BetteBack: “…Just One Of A Special Kind”

The Daily Herald

No one could say that success has crept up on Bette Midler – it burst upon her like one of those tropical storms that occasinally hit her native Hawaii. An unknown only a short time ago, she has become one of the most popular young talents in America today.

“Sensational!” is how producers Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion describe her performance on the new Burt Bacharach special airing on Channel 4 at 9 p.m. Wednesday. “She’s the. most dynamic person Dwight and 1 have worked with in several years. In this business, newcomers are always likened to other stars. Bette has the individual qualities of a lot of others, but she’s not like any of them. She’s just one of a special kind,” exclaimed Smith.

And Bette Midler laughs through it all. When Bette laughs it’s as though all the floodlights have suddenly been switched on.
“When did I realize I was finally a star?” she echoed a questioner, ‘I haven’t realized it yet! It all seems like a fairy tale, and mine’s not really a fairy tale life. So it’s hard to believe it’s me people are talking about.”

One of Bette’s particularspecialties is her vivid interpretation of the tunes from the 1940s. “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” one of the numbers she sings in the Bacharach special – makes it easy to jump to the conclusion that Bette has seized upon a gimmick.

“What really happened,” she explained, “is that I was brought up in the ’40s and all the records my parents had were, of course, of the ’30s and ’40s. I found myself fascinated by the music, but even more fascinated by the women singers. Like the Andrews Sisters, whom I imitate in ‘Chattangooga.’

“The fascination lasted, and later I really began to research that era. I spent hours at a time in music libraries listening to
old show tunes and pop songs and absorbing the stories of the stars. I became something of an expert, simply out of personal interest, not because I intended to exploit it.

“I wanted to be an actress, really,” continued Bette, “But everyone wanted me to be c o n v e n t i o n a l , to fit a stereotype, which I couldn’t. I’m not a conventional person. It was quite a fight. “I never intended to concentrate on the oldies. In f a c t , I don’t. I sing contemporary numbers as well, but everyone has seized on the way I sing the oldies, so I guess, that’s my strength.”

Who cooked up ‘The Divine Miss M“?

“That just happened, too!” she answered. “I was always imagining myself as the people I wanted to play – real people and characters alike. I seemed to feel their presence and would be carried away by them. And people started saying, ‘isn’t she
divine?’ Before I knew where I was, I was being called ‘Divine’ and it stuck.”

Share A little Divinity

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