Bette Facts (Some Partial) And Trivia

Mister D: I meant to post this last year, but I guess I forgot. So here goes nothing….enjoy:

Bette Midler

Bette’s 1982 film, Jinxed, lived up to its name with well-publicized production squabbles between Midler, the director, producers, and a few of her co-stars. Following the film’s failure, Bette suffered a nervous breakdown and wasn’t seen onscreen until she signed a contract with Disney in 1986, then establishing a new film identity as a character comedienne in Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), and as a loudmouthed kidnap victim in Ruthless People (1987).

Bette organized a Lennon Sisters-like vocal trio called The Pieridine Three during her high school years. The group got its start performing at school functions, but later toured military bases, giving her experience with more mature audiences.

Bette spelled her name Betti and pronounced it “Betty” when she entered high school. By the middle of her junior year, she switched back to Bette, insisting her classmates pronounce her name the way her mother always did: “Bet.”
Bette’s brother, Daniel, who is six years younger than she is, was diagnosed as mentally retarded after an illness in his infancy.

Bette was second to Destiny’s Child when asked to sing the only up-tempo song (“Belleville Rendez-Vous” from the art-house animated French film, The Triplets of Belleville) nominated for an Oscar at the 76th Academy Awards ceremony, but she also declined the invitation.

Bette’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in which she was honored for her musical achievements on February 6, 1986, is located at 6922 Hollywood Boulevard.

Bette was instrumental in the orchestration of the first gay liberation rally in New York’s Washington Square Park in 1971, where she performed dressed as Miss Liberty. The rally was a dream she talked of pursuing as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Bette’s Experience the Divine Tour broke the record for consecutive performances at Radio City Music Hall, the number of tickets sold, and money brought in, selling 180,000 tickets for 30 shows totaling $11 million. That same year, the Los Angeles leg of the tour became the highest-grossing artist’s appearance in the history of the Universal Amphitheater.

Bette spent her thirtieth birthday undergoing appendectomy surgery.

Bette wore a typewriter hat for a record-breaking 1,500 book-signing appearance in 1980 promoting her first book, A View from a Broad, in New York City.

Bette was declared the first female drag queen by popular broadcaster, Arthur “Art” Bell, writing for The Village Voice. He said she was a woman imitating a gay man imitating a woman. At first insulted, Bette had to agree.

Bette hosted the first MTV Video Music Awards with comedian/actor Dan Aykroyd live from Radio City Music Hall in 1984. Instead of several wardrobe changes throughout the broadcast, Midler simply changed her hat. Her headdresses included a sequined black mantilla covered with glittery rose blossoms, a 1940’s mesh hairnet, a metallic-orange turban, a bow of black gauze, and a motorized black and white, feathery contrivance that spun around like the blades of a helicopter.

Bette was director Rob Reiner’s first choice to play the role of Annie Wilkes in the 1990 film adaptation of the Stephen King horror novel, Misery. Midler passed on the opportunity, citing the prospective character –who literally hobbles the writer she idolizes–- was the most hateful one she’d ever heard of and feared taking the part would jeopardize her acting career. A then lesser-known actress by the name of Kathy Bates was cast as Annie Wilkes, and went on to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

Bette and Twentieth Century Fox won a lawsuit in which actress/comedian Martha Raye sued them for $5 million in damages in 1992 on the grounds that Midler’s film, For the Boys (1991), was her life story and had been stolen by Bette and the executives at Fox.

Bette’s mother sewed all of Bette and her sisters clothes when they were younger, often times dressing them alike. When she taught her how to sew at age twelve, Midler was thrilled to be able to create the clothes of her dreams: ensembles inspired by Mr. Frederick of Frederick’s of Hollywood. Years later, she sewed for her own daughter, making all of her Halloween costumes, and collaborated with her husband to fashion the “Mud Dress,” a green and brown outfit her daughter wore while playing in the mud.

Bette’s stardom has catapulted several members of her musical entourage to fame: Barry Manilow, her 1970s musical director and co-producer of her first two hit albums, launched his own career as a successful superstar; singing star Melissa Manchester was an aspiring songwriter when she performed as one of Midler’s first background-singing Harlettes when Bette made her Carnegie Hall debut; 1990s former Harlette, Katie Sagal, became a TV star when she portrayed Peg Bundy on the hit comedy series, Married with Children; and both Jenifer Lewis and Linda Hart have gone on to successful acting careers in film and television since there Harlette days.

