The peopleâ€™s diva
Posted on 29 Sep 2011 at 5:00pm
2 years after her Vegas show ended, Bette still proves that â€˜The Showgirl Must Go Onâ€™
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
Bette Midler got her start working in New York Cityâ€™s Continental Baths, the premier gay bathhouse in America at the time. Since then, sheâ€™s gotten two Oscar nominations, won four Grammys, three Emmys and a Tony, headlines huge films and audience-grabbing TV specials. But in reality, sheâ€™s still just the queen among the queens, camping it up with puns, sexual double entendres and swinging her rack around like a mink stole at a debutante ball. She may be on the Vegas stage with a 13-piece orchestra and throngs of adoring middle-ages couples, but the act is pure late-night drag club.
Thatâ€™s probably what has attracted the gays to Bette since her earliest days.
We love Liza, care for Cher, bow to Barbra and go gaga for Gaga, but Bette?
Sheâ€™s still one of us. Fabulous â€¦ well, as fabulous as we imagine ourselves to be.
For two years, Bette played the Palace â€” Caesarâ€™s Palace on the Vegas Strip â€” with The Showgirl Must Go On, her paean to corny glamour. Itâ€™s been nearly two years since the show closed, but you can finally see it with the DVD release. And itâ€™s exactly what you think it will be.
La Bette has always known her base, so she gives shoutouts to â€œthe gays,â€ who have always appreciated that she proudly pioneered the â€œtrashy singers with big titsâ€ trend â€” drag queens with real-girl parts. Sheâ€™s not letting go of the honor easily. Vegas is a good fit for that, trafficking as it does in that sheen of tinsel and cheap glam â€” headdresses, scanty costumes (frequently changed), garish lighting and plenty of dazzle alongside the razzle.
Slickly filmed and fast-paced (aside from a quirky intro involving a twister that makes no sense), itâ€™s a dazzling document of the Divine Miss Mâ€™s great gifts as a comedian and performer.
Her voice is still in fine shape, from â€œFriendsâ€ (the song that launched her to her first Grammy) through the inescapable tearjerker â€œFrom a Distanceâ€ (her fourth Grammy), with new arrangements of classics like â€œDo You Want to Danceâ€ and â€œThe Roseâ€ that are true to the originals without being carbon copies. That almost makes up for the one-liners she does as her alter-ego â€œSophieâ€ â€” Bette admits sheâ€™s been telling them for 40 years, but weâ€™ve laughed just as long.
True enough. Thatâ€™s probably why we like her so much. We both get each other.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday.