BetteBack August 28, 1993: 20 years ago, Bette Midler wasn’t exactly a model of good taste, decorum

New Castle News Weekend
August 28, 1993


BURGETTSTOWN – In her 1980 book, “ Bette Midler, A View From A Broad,” Midler wrote, “ I have always believed that the way you first appear on stage is the way the audience will remember you for the rest of the show.”

On Monday, “ the Divine Miss M ” descended in a golden throne with a satin cape of sun rays over a royal purple pants outfit singing her first hit, “ Friends.” She was introduced by four girls in harem pants and starry halos blowing a fanfare with long, silvery trumpets.

In previous tours, she made her first impressions as a clam, a jukebox, a patient in a hospitalbed, a playing card and a hotdog.

For three hours at the Coca Cola Star Lake Amphitheater, except for a 10-minute late start and a 20-minute intermission, Midler held the stage. She sang, clowned and told jokes. She has a gift for talking to a large audience, 13,451, as though they’re just a few good friends in a small club room.

“ Hi, How-are-ya doin’How’ve you been the last 10 years? Time flies when you’re on Prozac. But enough about you.” This is her first tour in 10 years, having spent the intervening time making 10 films (including “ Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “ Ruthless People,” “ Beaches,” “ Scenes From a Mall” and “ Hocus Pocus” ) and a comedy album, “ Mud W ill Be Flung Tonight.”

She also married Martin von Haselberg and gave birth to daughter, Sophie.

Twenty years ago, the scene was different.

The queen of trash looked down from the stage of the former Syria Mosque in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. The first rows were loaded with fans dressed in big-hair blonde and red wigs and acid-inspired creations of satin, gold and silver material, and dripping rhinestones.

Midler exclaimed, “ It’s nice to see the trash out tonight.”

With neon red hair, she was dressed in shiny, skintight capri pants, 4lA-inch heels and a glittering, strapless bustier. Never, in those days, would one have used the words Bette Midler and tasteful in the same sentence.

But that was then.

In heels about three inches high, her Act I costume was vivid in color but didn’t cling, reveal, shine or glitter. In Act II, she wore a slim, floor-length silver sheath covered with bugle beads. Her hair was a soft, unbrassy blonde. Definitely tasteful.

But Midler hadn’t forgotten those Mosque days. She wailed, “ I’m crushed and dismayed to discover they tore down the Syria Mosque, the most beautiful theater in America. (It had) great acoustics. I don’t understand Americans. They’d rather tear down a temple of joy and put in a car park.”

Born and reared in Honolulu, her first professional role was a missionary’s seasick wife in George Roy Hill’s film “ Hawaii.”

In 1965, she moved to New York and made her stage debut there in “ Miss Nefertiti Regrets” and then she created the role of Tzeitel in “ Fiddler On The Roof” for Broadway.

Her portrayal of a Janis Joplin like rock singer in “ The Rose” won her an Oscar nomination and two Golden Globe awards.

She is currently at work on the musical “ Gypsy” in which she plays Rose, mother of legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.

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