BetteBack March, 26, 1973: Self-Styled Bette In ‘Divine’ Impact

Dallas Morning News
March, 26, 1973


The whole tone of Bette Midler‘s weekend performance at the Music Hall was set right at the beginning. She entered onstage brandishing a whip.

Throughout the lengthy two and one-half house performance her take-charge attitude never wavered. The “divine Miss M,” the self-appointed legend in her own time, never let go. Compared to her singing, that of Barbra Streisand is subdued and even timid. Compared to her comedy, that of Phyllis Diller is downright genteel. If you compare her “presence” with that of Bette Davis, Miss Davis seems like a shrinking violet.

But that, of course, is Bette’s appeal. She out-camps the campiest, performing with the delicacy of a drag queen – and I suspect Bette laughs all the way to the bank.

The Friday night crowd at the Music Hall could have upstaged a less flamboyant performer. They were a disparate mixture of so-called “freaks;” young, enthusiastic viewers; and oldsters who had probably seen her on the Johnny Carson show. If the SRO sign kept you out of the auditorium, just sitting in the lobby and watching the people was worth a trip to the Music Hall.

Beneath all the flaming campiness, is there a good degree of talent? Indeed there is, although Miss M’s self-indulgent weirdness makes it difficult to measure to degree. She must decide for herself whether she wants to be an outrageous fad or a prime talent. If she decides on the latter, she should be with us for a long time.

Miss Midler is accompanied by three well-endowed creatures whom she calls the “Harlettes.” They are dressed accordingly. And throughout the Music Hall stage, as if in homage to the Coconut Grove of the 1940’s, were planted three elaborately fake palm trees.

I loved much of Bette’s comedy and liked much of her singing. As for the audience in general, they shrieked their approval of every flamboyant inflection.

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