Monthly Archives: February 2004

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Hey NYC: Bette To Participate in Carnegie Hall Benefit April 21st!

At the same time, Styler told me she’s added Bette Midler to her long list of performers at the April 21st Rainforest Foundation concert at Carnegie Hall. Styler is still searching for movie stars who are capable of belting a Broadway tune. If you know one, give us a call and we’ll pass on the name. And don’t say Hugh Jackman! Even though he wanted to do it, the Rainforest show is on a Wednesday night, which means Hugh will be on stage across town in “The Boy from Oz.”
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A Sold Out, Fun-Filled Night In Ft Lauderdale

Ms. M demands notice – and she gets it By Sean Piccoli Pop Music Writer February 29, 2004 SUNRISE · People have gotten so used to Bette Midler the movie actress, it is easy to forget her origins as a live entertainer. But Midler quickly re-establishes her bawdy, singing, high-strung self whenever she goes on tour. A sold-out performance on Saturday night at the Office Depot Center was no exception. “I opened the door for trashy singers with bad taste and big [breasts],” Midler said between numbers, asking aloud why younger idols such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and, of course, Janet Jackson never call or write. Midler laid out her pioneering credentials in an outsized and engaging show full of wisecracks, gaudy props, burlesque bits and pop favorites drawn from several decades. Whether singing from atop an airborne carousel horse or slinking about in snug catwear, the restless Ms. M demanded attention from the 16,000 people on hand and worked hard enough to guarantee they would. This audience got jokes about local life that suggested Midler does more than keep up on current events. There were very specific references to Miami (“Gateway to Haiti”) Boca Raton (“Where are my Boca Jewesses?”) and Davie (“Shake your mullets!”) and something unrepeatable about crusading South Florida lawyer Ellis Rubin. Midler clearly has spent time here. “Good evening Cubans, Jews, gays, retirees,” she said by way of greetings. “Did I leave anybody out?” No one should have come here expecting to be moved, as such, by the woman who sings The Rose with such a convincing aura of hurt and Wind Beneath My Wings as if it were more than greeting-card copy. The comedic segues and the Coney Island-themed set design of Midler’s “Kiss My Brass” tour put such a cheerful, show-bizzy gloss on the proceedings, even Midler’s most piercing ballads on Saturday were more about melodramatic fireworks than bittersweet expression. Midler sang Johnny Mercer’s Skylark with whispery ease and Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman with gusto. But the latter suggested that Midler also opened the door to a generation of big-voiced, power-ballad queens such as Celine Dion. But then, Midler never claimed to be subtle, just entertaining.
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News and Requests

Teddy Bear Auction New Bruce Vilanch Interview I need reviews from Los Angeles and Ft. Lauderdale if anyone would like to write one… Happy Oscar night everybody….may your favorites win! 🙂 Love, Mister D
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Teddy Bear Auction: March 20, 2004, Denver

City spirit By Bill Husted Denver Post The Bear to Make a Difference funder for the Matthew Shepard Foundation holds its Celebrity Teddy Bear Auction March 20 at the Westin Tabor Center. Look for custom-make bears from Elton John, Bette Midler, Leslea Newman (“Heather Has Two Mommies”), Tipper Gore, Katie Couric. … Sez who: “I never know how much of what I say is true.” Bette Midler
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A Great Interview With Mister V

