Bette’s a Well Woman
By PETER COWAN
December 22, 1975
Bette Midler opened her show from a hospital bed last night, premiering a new national act.
Three nurses wheeled the sterile roll-away out on the stage of the Berkeley Community Theater and Midler sang
the first few bars of her theme song. “Friends.” invisible, a spotlight shining on the sheets where her head might have been.
The Divine Miss M tumbled out of the sack dressed like an elfin hobo and began to dance and sing and smile like there was no tomorrow. Clearly. Bette was back, after almost two years of retirement.
The question was did she still have whatever it was?
The answer was radiating all over her face. She ransacked her way through “Oh. My My.” began her running, and often hilarous monologue with the audience, and hit them with the first of many big stage numbers, a heart-shaped prison cell, for a revival of “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman.”
Then she took a breather.
“I am not a well woman.” she said, slumping off her stool.
Her appendectomy which set back the tour’s start from Dec. 10 to now cropped up only as a joke. Her humor was
as barbed and quick as her last appearance here in 1973 and she played herself against the audience with case.
The show is an all-new, all frantic look at the wacky world of Miss M–period pieces from the ’40s. saloon songs, elaborate daydreams and nightmares and plenty of new material from the album, “Songs For the New Depression,” with the help of her vocal trio and small orchestra.
But most touching was Midler when she wanted to evoke the tender, vulnerable, little girl she does from time to time like on “Delta Dawn.”