BootLeg Betty

Bathhouse Bette: How the Advocate’s first celebrity cover woman was born (Thanks Andy)

Bathhouse Bette
For her return to Broadway in 1975, Bathhouse Betty insisted on doing an interview with The Advocate — and our first celebrity cover woman was born.
By Advocate.com Editors
March 11, 2012

By April 23, 1975, the date the photo above appeared in The Advocate, Bette Midler had just the prior week returned to Broadway for Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue. Five years earlier she signed on to sing at Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in Manhattan, where she famously earned her nickname “Bathhouse Betty” and befriended her accompanist Barry Manilow. The gig paid $50 per night. Her appearances in that scandalous venue (audience members were in towels!) proved fruitful, earning her legions of fans; the article by author and activist Vito Russo notes that Midler’s Broadway shows generated the largest single-day ticket sales in Great White Way history. The people we described as Midler’s “over-protective publicity team” couldn’t keep her from doing this interview, alongside the very few others she did, including The New York Times and Newsday. The photo, shot by legendary lesbian photographer Annie Leibovitz, came from Midler’s personal collection and was published here for the first time at the singer’s request. In the second in a series of re-creations of photos from The Advocate’s archives, we’ve channeled the aspirations of a star on the rise through Willam Belli (below), an actor and breakout competitor from the most recent season of RuPaul‘s Drag Race. Eagle-eyed readers will note two things: Belli is holding the Bette issue, marking this magazine’s first celebrity cover; and the shadowy figure behind Midler in the original photo—is that Leibovitz?

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One thought on “Bathhouse Bette: How the Advocate’s first celebrity cover woman was born (Thanks Andy)

  1. I hate it too and it pisses me off. I don’t ever remember her flat out saying she was against gay marriage. She said she had really never given it much thought and she would like to study up on it. She said the gays around her never brought it up; they just talked about their conquests and that’s all she knew. So I thought her answer at the time was verty thoughtful……she just didn’t blindly jump on a bandwagon,, So fuck the haters!

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