BootLeg Betty

BetteBack April 8, 1973: ‘Divine Miss M’ Revives American Band Greats

The Hartford Courant
April 8, 1973

2016-07-30_1-19-43

“Low rent retro-rock-and-roll” came to town Saturday with “The Divine Miss M,” Bette Midler on the Bushnell stage.

It was a racy dash through greaser rock greats like the Shangri-Las‘ “Leader of the Pack” and hardy remembered hits like “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.”

The show, as Bette (pronounced “bet”) put it, “reeked of American bandstand.” It was carried off with all the flash and glory of a revival meeting.

Far from nostalgia, Bette’s performance rekindled songs so simple and honest that their old age made them feel like part of the family.

Backed by pianist-conductor Barry Manilow and the Harlettes – Merle Miller, Gail Kantor and Charlotte Crossley – Bette pulled off the revival act with a flourish truer than the simply professional.

“Chapel of Love,” a truly turbid song in its original version by the Dixiecups, brought a standing ovation from the nearly full house.

“Leader of the Pack” also got a standing ovation even though some of the lines seem so corny today they brought chuckles midway through the song.

Even her costumes brought back the dustless times of her songs. She appeared in an outrageously misshapen purple pantsuit trimmed in pink. After half-time, she re-appeared in a full-length silver lame dress that unzipped to reveal black satin toreador pants and a sequined corset-style top.

She calls herself “the last of the truly tacky women,” and joked with the crowd saying “the true tack of Hartford has come out” for the show.

“Miss M hits Hartford, the Insurance Capitol of the World,” she quipped. “Honey, I’ve played some small towns in my day, and this…”

She started small (and she stands only 5 feet 1 inches) at a New York City homosexual palace, The Continental Baths – something she’s not about to forget. She applauded Hartford’s homosexuals to a rousing cheer from the crowd.

“Character is everything,” she told the crowd. “Now you see me transform myself into a whole other person before your eyes.” She did, gloriously – and no one but Bette Midler can.

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