BetteBack January 12, 1997: ‘Diva Las Vegas’ is simply divine

Santa Ana Orange County Register
January 12, 1997


She’s concentrated more on movies and recordings than on live performances lately, but to her fans, she’s remained “Divine.”

Following one of her biggest movie hits ever – “The First Wives Club” – Bette Midler returns to the stage in the variety show “Diva Las Vegas,” airing Saturday on HBO. The show was taped the previous weekend at the MGM Grand.

The program features Grammy, Tony and Emmy-winner Midler’s trademark brand of bawdy humor, as well as elaborately choreographed versions of song standards. The Midler hits “Friends” and “Wind Beneath My Wings” also are likely to be rendered in what is the first full-length Midler concert to be presented on TV in more than a decade.

“This is a show I really, really love, and I think it’s the last of the big ones for a while,” Midler says of her “Diva” production.

“I performed it between 1993 and 1995, but I put it in mothballs because I was just too tired to do anything else with it. Now, I’ve taken it out again to give it its swan song.

It’s the prettiest show I’ve ever done, and the one I’m proudest of.” Midler also staged it in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, during a multiple-night run.

Since any Midler concert is guaranteed to be a high-energy event, she admits that her first rehearsal for the “Diva Las Vegas” revival left her “pretty winded, and I was surprised. I thought I had more stamina than that, but I had to build up to it. It really does take the vinegar out of you.” That doesn’t mean Midler has lost her taste for being outrageous, though she feels she’s been performing “so long, I just do what I feel like doing. I can’t second-guess the crowd, so I do what pleases me; if they find that eccentric or whatever, that’s their problem, not mine. For the most part, I do what amuses me,” Midler maintains, “and I think I’ve only been just outside the line of what is considered absolutely ‘acceptable.’ I mean, I’ve never pierced my navel, and my lips are all my own. I feel I’m pretty much mainstream now, in contrast to what else is out there. I think that’s a function of age. People try to push the envelope and see how far they can go, but when you get a little older, that suddenly becomes unimportant.”

Doing Lesley Gore‘s 1960s pop-music standard “You Don’t Own Me” (featured in “The First Wives Club”) at the recent Fire and Ice Ball, one of the Hollywood’s top charity galas, gave Midler a definite indication of how she might be received by a live audience again.

“My (composer-arranger) friend Marc Shaiman also wrote a parody of ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses‘ called ‘Everything’s Coming Up Grosses’ and that crowd just loved to be abused. They think it’s hilarious when you tell them off, and that was one of the great evenings for me, I have to say. That audience was up for anything.”

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