BootLeg Betty

BetteBack July 3, 1972: Clothes Make Bette Midler (interview)

Derrick
July 3, 1972

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I guess you could call Bette Midler a clothes horse.. .but honey, you should see the clothes.

When I met the performer like whom there is no other, she was wearing deep cuffed ecru slacks and a revealing red and white polka dot something. Actually, I think It was a bikini top. This is in a put-on the dog French restaurant, mind you.

Anyway, tht piece de resistance was that on each strap she had pinned a pair of two inch square red dice.

It is needless to point out-If you have ever seen Miss Midler in person or on the Johnny Carson show – that she is built like Diana of Ephesus, and the mostly male luncheon crowd was captivated by the dice, no doubt.

Bette Midler, in her private version of haute couture, at least gets points for being consistent. Not only does she wear faint-and-die outfits offstage, but she performs in such get-ups as gold lame pedal pushers under a Mack Milan Gish corsette. “Look,” she said, “I’m a tacky lady and I wear what feels comfortable. That’s just the way 1 am.”

BETTE LETS YOU know that in certain circles, she is considered a conservative dresser. “The lady who does my clothes attracted so much attention when she stepped off the plane in Las Vegas that they arrested her.”

For her clothes, I asked?

“That must have been it. She was wearing green Wedgies, purple tights, a gray print dress with a huge hibiscus, 270 bracelets and three pairs of earrings. Both ears are tatooed, by the way. She had on orange eyelashes—top and bottom—and a fabulous hat she made herself…there were baby shoes on it, a pipe cleaner doll, tinsel and a bowling trophy.”

But you can’t lock people up for their clothes, I pointed out, “Well. . .she did have some pills with her.” On the hat, no doubt.

Then Bette Midler began to talk about herself. “People don’t know what to make of me. I’m more used to being disliked than liked. I always had to fight to make people like me. I wasn’t one of the people other people considered beautiful.”

One would have to agree, her red hair looks as though it had been poured on her head by a cake decorator, her front tooth is chipped and her nose. . .well, classic It ain’t. And yet, when you see her perform, the looks don’t matter at all. Bette, in fact, belongs to that elite group of entertainers whose following are not fans – but a cult.

Is it fun, I asked, to have all that devotion and increasing acclaim? “1 suppose it has its rewards,” she said with little enthusiasm. YOU MEAN YOU don’t feel “up” when you’re performing? “Once in a while it feels good,” she answered, “but most of the time I feel awful. It used to be fun…but now it’s work. I’m always tired and I sleep as much as 1 can. Performing is exhausting. Being an adult is really the pits,” she sighed.

For all her madness on stage, Bette Midler is wistful and waif-like. This lady, who is only 26, has a 100-year-old soul.

“After another bunch of years I plan to quit,” she said. “1 want to go to Samoa, or Java, where things are simple. Everything about our country frightens me — the things people consider important. They don’t take care of their friends or their world. My one fear is being alone and forgotten when I’m old. I don’t think that could happen in a place like Samoa. I’m really simple and I’m looking for simplicity.”

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