Her Best Is Yet to Come: An Interview with Paulette McWilliams
By Christian John Wikane 30 April 2014
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Why didnâ€™t the solo album do as well as it should have?
No PR. My whole career has been about trial and error. I was naive coming out of the gate. I made mistakes everywhere I turned. I wish Iâ€™d had someone before me, but I was the forerunner in my family so I had to learn everything on my own. I think one of my biggest mistakes was not believing in myself enough and recognizing where I was, in the moment. When things were happening, I made decisions based on what I thought I should do instead of what my gut told me to. I thought I would have those same opportunities over and over again. For the solo album, I had people that believed in me, but unfortunately I didnâ€™t have the people that had the money. [laughs].
After the solo record, I went and auditioned for Bette Midler because she was putting the Harlettes together. She took me right away. She said, â€œYou gotta stay!â€ I was with her for about two years and it was first-class all over Europe. Man, pictures were on the front page of different papers! Doing eight weeks on Broadway (Divine Madness) and just being onstage in a wild production was incredible. That was a real highlight for me. The glamor, the outfits â€¦ it was just phenomenal.
What did the experience with Bette Midler teach you?
She taught me so much about showmanship. I learned about how she prepared for a show, what she goes through, the ups and the downs. Sheâ€™s an incredible artist. I donâ€™t know how she felt about me but I know she knew I could sing. I was hired because I could sing. Before me, she had Charlo Crossley and Sharon Redd and Ula Hedwig, great singers and performers. They were very different, unique-looking ladies with wonderful personalities. I looked good and fit in with the two other Harlettes that were there at the time. Linda Hart was/is an actress-singer. Frannie Eisenberg-McCartney was kind of a comedian-singer-actress. And of course Luther was there.
Yes, thatâ€™s how he and I met. When I got on the gig, I had no idea that he was part of it until we started rehearsing. There he was. He would be behind the curtain while we were dancing and singing onstage.
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