Bette Midler’s makeup is one partÂ talent, one part energy, one part progressive foresight and several partsÂ nerve.
She’s simply a gutsy broad. No oneÂ stands in her way without gettingÂ knocked down. And in a businessÂ where they like to peg your style andÂ hold you there forever, Midler keeps Â singing, dancing, acting and writingÂ her way through whatever she wants.
“Once I was the Boogie WoogieÂ Bugle Girl, and that’s what theyÂ wanted me to be,” she said. Â “I didn’t want to be just that. It’s one thing toÂ be the great American entertainer;Â it’s another thing to be limited byÂ what you do.; “People in this business ‘don’t wantÂ you to be your full potential. They’re Â fools; it’s more extra effort for themÂ to keep up with you. I want to bangÂ their heads together.”
That’s one philosophy for success,Â and the 5-foot-l redhead – born BetteÂ Davis (showbiz wise, the name wasÂ already taken) 37 years ago – canÂ certainly endorse its effectiveness. Â Midler’s start in showbiz was full ofÂ bravado; she won the part of TzeitelÂ in “Fiddler on the Roof” after beingÂ told director Jerry Robbins might notÂ let her back in the chorus if she failedÂ – 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.