BetteBack: The Queen Of Camp Faces A New Career

Thursday, November 10,1977

LOS ANGELES – Apparently having survived her reign as the Queen of Camp Bette Midler is Getting the chance to prove what some folks have long suspected – the Divine Miss M is more than a busty crazy who can be “trash with flash.”

Bette got a good ride out of the camp wave a few years ago putting us on with better-than the original versions of the Andrews Sisters‘ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and the Shangri-Las “Leader Of The Pack.”

She was a caricature artist, poking wry fun at nostalgia and giving us good music at the same time. But the handle “Last of the Trashy Ladles” Is anything but a ticket to superstardom. There are some lady singers who’d slug you if you suggested their act was tacky. And when the camp craze passed, where would that leave the lady who sang its anlhems?

The Divine Miss M seemed in danger of becoming a female Tiny Tim. But Bette Midler had an ace up her sleeve. Underneath the craziness – her discovery while singing In New York’s gay Continental baths, her bawdy dress and stage antics – the
lady had talent. She was a singer-actress who look advantage of a quirk in the evolution of popular music to establish herself as a solid entertainment personality.

And now, with camp gone, Bette Midler’s still here, and with a brand new career in front of her. She has taped a Thanksgiving special for CBS and a Special for CBS to be aired In December. She’s just finished anolher album and has finally completed a movie deal, with 20th Century-Fox.

Faced with Ihe new rush of exposure, she says, her first order of business was to reduce her extravagant dimensions.

“Slimming down lor the great public, you know,” she said one day recently, striking a Greta Garbo pose. “They don’t like
them roBUST.”

“Besides,” she added flatly, “I looked like a house. I didn’t care for the way I looked. I couldn’t get into any of my clothes, plus I saw what I looked like on the Great Tube. It was terrifying!

“I finally had enough. I lost 15 or 20 pounds.”

A svelte Miss M says she’s ready to return to her first love, acting.

“Acting Is what I’ve always done,” she says. “I started in the theater. I thought I would be a great dramatic actress. I was
16 when 1 started and I always expected lo be some kind of leading lady, “But when I got to New York, I tell you, leading ladies don’t look like me, they’re not built like me. It was kind of hard to get those jobs because there were established people to contend with.”

But Barbra Streisand changed the look of the American Leading Lady, and It Is another Barbra Streisand that folks are looking for In Belle Midler. Her upcoming film – “The working title Is ‘Rose'” – is not altogether unlike Miss Streisand’s last
epic, “A Star ls Born.”

“It’s a strong story about a rock ‘n roll singer,” says Bette.

“You’ve got a lot of music In It, a lot of rock ‘n’ roll music. It’s pretty strong stuff.”

And afler the movie, Bette’s got her eyes on faraway horizons.

“I might end up in opera, who knows? I think I’d like lo do some version of ‘Salome’ (Strauss’ one-act opera), a rock ‘n
roll version of ‘Salome.’ I saw a real serious version ot it the other day on some cheesy channel (‘You know, the ones you have lo fiddle with the channel lo get’).

“It was sensational. This woman, this Salome, she was great, She had the head of John the Baptist on a plate, flinging It
about. It was amazing!”

A more likely project for the new Miss M Is a musical comedy In Ihe old MGM slyle.

“It’s what 1 really want to do,” she says. “1 really want to do a technicolor musical comedy – a great-big, old fashioned musical comedy. The kind they don’t seem to know how to make any more.”

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