BetteBack 1975: The Divine Miss M Explodes On The L.A. Scene

Press Telegram
The Divine Miss M Explodes On The L.A. Scene
December 30, 1975

Bette Midler‘s back. Funnier, more sensitive and more confident than ever.

She’s playing “Dottie’s Place” for a few nights …and honey, the Diva is Divine. Zany, raunchy, racy and exploding with energy. The Divine Miss M is appearing in concert now through New Years Eve at the Dorothy Chandler Pavalion – which she leeringly calls “Dotties Place” claiming it has ‘all the tradition of a Ramada

In grand celebration of a recent triumph over an appendectomy, the show opens with three hospital screens drawn tightly together.

From the wings prance three f l e s h y, f l a s h y women, the Harlettes (her backup singers) – mild applause…the audience is waiting… the Devine is up to something and given her flair for the unusual, it’s going to be good.

THE HARLETTES busy themselves with carrying hospital items – a bed pan, an enema bag, etc. onto the stage. The screens are drawn aside.

Revealed is a sheetcovered hospital bed with a lump lying in the middle. The lump moves. The audience gasps. A “Baby Snooks” voice harmlessly croons “Ya gotta have friends….”

The audience explodes in wonderful applause…on their feet…and with big smiles – an attitude they would find themselves in through most of the night’s performance.

A frazzled mass of red hair pops up from beneath the sheets. And then finally the entire body bounds out of bed and zips across the stage like some crazy Marx Brother singing Ringo Starr‘s “Oh My, My.”

“Hello, ‘El Lay,’ the Divine Miss M shouted, “I’m back. And I do love L.A. … 1 always did love 1967.”

THAT WAS the beginning o! a two and a half hour love affair between the Divine Diva (as she’s calling herself these days) and a Southern California audience who would sit through comical slurs about their life tyles…and applaud them with great gusto.

Songs for the New Depression” is the theme (also the soon-to-be released album for Bette Midler for the show.

Fast-paced, r u n n i ng across the stage dressed in something that looked like the bottom half of a Bozo the Clown outfit, the Divine crooned a trashy “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” from inside a caged heart which was wheeled on stage by the Harlettes and wheeled off by two white-coated junkmen.

After a brief visit to “the pits” to find out who had the nerve (and the money) to sit in the first row of what is usually the orchestra pit, Bette and the Harlettes scooped, swooned and swept the audience into 1940s “hubba-hubba” music with ‘Nellie Lutcher’s “Hurry on Down” and a Dave Brubeck piece she put words to and explained carefully to the audience that since it was done in nine-eighths time anyone who attempted to sing
along might expire for want of breathing.

NEXT FOLLOWED a trip to an imaginary second-class nightclub in “friendly Pismo Beach” where mythical torch singer Vicki Eydie in silver lame was belting out cliche-couched lyrics complete with an impossible and spicy audience sing-along.

While the audience was listening to the Harlettes singing “Lullaby of Broadway” the backdrop curtain began tumbling down, crumpling on the stage floor … revealing a hairy-armed, blinkingeyed evil-looking King Kong perched atop a cutout of the Empire State Building. Couched quietly in his palm – microphone in hand – the Divine Diva sang the closing notes to a hefty first act.

The 5-foot-l stick of dynamite was back for a second act which brought out a very serious and sensitive side to the 30-year-old entertainer. “Drinking Again,” and the sad lament, “Hello In There” provided the tone.

It was quite a mood change. I wasn’t quite ready for it, but to have left it out would have denied Bette Midler a very moving communication experience.

THE SHOW wound up – still in high gear – with a salute to the Bicentennial. “The Boogie, Woogie Bugle Boy” exploded (literally)with two cannons.

Two 14-foot Uncle Sams dropped from the ceiling followed by Bette Midler peering out of a Statue of Liberty cutout (the microphone was the torch) and a re-cap of the theme “You’ve Got to Have Friends.”

And if that wasn’t enough (three curtain calls, shouts of bravo), she turned around and repeated the whole performance for an 11 p.m. show.

Bette’s back. The two years away from “El Lay” must have been spent in part storing up an incredible amount of energy.

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