BetteBack: A Little Foreshadowing From 1977

Midler best since West
Knight News Service
Wednesday, Dec. 28,1977

CHICAGO – Give credit where credit is due – Bette Midler is the best female impersonator to come along since Mae West. Watching her perform, though, brings strange images to mind, or this mind at least.

Among the ones that can be mentioned in print, my favorite is the picture of some unimaginable Viet Nam War of the 1990s, with Bette. now an old trouper like Martha Raye, giving her all to entertain the boys and girls in the trenches on a tour hosted by an aged Steve Martin or David Brenner.

You see, show business is a highly infectious disease that affects most severely the performers who pretend to mock it. From the beginning, Midler has tried to turn entertainment conventions inside out. I look like I came from a garbage can, she seems to say, so let’s dump on glamor.

And it is fun for a while to watch her turn herself into a spray-painted caricature adorned with the campy graffiti Midler attributes to Sophie Tucker. But the problem she has to face – and the reason Martha Raye looms in front of my eyes when Midler performs is that show business upside down or backwards still is show business.

Her act is parasitic, feeding on the past. For all the energy she puts out on stage, too much of it is borrowed energy. It s 5 to 1 that by the time a few more years pass the formerly shocking Divine Miss M will have quietly flowed back into the entertainment world’s mainstream. Wayne Newton and Bette at Caesars Palace. Midler cohosting the ‘ Tonight Show’ with John Davidson.

It’s not the cruelest hand fate can deal, but the question is how dedicated her fans are to Midler’s patented sleaze and the undertone of rebelliousness that goes with it.

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2 thoughts on “BetteBack: A Little Foreshadowing From 1977

  1. Larry Kart is obviously Miss Cleo’s ghost writer!!!


    (I still don’t approve of his tone. I’ll break his balls. Take THAT from a big mouth!)

    1. No I didn’t like his tone at all. I assumed people would know that, but you know where assumptions get us, right? 🙂 But it was a little eery…of course, this was written before she became a phenomenal movie star, so I think the tone of his piece would have improved….

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