BetteBack: Get Off The Road!

Don’t tell Bette Midler, she of the electrified red hair and raucus song style/to hit the road – she’s liable to hit back. Her press agents tell you Bette’s first cross-counlry. tour raked in $3 million. And last year she spent six months on the road, presumably attracting at least that many greenbacks, if not more.

This year, however, thediminutive songbird i s skipping the gold tinged macadam to tape her own television special, cut a new album and star in her first motion picture (the title is still a secret at Universal Pictures).

Bette – whose parents named her for Bette Davis (although Midler pronounces it Bet instead of Betty) – has not become indifferent to gelt. Nor is she dodging taxes. Neither does she claim to find the grand tour artistically stifling.

Her plaint is basic. The road makes her sick. Physically, psychologically, emotionally ill.

Barefoot and dressed in what appeared to be a white baptisma l gown , Bette yawned her way around a curious royal blue and white chalet high in the Santa Monica mountains above Beverly Hills. The exterior of the rented dwelling, as well as the. Interior, bespeaks cuckoo clock decor. Bette hastened to say the furnishings and paint job did not reflect her now taste.

“It’s owned either by our ambassador to the Ivory Coast or the Ivory Coast ambassador to the United States,” Bette said, indif – ferent to the details. “1 was born and raised in Hawaii , but when 1 get through with this television show, the album and the movie, I’m going back to New York. That’s home to me now. And next year I’ll go on tour again.”

Why did Bette not tackle the road again this year? After all, a girl can’t pick off 53 million for six months work in TV and a movie.

“First of all, 1 travel with 30 people in my Iroupe,” she said. “There are eight in the orchestra, three girl singers, the lighting and sound guys and all Ihe rest. We travel by plane and car, so it’s not all that profitable. “You don’t go out on the road to make a lot of money anyhow. IT just creates interest and excitement so people will buy your records.

“There’s a group called ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) who are going to tour with a troupe of 100. There’ll be 70 in the band alone. That’s the most anyone has ever schlepped around the country.”

So her hesitancy is purely economic?

“God no,” she cried. “The day you hit the road you get sick and you stay sick. It happens to every group on tour. “The first thing to go is the voice. Then the feet. And then your can. It’s a nightmare condition from the very beginning. “You’re eating different food and drinking different water every day. And you don’t have your own doctor along to look after you. So there you are, sick to your stomach, suffering intestinal problems, nursing a sore throat and you still get up on stage every night and perform.

“You feel terrible because you aren’t doing your best for the people who come to see you. When your voice is gone, you sing over it. It’s a hazard of the road. “Two months into my last tour I canceled a couple of shows in Boston and took off
for the Virgin Islands for a few days rest. Then 1 went back on the road again. I hate to cancel, but you reach a
breaking point.

“And the cities all begin to look alike. You wake up and don’t know what town you’re in. The hotel rooms are identical, thanks to the big chains. And the food franchise places and gas stations are all alike. “The drive in from the airport to downtown looks exactly the same in every city. And it’s not exactly scenic – the ugliest routes you can find. The only thing that’s different are the people. Thank God.”

Belte sniffled and yawned again. It was early afternoon and the sun was shining brightly. She hadn’ t been awake long.
A handsome young man materialized in the room to hold a whispered conference with Betle. He took some car keys and disappeared.

“It’s good to stay in one place for awhile,” said Bette. “My TV special goes on the air in October for NBC. Dustin Hoffman is going to be my guest star, He’ll play the piano and we’ll discuss life, liberty and the pursuit ol happiness.

“It’s not necessary for a recording star (Bette estimates her four albums have sold “a coupla million”) to branch out into television and movies but I think It’s a good idea.”

Also, these activities keep Bette Midler off the road, no small recommendation from her point of view.

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