KMB II Interview: Gaining On Grand Forks (Thanks Jason)

Tonight’s best Bette
Brassy Midler could draw as many as 12,500 fans to
Alerus Center show
By Paulette Tobin
Grand Herald Staff Writer

Although ticket sales haven’t reached Cherlike proportions, the Grand Forks Alerus Center is preparing for a really big show tonight when Bette Midler arrives with her “Kiss My Brass” tour.

Midler’s show, currently one of the top-grossing concert tours in the country, had sold between 8,000 and 9,000 tickets in Grand Forks by midweek, and the Alerus was setting up for as many as 12,500 fans, Alerus Center Executive Director Charlie Jeske said.

The show, a huge stage production based on midcentury Coney Island, will arrive in town via 14 trucks and 10 buses, Jeske said.

Midler, in an interview with the Herald, described the show as “pretty and quite big,” with music from her early work and from her recent Rosemary Clooney tribute album.

Midler’s area fans have waited a long time for the singer, actress and comedian – known from her flamboyant beginnings as the Divine Miss M – to come to Grand Forks. This is her first show in either of the Dakotas, she said.

Suits their style

Among tonight’s fans in the Alerus will be 10 area women who call themselves the Ya Ya Sisterhood, after the book and movie. These fans think Midler’s style suits their sense of fun and craziness.

The women have been getting together once a month for 20 to 25 years. They like to take trips together, spend every third weekend in July at a lake cabin and go to concerts together, said group member Gayle Thorson of East Grand Forks.

“We also do dumb things,” Thorson said. “Last year, we crashed the Potato Bowl parade, wore bikini T shirts and our Ya Ya hats.”

The group, with women from ages 38 to about 65, has a no-husbands and no-kids rule for its get-togethers, Thorson said. After tonight’s concert, the Sisterhood will have a sleepover and Christmas ornament exchange at the home of one of its members.

“We’re big fans of Bette,” Thorson said. “When we heard she was coming, it was like, ‘Who’s got Saturday off to go get the tickets?’

“We love Bette, and especially when she does ‘Kiss My Brass.’ We thought, ‘Hey, that’s us!'”

The group also saw the September 2002 Cher concert, which has the record attendance (20,000) for any Alerus concert so far.


MUSIC: ‘Kiss My Brass’
Bette Midler’s show boasts more than horns
By Paulette Tobin
Grand Herald Staff Writer

When Bette Midler named her tour “Kiss My Brass,” it wasn’t just because her show’s got a wonderful horn section.

“It’s also a pun that I have a lot of nerve and chutzpah,” said Midler, whose tour will arrive in Grand Forks tonight.

And how. After all, this is the singer, actress and comedian who launched her career in New York City’s gay baths in the late ’60s, singing World War II era songs such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

Other vintage Midler moves: Going on a European tour and writing a book about it called “A View From a Broad”; getting nominated for an Oscar for playing a revered but self-destructive rocker (read: Janis Joplin); and lacing her shows with raunchy and self-deprecating humor.

Midler’s previous stage shows have featured plenty of brassy characters, from lounge singer Vicki Eydie to Midler’s strutting backup singers, the Harlettes. But Midler has a tender, sentimental side, too, that’s shown itself in her renditions of classics such as “Drinking Again” and the hit songs she’s made classics, such as “The Rose” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

“Kiss My Brass,” a show based on midcentury Coney Island, will be “pretty and quite big,” with her trademark mix of sweetness and sass, Midler said.

“It’s very emotional,” she said in a brief telephone interview Saturday from Everett, Wash. “My people like emotion. They like to cry and laugh and tap their feet. It has lots of beautiful lights and gorgeous costumes. I’m very proud of it because I have the old songs and a couple of new songs from my Rosemary Clooney tribute album.”

And for the sassy?

“I have a mermaid in it,” she said. “I’ve done the demented mermaid for 20 years, so it could be the last time people see her. She is a very ill-tempered mermaid. This time, she’s trying to get to Broadway. She’s always trying to get to Broadway.”

And like many of her shows, the audience can expect the risque, including a return of the Harlettes and a reprise of Sophie Tucker jokes.

Midler said she was looking forward to bringing North Dakota a funny, theatrical show, reflective of her life’s experiences and far-ranging career, and yet, one that ultimately leaves her a bit bemused.

“I’ve kind of been everywhere and done it all, a little bit,” she said. “I think it’s queer, so odd, bizarre, that it’s turned out this way. I’m quite a serious person, but I seem to like frivolity, so what can I say.”

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