Bette Midler To Receive the Robert Moses Master Builder Award

Castro the Crooner
A.J. Carter

Somewhere between the girl who opened sofabeds in television commercials and the woman who opens parks as a state commissioner, Bernadette Castro harbored ambitions, albeit briefly, of a career as a singer.

It started when she was in high school with a band called Bernadette and the Swinging Bears, progressed to recordings as a single — one of which, “His Lips Get in the Way,” actually made it onto the charts on a label owned by the legendary Charles Koppelman, founder of EMI Music — and then to some club appearances in Manhattan and Queens, an ill-advised appearance on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and an audition before Motown founder Berry Gordy in Detroit before Castro decided that show biz was not for her.

“He was the ultimate star maker of the Sixties. He auditioned me himself in a big studio and he was ready to sign me,” Castro said. Gordy, she said, listened to her sing and then took her to his office, where he played a recording by a group of Detroit high school girls he said would become stars once they graduated (and, in fact, “Where Did Our Love Go?” did quite well for the Supremes).

“He played that record and I knew it was a hit, and I realized he was very serious,” Castro said. “When you signed on with Berry Gordy, it was commitment for a career. It was the big step I had been waiting for, and I gave it a lot of thought. I realized that in the end … I needed a family, I wanted children… . It’s a tough industry in which to have a normal life.”

Castro dredged this little- known skeleton out of her closet as a way of establishing kinship between herself and Bette Midler, who is being honored with the Robert Moses Master Builder Award at the April 16, $400-a-plate dinner co-sponsored by the Long Island Foundation for State Parks and the state parks department, which Castro now heads. The dinner is at Carlyle at the Park at Bethpage State Park, and Castro said ticket sales are “on target,” although a few tables are available.

In attendance that night: Koppelman, whose wife, Bunny, is on Castro’s committee. Noted Castro: “It’s too bizarre.”

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