NEW YORK: No one could say that success has crept up on Bette Midler-it burst upon her like one of those tropical thunderstorms that sometimes hit her native Hawaii. Unknown only a short time ago, she has become one of the most popular young talents in America today. Her performance on last winter’s Burt Bacharach special was sensational!
When asked when she first realized she had become a star, she replied: “I haven’t realized it yet! It all seems like a fairy tale life. So it’s hard to believe it’s me people are talking about.”
ONE OF BETTE’S particular specialties is her vivid interpretation of the tunes from the 1940’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” one of the numbers she sang in the Bacharach special â€” makes it easy to jump to the conclusion that Bette has seized upon a gimmick.
“What actually happened,” she explained, “is that I was brought up in the ’40’s and all the records my parents had were, of course of the 30s and 40s. I found myself fascinated by the music but even more fascinated by the women singers. Like the Andrews Sisters, whom I imitate in ‘Chattanooga.”
“The fascination lasted, and later I really began to research that era. I spent hours at a time in music libraries listening to old show tunes and pop songs and absorbing the stories of the stars. I became something of an expert, simply out of personal interest not because I intended to exploit it.
“I wanted to be an actress, really,” continued Bette. “But everyone wanted me to be conventional, to fit a stereotype, which I couldn’t. I’m not a conventional person, it was quite a fight.
“I never intended to concentrate on the oldies â€” in fact, I don’t. I sing contemporary numbers as well. But everyone has seized on the way I sing the oldies, so I guess that’s my strength.”
WHO COOKED UP “The Divine Miss M?”
“That just happened, too! she answered. “I was always imagining myself as the people I wanted to play â€” real people and characters, alike. I seemed to feel their presence and would be carried away by them. And people started saying, ‘Isn’t she divine?’ Before I knew’where I was, I was being called ‘divine’ and it stuck.”
Bette’s exuberant vitality is one of her most appealing characteristics. It’s no gimmick â€” it’s genuine.