Bette and her For the Boys (1991) co-star, James Caan, were required by the film’s director, Mark Rydell, to learn tap dancing together to build rapport between each other before shooting began.

Bette made headlines when she went to Boston in 1976 to receive Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Award for Woman of the Year. As she headed down the aisle to the stage to accept the honor, she purposely swung open the back of her split skirt, revealing her bare behind to the audience.

Bette was self-conscious as the girl with not just the biggest, but the only bust in her seventh grade class, and was constantly made fun of.

Bette is a self-proclaimed “fabulous cook” and collects cookbooks.

Bette has a Jack Russell terrier named Puddles (a.k.a. Queen Puddles).

Bette played a double role of Mrs. Walker and The Acid Queen in the Seattle Opera Association’s production of the rock opera, Tommy, in 1971.

Bette sued the Ford Motor Company on July 13, 1987 for using a Bette Midler impersonator in a commercial for a line of cars. The case was dismissed.

Bette was ordered to pay $6,500 in fines and follow through with a replanting program as recommended by the Board of Land and Natural Resources for having felled more than 230 trees growing near one of her properties on the island of Kauai, inadvertently without a permit, and unknowingly constructing a graded road without the necessary approval needed to do so on land zoned for conservation purposes.

Bette, heralded for her ever-faithful commitment to the environment, was once christened the Compost Queen, and appeared on Los Angeles billboards promoting green recycling containers for yard trimmings.

Bette was featured on the December 17, 1973 issue of Newsweek, which included the cover story titled, “Here Comes Bette!: The Divine Miss Midler.”

Bette, in the company of such heterosexuals as David Duchovny, Christopher Reeve, Prince William, and Roseanne Barr, was once (1992) named one of the twenty-five coolest straight people in the world, according to The Advocate, a United States-based gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual people-related, bi-weekly newsmagazine.

Bette’s husband, Martin von Haselberg, taught her to speak German, to cook, martial arts, and encouraged her to pursue her interests in dance.

Bette has a penchant for old Hollywood musicals.

Bette’s manager, Aaron Ruso, feeling her album, Broken Blossoms, didn’t need another ballad on the record, convinced her at the last minute not to include “Someone That I Use To Love” on the release. Barbra Streisand and Natalie Cole later made hits of the song.

Bette’s father, Fred, was a house painter and her mother, Ruth, was a seamstress. Both passed away in the late 80’s.

Bette toured Ground Zero after the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists in September of 2001 and sang her poignant anthem, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” at the 9/11 memorial service held in Yankee Stadium that same month.

Bette will replace Celine Dion as headliner at the 4100-seat Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 20, 2008, beginning with a two-year, 100-shows-a-year stand which she has titled, The Showgirl Must Go On. The venue will feature Midler as such characters as Delores Delango, the wheelchair-bound mermaid she made famous in her early tour days, and the very, very old Soph, the oldest living showgirl in Las Vegas.

Bette has authored two books: the autobiographical A View from a Broad, published in 1980 which humorously focuses on her 1979 world tour, and The Saga of Baby Divine (1983), a cartoon-illustrated selection skillfully disguised as a children’s book, but on much deeper examination, is a very grown-up epic poem about a baby girl in which certain philosophical “truths” emerge.

Bette Midler has stated that the song, “From a Distance,” changed her life.

Bette is a supporter of AIDS charities and donates to more then twenty of them.

Bette always ends her concerts with the song “Ya Gotta Have Friends.”

Bette has released the following soundtrack albums:
~1979 The Rose
~1989 Divine Madness
~1988 Beaches
~1991 For The Boys
~1993 Gypsy

Bette opened Swindler Cove Park in 2003, a new five acre public park along the Harlem River banks, that features the first community rowing facility to be built on these shores in over one hundred years.

Bette founded the New York Restoration Project in 1995, a non-profit organization with the goal of revitalizing neglected neighborhood parks in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of New York City.

Bette released a new Christmas album titled Cool Yule in 2006. The release features the title song written by Steve Allen, and a “Winter Wonderland”/”Let It Snow” duet with Johnny Mathis.

Bette had her own self-titled sitcom on CBS in 2000. The show started out strong, with high ratings, but numbers quickly plunged. Lindsay Lohan played the role of Bette’s daughter in the pilot episode, but was replaced with Marina Malota.

Bette had two of her hit songs selected by the board of ‘The American Film Institute’ make ‘The 100 Years of the Greatest Songs’ list in 2004. ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ ranked #44 and ‘The Rose’ ranked #83.

