.
It was indeed an elaborate affair, even by Ms. Midler’s glitzy standards. She shared the Boardwalk-style stage with three new Harlettes – recently replaced, she told us, for “I, and only I, am ageless” – and a big brass band that gave a plush, old-school feel to the tunes from her superb new Rosemary Clooney tribute album. But they could also rock, as they did for Ms. Midler’s heroic rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman.”
Ms. Midler had done her homework and tailored her gags to her guests in “the third-fattest city in America.” She even sent greetings to the people from Mesquite in the distant balconies: “Show me your mullets!”
Dipping into her deep catalog of songs and shtick, Ms. Midler seized on nuggets like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Big Noise From Winnetka.” Other delicious tunes included “Stuff Like That There,” “Skylark” and a couple of stirring Tom Waits songs.
She revived familiar comic bits such as her mermaid character, Delores Del Lago, and Soph the Spinster (“I’ll never forget it, you know…”). And the dirty-old-lady act underscored the fact that at 58, Bette looks great. Svelte and beaming, her blond curls bouncing, her voice in great shape, she scurried about the stage like a Britney with brains. And by the way, those teen-pop tarts owe her, Bette said, taking credit as the first star to “dress like a ho” onstage.
But some clips from the ’70s – that “grisly decade” – showed her in demure slacks and platforms, backing herself up on “Bugle Boy.” Another video featured Bette in Judge Judy’s court, battling CBS over her failed sitcom. Ms. Midler, ever the sport, let herself lose that case. She can chalk it up as one more hard knock that made her the knockout she is today.