BetteBack 1975: “Clams” Only Half Cooked…(Boo! I Say!)

Mister D: Not everybody got Bette at the time…she was challenging the constrictions of what a rock show was by bringing cabaret/theater into it… and for some critics…they just didn’t know what to make of this “Divine Miss M” I saw the show on Broadway and it was exhilarating. I had never seen anything like it before…I was on the edge of my seat for most of the concert. It was awesome as those who saw it will attest (critics aside).

Oakland Tribune
Bette Midler’s Broadway Show Is Brassy, Dismal
By William Glover
April 21, 1975

NEW YORK (AP) – A strenuous comeback bid is being made in “Bette Midler‘s Clams on the Half Shell Revue”, by one of the most highly publicized maybe-stars of showbiz. Flashy, brassy and gimmicky,: the production has moved into Broadway’s Minskoff Theater for a run until June 21.

For those who have’ forgotten or never cared, the chubby little singer-comic disappeared about a year ago after a short but impressive eruption from the gay entertainment scene into a more general public round of concerts, and a couple of golden records. A Paris sortie flopped, followed by retreat for career reappraisal.

“Clams,” to get the title down to size, is much more elaborately staged than a stand at the Palace in December, 1973. The professionally chaotic grab bag tends to make Miss Midler’s own limitations more obvious.

She is on almost nonstop with a hybrid assortment of tunes past and present – “Moon of Manakoora” at one end, ‘”Young Americans” at the other – coupled with raunchy comments and low wisecracks. A couple of the most obscene, and hoary, she attributed to Sophie Tucker.

Front-row spectators were sprayed with scurrilous insults, a night club technique that needs a long rest…

Costarred in the billing but allowed only I4 minutes in the post-intermission spotlight is Lionel Hampton. The grand old jazz pro brought the crowd to its feet in the only show-stopping ovation of the affair with his sheer artistry on vibes, piano and drums.

A Motown Style trio, the Harlettes, back up the occasional, raspy Midler notes and heavy breathing with chic vocalizing. On the bill also is the Michael Powell Ensemble.

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7 thoughts on “BetteBack 1975: “Clams” Only Half Cooked…(Boo! I Say!)

  1. I’m a pompous asshole. lol. William Glover could have just written that. There must have been a required amount of words. : )

  2. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – these reviews from the Seventies are a nasty mix of misogyny and homophobia, boiled up in fear of Bette’s enormous talent and her willingness (and ability) to sock it to the establishment right where it hurts!
    I so wish I’d seen it (Mr D, tell us how it was!), only seen short clips on YouTube…

    1. That’s what I’ve been thinking since I started putting them up….I was hoping to find more positive reviews online but so far I can’t. It was just a reflection of those times….people forget the barriers she helped topple down at the time. A true trailblazer!

  3. I saw the show on May 1, 1975 (still have my ticket stub and program). It was brilliant – just the right mix of trash, flash and enormous talent. I think the reviewer really wanted to be Bette, and since he couldn’t, disparaged her in his review.
    I think it was a landmark in Broadway history!

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