LIZ SMITH: Bette Midler Conquers New York …
by Liz Smith
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
THIS WEEK the great performer, creative artist and thinker who calls herself Bette Midler did it again ”“ impressed an audience into falling in love with her once more and astounded an assembled group of New York City movers and shakers to wonder at her native intelligence and ready wit.
Far from the Bette of “pretty legs and great big knockers” fame, this artist always surprises by her perspicacity and energetic good humor.
She was the star guest in a “conversation” put on at a private club, which shall be nameless because it wants to be, talking with yours truly. We were ostensibly raising money for the Maria Droste Counseling Services, which provide psychiatric help to those who can’t afford the going sky-high regular rates.
But we were also simply candidly and openly having a ball. When somebody asked Bette to field a question she’d never been asked before, the Divine Miss M retorted: “Would you like some jewelry?”
Bette has her own influential charity, The New York Restoration Project, which has changed NYC life. They pick up all our garbage, create new parks, and generally, try to make this sprawling city a nicer place to live.
But Bette is for all smaller efforts and she scored with her upscale audience by saying that people who are mentally ill, or have psychiatric problems seem to have the least advocates and the fewest persons trying to help them. So, Bette gave it her all. With Martin von Haselberg, her talented husband of 27 years sitting front table, Bette answered all my questions, even the unpleasant ones. Martin looked on and laughed. Bette looked divine (“Hair and makeup, dear Liz!” she said when complimented.) And the over-an-hour’s worth of chit chat between us evoked round after round of applause.
In the audience were such as Joan Ganz Cooney, Deeda Blair, Mary Wells Lawrence, Joni Evans, Lesley Stahl, Dr. Holly Andersen, Jeanne Vanderbilt, Gillis MacGill, Ellen Levine and Harriet and Ron Delsener, to name a few – I can’t even count. The honcho of this event was Elizabeth Peabody who is following in the footsteps of her sainted late mother – AIDS activist Judy – and of her father’s Sam’s distinguished Massachusetts family.
Elizabeth has turned the Maria Droste Counseling Services into a glamour fund-raising event that raises much more money than its good works had ever seen before. You can catch this demon philanthropist in the May issue of Town & Country on the back page cuddling her own “Sophie.” (She said, “I didn’t tell Bette that I had a dog with the same name as her daughter!”)
Later, this week I will be writing lots of newsabout Bette Midler and what she has in the works charity-wise and otherwise. I think she is the most energetic, happening and creative artist in our midst.