Bette provided the voice for the animated character Georgette, a snobbish poodle, in Disney’s Oliver & Company in 1988.

Bette starred in her first dramatic role on the big screen in 1988 with Barbara Hershey, in the mega-hit Beaches. She also took home a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1989 for the #1 hit “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the theme from Beaches.

Bette started her comedic career on the big screen in 1986, when she was cast in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, directed by Paul Mazursky.

Bette was a performer in 1985 at the ‘Live Aid’ event at JFK stadium in Philadelphia, when she joined other celebrities to sing ‘We Are The World’. All of the profits from their performances went to the USA For Africa fudraising efforts. She joined such artists as: Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, and Lionel Richie.

Bette, two weeks shy of her forty-first birthday, gave birth to her and husband Martin Hasselberg’s only child, Sophie Frederica Alohilani von Hasselberg on November 14, 1986. Contrary to popular belief, Midler did not follow her mother’s idea of naming her children after favorite entertainers. Bette chose her daughter’s first name because she liked it, not to name her after Sophie Tucker, one of her favorite singer/comedians. The name Frederica was for Bette’s father, Fred, and Alohilani is Hawaiian for “bright sky.”

Bette met Martin von Haselberg, a commodities trader and performance artist who was part of a duo known as the Kipper Kids, in October of 1984. On December 16th of that same year, they were married in an impromptu Las Vegas wedding ceremony officiated by an Elvis impersonator at the Candlelight Wedding Chapel.

Bette was nominated in 1979 for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in The Rose as a drug-addicted rock star, patterned after ’60s rock icon Janis Joplin.

Bette received a special Tony Award for her contribution to Broadway for her 1974 performance in Clams on the Half Shell Revue at the Palace Theater. The award was for “adding lustre to the Broadway season”.

Bette began performing her cabaret act during the late sixties at the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse located in the basement of the famed 103 Astonia Hotel in New York City. While working there during 1970 and 1971, she formed a strong friendship with her piano accompanist, Barry Manilow, who later co-produced her first album, The Divine Miss M, in 1973.

Bette relocated from Hawaii to New York in 1966 to pursue an onstage acting career and landed her first professional role in Tom Eyen’s Off-Off Broadway production of Miss Nefertiti Regrets, following it with performances in Cinderella Revisited, Eyen’s children’s play by day and an adult show by night. After answering an open call as a chorus member in 1967 for the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof, she later upped to the part of Tzeitel, the eldest daughter of Tevye the Milkman (Zero Mostel), and stayed with the role for three years. It was during this period that her sister Judith, who was in New York to see her perform, was hit and killed by a taxi cab (1968).

Bette had a bit part as a seasick passenger on a ship in the 1966 film, Hawaii.

Bette attended Radford high school, then went on to major in drama at the University of Hawaii.

Bette jokingly turned the tables on the paparazzi at the Cynthia Rowley fashion show, as she sketched their pictures for them, stating that she was only making use of the sketch pads and pencils left on each seat.

Bette was Johnny’s final guest on the second to the last broadcast (May 21, 1992) of his late night talk show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. After the conversation turned to Carson’s favorite songs, “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Here’s That Rainy Day,” Midler mentioned she knew a chorus of the latter. She began singing the song, and after the first line, Johnny joined in, turning it into a touching impromptu duet. Bette, finishing her appearance from center stage, slowly sang “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” Carson became unexpectedly tearful, and a shot of them was captured by a never-before-used-on-stage camera angle from across the set. This poignant episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson immediately went down in the annals of televison history as a classic, and Midler would receive an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (1992) or her role in it.

The role of Delores in 1992’s Sister Act was originally written for Bette.

Bette considered pulling out of the 2004 Grammy Awards Ceremony because she was ‘mortified’ about competing against her idol, Rosemary Clooney. Bette’s album, Bette Midler Sings The Rosemary Clooney Songbook was put up against Rosemary’s actual album, The Last Concert.

Bette has compiled a large array of awards, and nominations over the years: four Grammy’s, two Academy award nominations, a Tony Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and nine American Comedy Awards.

Bette’s SRO tours have placed in the top five grossing concerts in a calendar year, for the past ten years.

Bette has earned 25 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum certifications from the RIAA for her albums and singles.

Bette has sold more than 14 million albums over the course of her career.

On October 9th, 2006, Bette Midler donated a tour book for the National Storage Celebrity Garage Sale which raised money for the charity, the Australian Children Foundation.

For her commitment and work to protect the environment, Bette was honored in 1997 by the United Nation’s Environmental Program.

