By MIKE JAHN
Wed, Sept. 13,1972
Bette Midler may be the fastest-rising star to emerge this year. The 26-year-old former Hawaiian has in the past few months come from complete obscurity to considerable fame, all through the most incredible of circumstances.
Three years ago Bette Midler came to New York from Honolulu, hoping to become an actress. She nailed down a few off-Broadway roles and played on Broadway an “Fiddier On The Roof.” Thien, after listening to Aretha Franklin a lot, she decided to try singing. She put together an act mixing equal parts of old (1940’s, 1950’s and early. 1960’s) songs, contemporary ballads and ribald comedy.
She began dressing weird. During a recent appearance she wore a black,’Victorian, porno-corset fastened with a Shangri-Las fan club button; skin-tight gold pedal pushers and transparent high heels. Since her act was a bit unusual, a friend suggested she debut in the same manner.
She began an engagement at the Continental Baths, an establishment with an audience consisting of guys wearing towels.
Then she came to the attention of Johnny Carson, who not only booked her on his show, but used her as the opening act for his night club routine in.Las Vegas. A few short months after the Baths, she was playing at the Bitter End and the lines went down the block in two directions. The biggest crowd to” turn out in the Village since James Taylor tied up traffic in 1970.
Bette sings such songs as ‘Patti Page’s “Old Cape Cod”; Joni Mitchell’s “For Free”; Leon Russell’s “Superstar”; “John Prine’s “Hello In There”; the old rock ‘n’ rollers: “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and “A Teen-Ager in Love.”- There is also a slow version of “Do You Wanna :’Dance” along with these others on her first album, being readied for release in about a month on the Atlantic label.
Live, she also sings early 1960’s songs like “Leader of the Pack” or the 1940’s “Chattanooga Chop Choo.” She laughs a great deal, hops around the stage, runs through a series of ageless dirty jokes, and generally presents a rock audience with, its first, old-style cabaret act. A grotesque exaggeration of Liza Minnelfi singing rock ‘n’roll, if you will. Her smile., seems sincere, and though the jokes be old, she makes you feel good.