BootLeg Betty

Kathy Najimy’s Valentine To Bette Midler

The Film Experience
Love Letters Pt. 2: Kathy Najimy, Rosemarie DeWitt, Xander Berkeley
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mister D: Melanie Lynskey, Guest Blogging, at The Film Experience made a dream list of people she respected and admired and sent them an e-mail saying:

I’ve seen you do work that has made me want to write you a love letter because it’s moved me so deeply. Who or what would you like to write a love letter to? What piece of art or artist or feeling has moved you in this way?”

She received letters back from many, but this one is from Kathy Najimy, who of course wrote about her love for Bette Midler!

Kathy’s epic love letter to Bette Midler.

So one day 1973 I am on the porch eating a Scooter Pie, listening to the radio and writing a song for my self made girl group The Honeybees, when I hear my first Bette Midler song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. Who is that?   I love that!

The next day, I ride my bike right over to our scuzzy K Mart and buy the album… “THE DIVINE MISS M” — I believe it cost three dollars and some cents—I paid for it with the money my drunk Uncle Fred had thrown at me that week before while I belly danced for spare change in our living room. We’re Lebanese. I did it all the time.

we didn’t have the dough a record player at home.  So I brought the bette album to the school gym to listen to. I –loved- her- voice. I made a cocoon for myself, away from the popular kids, and jocks, away from the cool druggies, and the girls who could wear shorts and midriff tops and away from my cousins’ hot urban crowd. Every day, every recess, every song, every word. I. Was. Obsessed.  I’d listen to it —–over and over again by myself..

“Oh you got to have friends the feeling oh so strong you go have friends…” 

When I got home from school I ran to the TV Guide (my mother’s Bible) and, miracle of miracles, Bette Midler would be on The Tonight Show THAT night…   Shiiiit!!! the Tonight Show was past my bedtime, but I bartered with my mom. “Mom-a!  I will sweep the rug for a week straight (yes, sweep…we couldn’t afford a vacuum cleaner—

There we are, my dad is sitting in his chair (isn’t it interesting how there’s always a “dad’s chair” but never even a mom’s “footstool”?) My older two sisters and brother and I have TV trays in front of us with chocolate space food sticks, Shasta and babghanough.   We turned on ….We GET UP and turn on our three-channel, faux-wood-paneled console TV.   And –There –she –was, looking like someone I had never seen before: wrapped up in a sequined, tight as a bagel dog–halter dress, speed-shuffling on mile-high platform shoes, belting out “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

And she moved like a penguin on meth.   She shook, and shimmied, and sang out as if she was the queen of her own parallel universe governed by her own laws—-  Like Barbra in Funny Girl (which I saw 14 times that year) Bette  was “different” than those lady-like, “follow the rules” show bizzy women we had gotten used to. She had big boobs, but they didn’t subtly peak out in a playful, bashful, flirty way, like a proper TV lady… Bette proudly let them fly. She was IN on the joke, and it was on her terms: “This is what you want? Then here they ARE!”

I grew up watching Totie Fields, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller on TV, all funny women, but its like we accepted them, and we let them be famous women…on ONE condition: that they made fun of themselves. They weren’t skinny, or waspy looking. They actually looked like most of us.  But it seems they were accepted ONLY if they talked about how fat, or stupid, or old, or ugly, or undesirable they were.   But then there, with no apologies, on our shitty TV set with a plastic dial to change the shitty UHF channels, was Bette. Authentic, fearless.

It wasn’t so much that I fancied myself a singer, but I knew I would be something. And somehow, deep inside, I knew, however impossible, I wanted to do that.   I wanted to make my own rules too. Bette held the key.   I spent years scraping money together following her every move, Every concert, every Film, TV show,— I collected  her albums, books, magazine articles- she was the decoration the walls in my first apartment.. in fact one year she was actually the star at the top of my Christmas tree.”
KATHY NAJIMY

For more Love Letters, check out Film Experience: Click Here

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6 thoughts on “Kathy Najimy’s Valentine To Bette Midler

  1. WOW! AMAZING!! and to think she got to work with her. Did Kathy say how it was working with her idol. I know Rosie spoke about meeting Bette for the first time and actually scaring Bette with her knowledge of her. I would like to hear what Kathy thought of working with her idol. I remember hearing how disappointed she was when Bette dropped out of Sister Act.

    1. I think she talked about it in interviews Jill. If you want just google Kathy’s name and Bette’s and maybe Hocus Pocus and I bet some interviews come up….I do think remembering she felt intimidated but excited to be singing with her in the movie…..xx

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