Lunch with Bruce Vilanch of ‘Hairspray’ February 29, 2004 Debra Pickett Chicago TRibune Bruce Vilanch, in town to star in the national touring production of “Hairspray,” has all kinds of road warrior stories about life on tour. There was the massive blackout in New York when he was there in August for rehearsals. Then Hurricane Isabel hit Baltimore, where the show opened. And, when we sit down at Bob Chinn’s Crabhouse, on La Salle Street and the Chicago River, on a frigid late January afternoon, he is anticipating some serious weather at his next stop: Minneapolis. “Because it’s just not cold enough here,” he jokes, letting some L.A. slip into his usually East Coast-accented speech. In a bright pink “Hairspray” T-shirt and perfectly matched pink-framed glasses, Vilanch is hard to miss. Even without the bushy beard that was his trademark when he gained national attention as a Hollywood Square — he had to shave it off in order to more convincingly carry off his role as Edna Turnblad — he cuts far too striking a figure to be less than famous. Even his road warrior stories have been sprinkled with a huge dose of fabulousness. “I had a very glamorous blackout,” he says, recalling his August adventures in New York. He was in the middle of a rehearsal when the lights went out and, as fate and the recent trend toward stunt-casting would have it, “Hugh Jackman was actually rehearsing in the same building.” Vilanch’s driver was waiting for him outside, so, despite massive traffic tie-ups and a flood of displaced subway riders filling the streets, he gave Jackman a lift and then took Vilanch back to his hotel. “The first people I bumped into were Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, who were also staying there and also doing shows on Broadway. They were waiting to see if their shows were going to happen, since everything was being canceled. We talked for a minute, and then the owner of the restaurant in the hotel came out and said that since all the food was going to spoil, he was going to barbecue. So we were on the terrace of the hotel, barbecuing, and David Duchovny, who was shooting ‘Sex and the City,’ showed up. So we sat there on the terrace, drinking and hanging out…. It was better than Oscar night.” Vilanch, who has made a living writing jokes, one-liners and award show patter for most of Hollywood’s A-list, got his start in Chicago as an entertainment reporter for the Tribune-owned Chicago Today. Since he moved to Los Angeles in 1975, he’s been back to Chicago a few times to visit friends, but starring in the show — part of the “Broadway in Chicago” series — is the first opportunity he’s had to spend a serious amount of time here. He’s been checking out his old haunts. “I lived in Pipers Alley,” he says, “which was very funky and hippie. Before that, it was funky and beatnik. Now it’s neither funky nor hippie. My old apartment building is, like, a mall. It’s a Walgreens. There are six movie theaters where there used to be one art house. Well, art-slash-porno house.” It’s just not the same anymore. “I went by,” he says, shaking his head. “And there are little pockets of things that are the same. The coming of Treasure Island was a big deal in Old Town, where there hadn’t been any supermarkets. You had to take the bus to the Jewel. Then they opened this huge supermarket, and that was pretty much the beginning of the end of Old Town.” Now, he adds, “all the little Victorian buildings I used to hang out in are 60-story condos named El Greco.” Happily munching on a buttery garlic roll, drinking a Coke and waiting for his stir-fried shrimp to arrive, Vilanch is full of stories about his time here. He used to hold court at a Rush Street club called Punchinello’s, doing a cabaret-act-cum-social-commentary that used to start each night around midnight, when the actors would arrive after their shows. “I was never really a stand-up,” he says. “I guess I was more of a sit-down comic.” He never considered himself a “real” performer, he says, since he didn’t seem to need the stage in quite the same way that most actors did. Still, he was too much of a natural ham to hide behind his written words. Throughout his writing life, he managed to keep himself in one-man shows and opening acts and, most famously, a just-off-center game show square. Knowing who he was became a kind of Hollywood in-joke. Now, he is a bona fide stage star and is getting a taste of the kind of audience appreciation he used to make possible for others. “I love it,” he says, mimicking the standing ovations he gets as a matter of course. “And I guess I do need it now.” Vilanch credits Bette Midler with giving him his start as the world’s least-invisible ghostwriter. He went to see Midler, then just making a name for herself on Broadway, starring in “Fiddler on the Roof,” when she performed in a Chicago nightclub, and wrote an article about the saucy young diva. “She liked the story, and she called me and said, ‘That was a very funny story.’ And I said, ‘Well, you’re funny. You should talk more on stage.’ She said, ‘You got any lines?’ And we started doing jokes,” he says, not quite aware of how odd this sounds to non-Hollywood ears. As he talks about writing for Midler, and a host of other stars from Donny Osmond to Matthew Perry, I start to wonder if anyone on television is actually, unassistedly funny. As a Tribune writer, Vilanch gave Midler’s Chicago shows a uniquely local flavor. “The Standard Oil building had been the tallest building in town,” he remembers. “And then they had just opened the John Hancock building. Standard Oil they called ‘Big Stan’ and the Hancock was called ‘Big John’ so she’d say, ‘Let’s just hope they don’t name a building after [Richard J.] Daley.'” When Vilanch retells his own jokes, he always attributes them to the celebrity for whom he wrote them. It’s like he wants to quote himself — but not exactly. He also manages to make it clear that he’s the one responsible for putting all the local color in Midler’s many national appearances, but also makes it sound like it was nothing. “At the time I was the TV critic for Chicago Today,” he says, scratching his ample belly as he leans back in his chair. “And we would go on junkets all the time. This was before Watergate and ethics and conflicts of interest and all that stuff was invented. So I had all these friends from the junkets — TV critics from all over the country. I could call them up and ask them what was going on in their city that we could make fun of. Of course, now you can just jump on the Internet.” He lets the thought hang there for a minute, a veteran writer’s indictment of the lazy next generation. Then he changes his mind. “Thank God all that human contact stuff’s gone by the boards, huh?” he adds, playing his audience — me — perfectly.
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Friday, February 27, 2004

