BootLeg Betty

BetteBack October 17, 1973: How’s She Doing? Great, You Bette!

Wisconsin State Journal
October 17, 1973

2016-08-29_4-26-26

The reigning resident kook of showbiz, Bette Midler, unloosed her own outrageous, schizophrenic self on more than 4,500 appreciative fans Wednesday night in the Dane County Coliseum and gave each more than an inkling of why she is coming on strong as the 1970s high priestess of super-camp.

From the opening shimmy out onto the stage, decked out in frizzled hair, pink ostrich fan, black-and-white slack suit, big red rose in the décolletage, and something like a yellow bird in her hair, singing her theme “You Gotta Have Friends,” she was every bit The Divine Miss M.

This 5-foot-l bundle of unharnessed energy did just about everything imaginable in belting out four decades of pop music, filling in with conversational continuity that ranged from real raunchy humor to sentimentalities, from hard satire to her strength as an able mimic, from drag queen status to the look of a Yiddish mama, and masking it all with an emotional, constant attempt to be entertaining and appealing to all people.

“I’m the last of the truly tacky women,” she shouted, and then turned into an upbeat Helen
Reddy version of “Delta Dawn.”

“My next song is a semi-gross-out,” so she warbled eight bars of special material labeled “Bad Sex,” then kidded American Bandstand with her low-rent retro rock ‘n roll version of “Uptown,” and moved to the “hubba-hubba” section to put words to the 1940s “In the ‘Mood” (I never knew it had words!).

Changing musical gears over a few witty but X-rated comments, she did “Am I Blue” in great torchy style and phrasing, swung to the 1960s again in “Do You Want to Dance?,” chiding the entire audience when it didn’t join in the requested “aaahhhh” sound as “mmeeediooooker . . . now let’s sing it out this time for Tinkerbell” and they let her
know there were 4,500 in the seats.

In fox furs, sequin gown, and feathered boa, she tackled “Lullaby of Broadway” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” with the help of three backup vocalists, the Harlettes, in the rousing style that most fans have become familiar with.

But just as effectively, another Bette Midler sang a poignant “Hello in There” in a voice that was now bending a little hoarse from wear.

Strutting, prancing, turning a vamping glance over a shoulder, kicking and shouting, she ended it all with “Leader of the Pack” and the show closing “Friends” again, as an entire audience stood and some waved their satisfied salute to the self-proclaimed “trash with flash, sleaze with ease,” performer who had more than enough rapport with the multitudes.

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