BetteBack: Vito Russo On Bette Midler

Photo: Brian Heck

April 23, 1975: Vito Russo on Bette Midler.
Article from:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine) Article date:November 10, 1998

With the release of her new album, Bathhouse Betty, the last few people on the planet unaware that Bette Midler got her stag at a New York City gay bathhouse have finally been clued in. What people might not know is that back in 1975, on the eve of the Broadway premiere of Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue, she granted one of a handful of interviews she gave to The Advocate, despite what Midler’s friend and Advocate reporter Vito Russo (author of The Celludoid Closet) described as “an overprotective publicity team.”

Russo provided a lengthy reminiscence of Midler’s bathhouse days: “You could take your pick of any one of 50 empty folding chairs in the basement of the Continental Baths…. Midler would complain weekly that the pool activity and that `goddam waterfall’ were cramping her act.”

Russo asked Midler what she thought about the rapid changes in attitudes toward gay men and lesbians and how “some people can’t cope with it.” Midler replied, “But it’s the way of the world…. We’re not the first people to go through traumas or crises. You wouldn’t want to be around during the Black Plague now, Vito, would you? There are always the best of times and the worst of times all the time. It’s part of being on the planet…. Oh, hell, Vito, listen. It’s all right for anybody to be who they are. Just as long as they don’t let their dogs shit on the street. Just so they don’t make your life miserable. I don’t think there’s enough time to fritter your life away thinking bad things … about other people and how they live.”

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