KMB Review: San Diego

00340536.jpg A truly divine Bette BY COCO LACHINE Bette Midler declared she isn’t retiring, and nobody can make her! Thank God, because her concert last week at the Sports Arena was every bit what you came to see. She opened with a production number of “Kiss My Brass”, descending on stage riding a carousel horse in a beautiful nautical pant outfit, amidst a set reminiscent of vintage Coney Island. She immediately wowed the crowd with her standards “Stuff Like That” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, recreating the exact choreography with the Harlettes from a 1970s TV show clip. Bette did a set from her latest album featuring the songs of Rosemary Clooney, including “Come On – A My House” and “Hey There”. She also brought out Soph’ from the dusty closet, along with Ernie and Clementine. Being from New York, my favorite part was her second set featuring Delores Del Largo, starting with her humble beginnings at the carnival sideshow, to her so-so Cabaret gig in “Chicago”, and finally, her big break in NYC with her show called “Fishtail Over Broadway”. Having fun with the lyrics, Ms. Del Largo launched into a series of songs covering Broadway for four decades, with “Everything’s Coming up Roses” (Gypsy), “Tonight” (West Side Story), “Cabaret”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Carousel), “Tomorrow” (Annie), “And I Am Telling You” (Dreamgirls), “All That Jazz” (Chicago), “One” (Chorus Line), “Hello Dolly” and ending with “Give My Regards to Broadway”. All this, while kicking her tail and whirling around the stage in her motorized “Jazzie”, in her fab mermaid suit. The audience went wild when she sang “From a Distance” and “Wind Beneath My Wings”. As a curtain call, she gave us what we waited for all night – “The Rose”. After that, no other song could have followed. Seen at the concert were Steve Miller, Robert Gleason and Mark Matys, John McCusker, Dan Ferbol and Steve Hardy, Rick Ford and Rafael Holguin, Julia Legaspi and Jess San Roque, Bill Beck and David Huskey, Chris Horton and Mike Zarbo, Ophelia and Cristina Monet, and practically half the queer community of San Diego County. If “Kiss My Brass” becomes a TV special, make sure you catch it. This is as divine as Ms. Midler ever was.
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KMB Interview: Trekking Towards Tampa

Article published Feb 27, 2004 The Divine Miss M returns Tampa Herald Tribune By Jay Handelman TAMPA — If you had any illusions (or delusions) about Bette Midler getting all soft and mushy as she ages, get rid of them. After all, her new concert tour, which stops at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa at 8 p.m. Tuesday, is called “Kiss My Brass.” Even though it’s a reference to the large brass section that’s traveling with her, it’s actually a fitting title for the Divine Miss M, who has never been afraid to express an opinion or potentially offend someone in the name of good fun and entertainment. Or even sanity. While starring in her own CBS sitcom “Bette” in the 2000-01 season, she went on the network’s “Late Show with David Letterman” and complained about how the workload was killing her. “I said I felt like a dung beetle pushing a pile of poop up a hill,” she reminded Letterman in an appearance last month. A week or so later, CBS put her out of her misery by canceling the series. While promoting her tour on Letterman’s show in January, she apologized to those she put out of work on a show that began to warm reviews, but quickly suffered from poor ratings. But “Bette” is in the past, and Midler is enjoying tremendous success and strong critical reaction to her latest live show, which she has described as “the biggest show I’ve ever done. It’s a lot of work, but it’s my creation. I made it up.” She sings old hits such as “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “Friends” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” The show also features her trademark alter ego, the singing mermaid Delores Del-Lago, and some Sophie Tucker jokes. Midler waxes political (too much so, according to some complaints on various Web sites) and performs selections from her latest album, the Grammy-nominated “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook.” And it’s all wrapped up in her trademark over-the-top style, on a set reportedly inspired by Coney Island. With Letterman, she joked that the hardest part of her shows is choosing the costumes. “I went to Christina’s (Aguilera) last show,” she said. “She was prancing around in pasties and a G-string, and do any of these girls ever call me and say, ‘Thank you?’ Do any of them ever write a note? “I opened the door for trashy singers with bad taste and big (breasts), and don’t you forget it. I have the patent on that. They owe me big time.” The album of Clooney songs reunited her with an early collaborator, Barry Manilow, who told her he had a dream about the recording. Manilow accompanied Midler when she first found an audience in gay bathhouses in New York, and he was the producer of “The Divine Miss M,” the album that first brought her wide attention 31 years ago. The Clooney album went gold, and Midler, now 58, found herself in the awkward position of competing with the late singer for the Grammy. (They both lost to k.d. lang and Tony Bennett). “Kiss My Brass” is the first tour to bring Midler back to the Tampa Bay area since 1994, when she presented “Experience the Divine” at what was then the Thunderdome (now Tropicana Field) in St. Petersburg. The show is getting strong reviews around the country for its brassy, bawdy and colorful nature. The New York Times called it “a delirious, freewheeling celebration of phoniness.” And the Daily News in New York said the tour “tempers Bette’s eagerly coarse persona with more nostalgia than any show of the star’s 30-year career.” And while she’s been busy preparing for the tour, she’s also been busy onscreen. Her latest film, a remake of “The Stepford Wives,” is due out later this year, with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick. Midler jokes about the bawdier and trashier elements of her performances, but she told the Rocky Mountain News that “An artist is really supposed to move you — even the lowest form of art. I’m not saying my art is the lowest form, but it’s not far from the bottom. “Even so, we do struggle to have people be moved. And moving people is not just making them cry. It’s making them laugh and having them come out of the auditorium wearing a different face — changing them, transforming them, even if it lasts for just a week.”
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KMB Review: One More From The OC

