BootLeg Betty

Reminiscences on ‘A View from a Broad’

Dallas Voice
Divine redux
Posted on 20 Jun 2014 at 7:25am

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You never forget, nor should you want to, your first life-altering experience with the Divine Miss M.

Bette Midler first hit it big in the early 1970s with her swing-influenced pop hits, then got serious cred as an actress in 1979 when she starred in The Rose, a thinly-veiled biopic of Janis Joplin. But I was a kid back then, who thought of swing as something in my backyard, and The Rose was an R-rated film I wouldn’t be allowed to see for several more years.

No, my first exposure to La Bette was through her trashy, wildly unfocused quasi-memoir and tour diary A View from a Broad.

I didn’t even know what I was looking at when I first picked up a copy as a freshman in Catholic school. I think it had been left on a bench by a forgetful priest, who probably secretly enjoyed the campy extravagance of Midler’s ribald jokes, tales of debauchery on the road in Europe and in-your-face out-there-ness — traits that have distinguished her, and built her gay following, since her days performing in the Continental Baths.

My teenaged eyes were scandalized by the humor of Madame Sophie, Bette’s inspired-by-Sophie-Tucker alter ego who told racy jokes about her boyfriend Ernie. “Soph, you’ve got no tits and a tight box,” Ernie said, and she retorted, “Ernie, get off my back.”

I dashed through the new re-release of A View from a Broad with the purposeful mission to relieve that exciting discovery, and right there on Page 106 it sat — or rather, sort of. The line is cut off, an editing error in the reprint that causes my heart to sink. It’s like seeing your hero out of makeup and realizing how frail he really is. I was let down.

But only for a moment. The dishy, collage style of the book — complete with a new introduction by Midler that puts the 34-year-old collection of behind-the-scenes photos, one-liners, gags, journal entries and factoids in some historic context — could never disappoint a true fan, because it’s really all about her, arguably our greatest diva and most devoted ally. I may not see it through the eyes of a kid anymore, but it still has a power over me.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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