Ask the Flying Monkey: Why Are Gay Men Drawn to Divas? Plus, a Gay Ghost Hunter!
by Brent Hartinger
July 25, 2010
Q: A few months ago I asked you about Bette Midler’s 1972 Carnegie Hall concert, the Holy Gail of hardcore fans. An excellent and comprehensive fansite, Bette on the Boards, has posted an excerpt it says is from that legendary show. â€“ Arthur, Fresno, CA
A: Speaking of divas!
In 1971, rising star Bette Midler hired Barry Manilow, then the unknown piano player for New Yorkâ€™s gay Continental Baths, to be her accompanist and musical director. On June 23, 1972, after some successful appearances on The Tonight Show, Midler rented out Carnegie Hall. It was a big risk, but a wildly enthusiastic audience showed up, and Midler blew them away. Meanwhile, a pre-fame Manilow also took the stage for three songs and reportedly stopped this now-legendary show.
The only recording of it all is the one Manilow paid the sound-man to make (which so impressed recording executives that they ended up hiring him to produce some of Midlerâ€™s wildly successful debut album, which was released in December 1972; both the concert and the producing experience gave Manilow a taste of fame and led directly to his own very successful career later in the decade).
But no, this isnâ€™t Manilowâ€™s recording, which has only been made public in snippets (in a Barry Manilow solo boxed set, and in an A&E biography on Midler). According to Darrell, the webmaster of the Bette on the Boards website, this is a bootleg copy made by someone who was in attendance that night (and who has since died).
Listen to the recording here. (Itâ€™s the first track in the Bette on the Boards Jukebox section, halfway down the page).