Bette’s Disney-based production company, All Girls Productions, formed in 1995 and whose motto is, “We hold a grudge,” produced such successful films as Beaches (1998) and the critically acclaimed For the Boys which garnered Midler an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

Bette’s first job was that of a pineapple processor for Dole.

In 1999, MTV featured Cher vs. Bette Midler in one of their animated “Celebrity Death Matches”. Bette won the fight.
Bette is approximately 5′ 1″ (1.55 m) tall.

Bette belongs to the advisory committee of The Smile Train, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children with cleft lips and palates.

Bette appeared in the Ethel Merman Tribute concert Doin What Comes Natur’lly. (Feb 1998).

Bette appeared in an American edition of Ground Force (1998) titled Ground Force in New York (2002), promoting the tidying up and making over pieces of ugly wasteland into beautiful areas where children can play safely.

Bette has “adopted” several stretches of highway in the New York City area in which she actively participates in helping keep clean. Her name is prominent on the adopt-a-highway signs.

Bette is getting ready to release her new album Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook. A Fall release is expected around August 2005.

The last syllable of Bette’s first name is unpronounced because her mother thought that was how Bette Davis pronounced her name.

Bette’s album Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook was originally titled Rosemary for Remembrance. The name was changed just weeks before the album’s September 30, 2003 release.

Bette is a member of Delta Phi Epsilon International Sorority.

Bette is naturally blonde.

Bette has brown eyes.

Bette performed a cover version of the song “Beast of Burden”. She also appeared in a video of the song with Mick Jagger that was choreographed by Toni Basil.

Bette appeared in the music video and sang in the choir on the song “We Are The World.”

Bette sang with Tom Waits on “I Never Talk to Strangers” on his album Foreign Affairs.

Bette was listed as one of twelve Promising New Actors of 1979 in John Willis’ Screen World, Vol. 31.

Bette graduated from Radford High School, Honolulu, Hawaii in 1963.

Bette’s first big album The Divine Miss M was produced by Barry Manilow.

Bette practices the Jewish faith.

Bette is named after Bette Davis and her sisters Susan and Judy are named after Susan Hayward and Judy Garland.

Bette won a TV Guide award for Bette in 2001 along with Debra Messing.

Bette’s alter-ego is The Divine Miss M.

Bette has been nominated for an Academy Award (the Oscar) twice. In 1980 for The Rose and in 1992 for For The Boys.
Bette has 2 Emmy Awards.

The first in 1992, for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for the Johnny Carson Show’s last episode.

The second in 1997, for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for her TV special: Bette Midler in Concert: Diva Las Vegas.

Bette has 2 People’s Choice Awards (1989 & 2001).

Share A little Divinity

9 thoughts on “Bette Facts (Some Partial) And Trivia

  1. Amazing list, and a remarkable testament to Bette’s legacy!

    A couple tidbits I’m not so sure about (and I could be wrong).

    1) Looking through Bette’s high school yearbook at Radford High, and looking at her “roots” from the 70’s when she dyed her hair red, I believe that Bette is a natural brunette and not a blonde. Only her hairdresser knows for sure?? Has Bette ever publicly revealed her natural hair color? I don’t mind if I’m wrong, as most gentlemen prefer blondes, but if you look back on her early years in the 60’s before she got famous (when she was less likely to dye her hair), she definitely looked brunette to me.

    2) Midler v. Ford Motor Company: I can’t find any facts that the case was dismissed. Ford Motor Co. won the first round, and the decision was reversed on appeal. It’s quite possible that the case was eventually dismissed, but my understanding of the ruling is that it couldn’t be considered copright infringement, as a voice cannot be copryrighted, but it could be considered “personal property”, therefore allowing Bette to win the case as a “tort”. The person who imitated her voice on “Do You Want to Dance” and was instructed to sound as much like Bette as possible, was her back-up singer Harlette, Ula Hedwig. It’s my understanding that Bette actually won this case. Whether she received any financial renumeration for it–I don’t know.

    All in all, this list is a trivia delight! Way to go, Mr. D!!!

    1. She is a brunette naturally and she did win that case….that’s why I said some facts were partial in the title….wish I could find where I got this article….

  2. I dont’ think the article should be faulted, as it’s always hard to keep up with the “real” facts–so much can be taken from a variety of sources. Overall, it’s a treasure chest of information, and so much fun to read. Y’know, us Betteheads just love to nit-pick every now and then……Love the photos, too!

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