BetteBack September 18, 1993: Bette Midler – A Force Of Nature

By Liz Smith
Los Angeles Times Syndicate
September 18, 1993

That force of nature, Batte Midler,opened Tuesday night at Radio City Music Hall to a crowd that was nearly hysterical in its adulation. From her first moments on stage, singing “Friends” while thousands stood and cheered, to her final, exquisite rendition of “The Glory of Love,” Bette had the huge audience in the palm of her tiny hand.

If, at almost three hours, Bette’s “Experience the Divine” has a few rough/slow spots, that is only to be expected. And Bette’s eclectic, grab-bag format is pretty much what she’s always done on stage. You get ballads … you get hula numbers … you get the incredible Delores DeLago, wheelchair-bound mermaid supreme (and wait till you see Delores’ great send-up of “New York, New York!” – Sinatra and Liza may Just have to drop this number from their repertoire, it should never be taken seriously again) … you get the old Sophie Tucker Jokes … you get a taste of “Gypsy,” Midler’s
upcoming TV special, with a knockdown version of “Rose’s Turn” … and, of course, you get Bette’s sass with flash, scripted (by Bruce Vilanch), and her ad libs. For instance, to a group down front: “I cannot believe you brought
children to this tasteless display. You must be Jewish; I know the story, bring the children to see the great Jewish performer.”

Bette’s voice remains the unique, moving Instrument it has always been. She is not now, and never has been, a gal with a beautiful voice – no smooth, soaring, dulcet, many-octaved notes from this throat. If you want that, listen to Streisand. What you get from Bette is pure emotion – she can convey anything. If she had only half the vocal resources she possesses, she would still be one of the greatest entertainers of her time. (First-nighter Barbara Walters did not equivocate: She declared Bette “the greatest performer – ever!”)

Cute moment at the Midler party: “Saturday Night Live” and “Wayne’s World” star Mike Myers (who is adorable and very shy in person) mentioned that he and Robin had been married four months. “Four months and what?” asked a friend. Robin looked at her watch and gave the details down to the hour, minutes and seconds. “I’m a woman,” she quipped. “I know these things!”

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