BootLeg Betty

BetteBack February 26, 1973: Wish I Could Shimmy Like Divine Miss M

The Boston Globe
February 26, 1973

Instagram; @bettebae

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The Divine Miss M was scrunched cross-legged on a windowsill in the Music Hall dressing room while visitors dipped into the beer sitting in a galvanized tub in another cubicle across the hall.

“I want to come back to Boston soon,” she said in this immediate aftermath of a triumphant one-nighter, “and I want to play Symphony Hall for four nights.”

Bette Midler, the elfin bombshell of a divinity, talks fast, so fast you wished your ears contained an instant-replay device. With her, it’s “watch out, here it comes” and then she delivers. On her fourth engagement in this area, she finally had a sell-out and, suddenly, a few thousand people who hardly stirred when she played Lennie’s and Symphony Hall last year discovered, as others had done previously, that here, indeed, was a new star – but a very special one – worthy of the stature of a Barbra Streisand and, yes, Judy Garland. And she owes much of the heightened audience interest to her Atlantic album, “The Divine Miss M”, in general, and her “blasto-from-the-pasto” hit single, “Do You Want to Dance?

Flower power was enfeebling beside stereo power.

Three years ago, Bette was little more than an open secret on a Paul’s Mall bill that featured impressionist David Frye of the Richard Nixon “I want to make it perfectly clear ect,” bit. I plead guilty on two counts here: I interviewed Mr. Frye outside of the club vicinity and, naturally, opened with “How do you do, Mr. Frost” and I never caught Miss Midler’s star in embryo until her zaniness-cum-song arrived at Lennie’s in Danvers last June. I was immediately sold then on her unique talent.

Of her muffled Boston opener at Paul’s Mall, Bette was pithy: “It was appalling!!” But, to quote Fanny Brice’s mother in “Funny Girl”: “Now, she belongs to the world!!”

Her act, probably the most manic in show business today, makes such heavy demands on her adrenaline reserves, she restricts herself to four concerts a week which leaves her three days for refuge.

“My dear, last night I played Troy, N.Y.,” she continued, as the last of the fried chicken was disposed of across the way. “It was unbelievable. The show was held in a skating rink and we nearly froze but it turned out to be fantastic.”

From the moment she shimmied onstage Saturday night in a gold lame dress and zapped the customers with “Friends,” the barometer reading for the evening was apparent. The repertoire, with minor alterations, was virtually similar to the one she did at Lennie’s and at Symphony Hall. On “Empty Bed Blues”, she flailed her arms as if transmitting a semaphore and ambulated frantically about the stage in steps evoking a mechanical doll. So physical is her emoting that on one occasion she was forced to tuck herself back into her dress. The bridging lines of comedy were fired out in seeming stream – of – consciousness fusillades. However, I am partial to Bette Midler, singer. Her style is campy, flamboyant and so urgent. Bam! Bam! She cannonaded with “Uptown” and “Da Do Run Run” (glided by a reverse somersault), “Delta Dawn,” “Higher and Higher,” “Leader Of The Pack,” “Do You Want To Dance” and “Chapel of Love.”

Then, to achieve credibility as she modulated to ballads – “Am I Blue” and Leon Russell’s “Superstar” – bore further testament to her niche in the firmament. John Prine, who composed the song, would not be remiss if he included her in the royalty split for the empathy and aura of emptiness with which she augmented his lyric in “Hello in There.” The complete artiste is she.

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