BetteBack: “Hollywood isn’t dead. It’s sitting right in this chair.” ~ October 4, 1973

Albuquerque Tribune
Superstar Bette Midler brings caravan to Albq
October 4, 1973

For those who like to associate decades with mass cultural outlooks, Bette Midler is the 70’s version of the lone female superstar that love-starved audiences have worshipped ever since Clara Bow.

For those who are less edgy about time’s tendency to pass in clumps, Midler is just another larger-than-life woman talent. You know, Garland re-incarnated and all that.

But test your own theory about the “Divine Miss M.” tonight. She’ll be at Popejoy Hall at 8:15. If the house is sold out and you still want to catch her, you might consider joining her caravan of idolatrous fans who attend every Midler concert. And that’s quite a few concerts – the tour that brings her to Albuquerque started Aug. 25 in Maryland and ends in California just before her Dec. 4 two-week gig in her adopted home town, New York City.

BETTE MIDLER deserves every ounce of groupie affection she gets.

Her first album, “The Divine Miss M,” has sold nearly a million copies, and a second album is on its way. She’s super; she’s what is happening; she’s today’s “it” girl.

The cult is more than a college campus-late night DJ scene. It scans the whole multi-sexual population that’s been exposed to her since she whooshed onto the Johnny Carson show two years ago.

The East Coast currently had dibs on her, since the Midler tidal wave hasn’t yet toppled us out West. Her influence on fashion and music is so powerful back East that her fans are merely hitching a ride on the vessel flaunting a Bette Midler figurehead.

WHERE STRIESAND slithered out of the post-beatnik underworld into “60’s” chic, Midler booms out of a cannon like a New Year‘s Baby.

In fact she ascended from the orchestra pit at midnight Dec.31, 1972 wrapped in nothing but a New Year’s bunting, and packed two shows at New York’s Philharmonic Hall.

The irony is that Midler’s baby sings auld lang syne. She is completely devoted to past decades. Her repertoire of songs sounds like an encyclopedia of pop: “Am I Blue?” (30’s); “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” (40’s); “Teenager in Love,” (50’s); “Do You Wanna Dance?” (60’s); and a smattering of 70’s tunes like “Hello In There” by John Prine.

She startled Johnny Carson’s crowd with the old Andrews Sisters “Bugle Boy” in her first TV appearance (Mister D: This was not Bette’s first appearance on Carson by far…her first song sung there was “Am I Blue”) and Carson warned the audience about “the profoundly weird Bette Midler.”

HER FIRST breathless response to one of Carson’s cracks during the show was that “Hollywood is sitting right in this chair.”

Now the chair she sits in is a huge be-jewelled throne which carries her onstage during her concerts. Audiences crown her frenetic, wildly funny, bizarre act with screams for more.

It’s quite a pinnacle for the daughter of a New Jersey house painter who moved his wife and six children to Honolulu – where they discovered they were almost the only Jews.

MIDLER’S FIRST name derived from her mother’s devotion to movie star Bette Davis. (But Midler’s is pronounced “Bet.”).

She keeps her age a closelyguarded secret, but she’s lived long enough to have tried a year and a half of college, worked in a pineapple factory, landed a bit part in the movie, “Hawaii” and moved to New York for three years of nightclub stands leading to a year’s run on Broadway with “Fiddler on the Roof.” . .

The gunpowder for her inevitable burst to stardom was an improbable’ year’s engagement at New York’s Continental Baths, where men wrapped in little more than steam applauded those funky songs Midler sings.

JOHNNY CARSON plucked her from the baths and took her to Las Vegas. Now, if anything, her style has turned wilder than ever. Rave reviews wherever she goes tend to make her sound like a tornado.

The frazzle-haired redhead is slated for a European tour and a television special. It’s rumored she’s going to tackle the movies.

Although she lives in Greenwich Village, she has expressed an undying fascination with Hollywood, which she said she intends to resurrect. “Hollywood isn’t dead,” she told Carson. “It’s sitting right in this chair.” The old-fashioned Hollywood, she meant, which her presence will make contemporary (or nostalgic – which ever you prefer.)

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