RollingStone.com4.jpg WITTY, WARM AND WICKED, MIDLER TAKES POND BYSTORM Daily News (Los Angeles, CA); 2/24/2004 Byline: Fred Shuster Music Critic BETTE MIDLER brought her over-the-top mix of Broadway and Coney Island to the Anaheim Pond on Sunday in a dazzling concert that brightened a miserably rainy night and offered witty commentary on the state of the world. Always a top-notch, tireless entertainer, Midler’s lavish two-hour-plus road show features a tight script and new choreography alongside some familiar ingredients. In one of two touching segments, Midler paid tribute to Rosemary Clooney, interpreting “Come On-a My House” and “Hey There” while gorgeous ’50s black-and-white photos of the late standards singer played on a large screen. Another moment that unexpectedly pushed some emotional buttons saw Midler dueting with a clip of the late Fred Rogers from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The tender performance of Rogers’ “I Like to Be Told” (“I like to be told/If it’s going to hurt”) was an eloquent take on the loss of civility. More often, Midler displayed the brassy, comically self-deprecating alter-ego that crosses Ethel Merman with the brilliant late drag performer Divine. Costumes were predictably outrageous, taking in everything from sequin-sporting sailor suits to fishtails and umbrella hats. As the 58-year-old Midler trumpeted early in the show: “I opened the door for trashy singers with bad taste and big (breasts)!” Another bit that drew cackles from the almost-capacity Orange County crowd dealt with Midler’s failed sitcom. Appearing in front of “Judge Judy” on screen, Midler is told to apologize for the show. “Maybe my show wasn’t must-see TV,” she said. “Maybe it wasn’t might-see TV. But there are worse things on TV. I’m too much of a lady to mention them but … Anna Nicole Smith!” At numerous turns during this highly recommended show (which comes to Staples Center tonight), Midler’s humanistic message came shining through, extending to generous introductions of the Harlettes, her trio of backup singers and dancers, and members of the superb 13-piece orchestra that included well-known Los Angeles percussionist Lenny Castro. One of the night’s best performances was “September,” a moving ballad that referenced 9-11, and “From a Distance,” which Midler called her “favorite song from the last Bush war.” For those who’ve seen Midler before, the current “Kiss My Brass” tour retains the popular “Fishtails Over Broadway,” a 20-minute medley of fish-themed show tunes featuring mermaid-costumed dancers whizzing around the stage in motorized wheelchairs. Nobody could ever accuse Midler of good taste. Midler was lifted off stage on a carousel horse. One hope she continues this marvelous trek for many years to come.
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Thursday, February 26, 2004

For Amy: Bette As ‘Mother Earth’

=&0=& BaltoBoy Bette Scans 156.jpg Love. Mister D
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The L.A. Concert….

Would anybody like to weigh in on the L.A. concert…so far, I can’t find any reviews of it at all…. Thanks, Mister D
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