`Miss T’ Enjoys Being Divine
By AMY ELLIS LUNA
Courant Staff Writer
January 27 2005
Bette Midler is coming to Hartford.
Well, sort of.
Kathy Thompson performs as the Divine Miss M in “A Tribute to Bette” Friday and Saturday as part of the third season of the Standing Room Only Cabaret.
We talked to Thompson by phone from Canada last week.
Q: So you started performing at 16?
A: Yeah, a little younger than that, but professionally at 16. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Q: I read in your bio, you performed with the Royal Canadian Air Force?
A: Boot camp and all! It was great.
Q: Tell me more.
A: We were like the premiere 55-piece concert band in Ottawa. The way that military bands work there’s really no place for a singer. But they wanted me in the band so that when we did dignitary concerts or recruit tours at schools they wanted a young female singer kind of thing. So I went to boot camp – I was a master corporal when I went in and then I retired as sergeant – but there’s no place for a singer so they had me playing clarinet. And I would just pop out front every once in a while and do some Anne Murray songs or “Ghostbusters.”
Q: You started your own jazz quartet. Is jazz your passion?
A: Jazz is my strong suit. I love jazz.
Q: How did the Bette Midler impersonation come about?
A: A friend of mine was a Neil Diamond impersonator – he was doing shows all over the place – and he said, “You know what? I heard that the Las Vegas people, their Bette Midler is out pregnant, and they might be looking for someone.” I said I could never do that, but I kind of had the look like her. So I flew down to Las Vegas, and I auditioned, and sure enough they said, “Yeah we like it.”
Q: And you’ve been doing this for about 10 years now?
A: I still sing as myself, and I still teach a lot – I’m a singing teacher – and I do incorporate voice training, but the Bette Midler, it’s a whole unique thing. It’s much more difficult to impersonate somebody – I like to say “tribute artist.” There’s a lot of parameters and rules to presenting somebody else.
A: Absolutely. If somebody’s a Tina Turner tribute artist, they have to talk like her, dance like her, make the faces like her, think like her. And it’s very unnatural when you’re trying to be natural.
Q: What do you like best about “being” Bette?
A: You know what’s interesting about Bette is that you really can’t tell when it’s her singing. Like if you heard a new song, could you immediately tell if it was Bette as easily as you could tell if it was Rod Stewart? You know what I’m saying? She’s kind of like a chameleon voice. Almost every song has a different sound and style to it … so it’s the diversity that’s really wonderful.
Q: Have you ever met her?
A: No, everybody asks that. No, I have not. It seems that everybody I know has met her but me.
Q: What can we expect from your show here in Hartford? Bette does a little bit of everything.
A: She does. She does everything but roller skate! There will be live musicians on the stage. … I just love the energy of musicians on stage, that’s going to be a real treat. I would like to do a little bit of a time-travel retrospective of where Bette’s been and what she’s done. I’m hoping it will be a really fun, interactive, intimate evening just honoring this woman.
The Standing Room Only Cabaret presents “A Tribute to Bette” with Kathy Thompson Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St., Hartford. Tickets cost $22.50 to $50, and a portion of the proceeds benefit Hartford Hospital’s Women’s Health Services. Tickets: 866-468-7619 or www.ticketweb.com.