I wouldn’t Bette on there being a better performer than Midler
Pete Price, Author
10:37, 23 July 2015
She started off as a gay icon; and the American gay community recognised her talent straight away from day one – they fell in love with her.
I flew to the States to find out about this remarkable woman. I went to watch her on Broadway in a revue called Clams on the Half Shell, in 1975.
She was outrageous, spectacular and over the top. All the reviews said a star was born. Since then, she has been nominated for two Academy Awards, won three Grammys, four Golden Globes, three Emmys and a Special Tony Award – I’m talking about the divine Miss M, a talent and force to be reckoned with: Bette Midler.
Her first appearance in England was at the London Palladium. She caused a sensation in 1978 and her outrageous behaviour and disrespect of the establishment on stage wowed the audience, plus, of course, her talent.
I went with Eric Hall (the record promoter and football agent) and was part of the Elton John party. He was already a great fan. We had the Royal Box, as Elton would. I spent some time with her at the After Show Party. She was as OTT offstage as on.
When the movie The Rose came out, we saw a whole new side to her mega talent. Her performance was breathtaking. If you’ve never seen it, get the DVD.
The list of movies is long but, for me, The First Wives Club and Hocus Pocus stand out.
So let’s mention her music – there are so many songs but Wind Beneath My Wings, as she says on stage, “belongs to you” as it is used at weddings, funerals, so many different occasions.
It also came from the film, Beaches, which is my all-time favourite. When she sings From A Distance, the fans go wild. She lives every word of every song, takes you on a journey and you feel exhausted at the end.
I always remember her saying her father thought showbusiness was a waste of time. Well, it certainly wasn’t for this Jewish girl. This talented lady is now 69 years old, the same age as Goldie Hawn, and she still looks great in a swimsuit.
You think how far this star has come, from creating a popular nightclub act with an unknown Barry Manilow as her pianist, to a sell-out tour of America and six venues in the UK. Not bad at 69!
I couldn’t make Manchester, so it had to be the O2 in London, which I’m not a great fan of. In fact, I don’t like big venues. If you don’t have a great seat, it’s just like watching two videos on either side of a dot. The dot being the star.
I sat down in my very good seat full of anticipation. After all, there are very few real stars left that can give value for money. The curtain opened and there was the divine Miss M.
The audience rose to their feet and went crazy. After her first song, she showed her comic timing was still as sharp and cutting as ever – in some cases, very rude but that’s Bette live. Her first remark “it’s great to see so many of my real fans still drive late at night”. Then she told us she was like vodka – ageless, odourless and tasteless.
All through the show, her energy levels never faltered. Her famous routine about Sophie Tucker still had the fans rolling in the aisles.
Every moment of the two-hour show was magical, with a respectful audience hanging on every word. Then she surprised us all and came out in costume as the character she played in Hocus Pocus, Winifred. The audience couldn’t believe it. She finished the show off with Friends. Nobody wanted her to leave and she got quite emotional.
After the show, I went round to meet her. I was one of the privileged few. She’s small and petite and had time for everyone in that room. She asked me what life was like as a comic these days. She said we should open a school to teach showbusiness.
I told her I was too old. She replied “you’re the same age as me!” And I pointed out that she’s wearing better.
The saddest thing for me is I don’t think she will ever tour again. I said to her “you should have come back a lot earlier” and she totally agreed.
She commented also on the wonderful audiences she’d had while in England and Scotland.
I will leave you with one of her quotes: “I’ve come to lift your spirits like a boob job from your soul.”
She’s a remarkable lady – thank you, Bette Midler!