BetteBack: Gidget Goes to Hell

Wisconsin State Journal
Bette Midler keeps on truckin’
Monday, August 8,1983

Bette Midler’s makeup is one part talent, one part energy, one part progressive foresight and several parts nerve.
She’s simply a gutsy broad. No one stands in her way without getting knocked down. And in a business where they like to peg your style and hold you there forever, Midler keeps  singing, dancing, acting and writing her way through whatever she wants.

“Once I was the Boogie Woogie Bugle Girl, and that’s what they wanted me to be,” she said.  “I didn’t want to be just that. It’s one thing to be the great American entertainer; it’s another thing to be limited by what you do.; “People in this business ‘don’t want you to be your full potential. They’re  fools; it’s more extra effort for them to keep up with you. I want to bang their heads together.”

That’s one philosophy for success, and the 5-foot-l redhead – born Bette Davis (showbiz wise, the name was already taken) 37 years ago – can certainly endorse its effectiveness.  Midler’s start in showbiz was full of bravado; she won the part of Tzeitel in “Fiddler on the Roof” after being told director Jerry Robbins might not let her back in the chorus if she failed – the audition.

Then, after seeing a production of the Theater for the Ridiculous, Midler Created her character, “The Divine Miss M.” “Sleaze with Ease” and “Trash With Flash” were the mottos as “Miss M” crooned and boogiewoogied through programs of glitz and raunch at venues as diverse as New York’s stuffy Palace Theater and gay Continental Baths.

It became a formula for stardom, especially since there was nothing quite like her. She recorded eight albums, but even stepped away from music to earn an Emmy nomination for her special, “OF Red Hair is Back,” and an Oscar nomination for
her starring role in “The Rose.”

And even when things appeared to be going just swell, she split with manager and ex-lover Aaron Russo, choosing to run her own business affairs.

“I can be anything I want to be,” Midler said. “You can walk on water if you want; Jesus did, and look what he went through. My fans think I can go anyplace. They feel about me like I feel about myself.”

Next stop for the Midler contingent is rock ‘n’ roll and her first album in three years, “No Frills,” which will be out soon. Produced by Chuck Plotkin – who has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Orleans and Stevie Nicks – the record includes a
cover of the Rolling Stones‘ “Beast of Burden,” among other more rock-oriented numbers.

And Midler’s assertion that it’s “one of the best records I’ve made in a while” sounds more like genuine pride than the mandatory show business hype.

“I’m real proud of it,” she said. “There are lots of high spirits on it, more rock ‘n’ roll than the other albums usually are, which is good for me because I want to move in that direction. It moves; it’s not sluggish at all.

“Once we got ‘The Rose’ under our belts, I thought we could do something like this,’ she said. “I thought that was pretty good rock ‘n’ roll. But we couldn’t get it played. The AOR (album-oriented rock) stations, they didn’t want to know from me.

And even though Midler knows plenty of rock ‘n’ rollers, she had trouble getting songs for “No Frills.” Grace Jones’ sideman Barry Reynolds and King Crimson singer Adrian Belew – with whom she’s written songs like “Blind Ambition” and “Gidget Goes to Hell” – had good intentions that didn’t quite pan out.

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