November 27, 1973
The best assortment of garbage in town . . . make that garBAHGE . . . was assembled at the Academy of Music Sunday night for the first of three concerts by the Divine Miss M.
Maybe you haven’t heard about the Divine One, Bette Midler. By her own definition, she is Trash With Flash.
And she is a superstar, the first genuine superstar to emerge in a generally bland period of pop entertainment which has set in since the beginning of the 70s. Miss M has indeed come a long way since her local debut at the Bijou Cafe a year ago.
But rest assured, success has not spoiled this tacky, darling creature. She has taken the big time by storm with an outrageous showcase of American music spanning the last three or four decades. Strutting her stuff, shakin’ that thing. Just vamping and prancing.
And talkin’ that trash.
Well, Bette Midler is comparatively rich and famous now, but her fans can take comfort in the knowledge that she is as tacky as ever.
The seven-piece band, under the direction of Barry Manilow, opened the first night show with the orchestration for one of Bette Midler’s songs, “Friends,” and she came out in all of the ludicrous splash that befits this princess of camp.
Wildly flapping two huge, ostrich feather fans, her striped shocking pink and green dress was right out of the early ’40s. Ah, but ladies and gentlemen, the broad has style.
“I want to welcome you all to the Academy of Muzak,” she said in those nasal tough tones. “I can’t tell you how great it is to be back in Philth-adelphia.”
She had a few things to say about “Ratso Rizza,” because “I like to add some local color to the show . . . And who wants to see my impression of Betsy Ross?”
But, naturally, the trashy image is mere frosting. Bette Midler is a singer. And so we come to her repertoire. What else ?
“Good old American garbahge.”
What people tend to overlook in discussions and reviews of Bette Midler is that above and beyond the aura of trashy splash, Bette Midler is a wonderful singer with a taste for music that knows no apparent limits. Included are contemporary songs such as “Delta Dawn” and the Andrew Sisters‘ “Bogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and the old torch classic, “Am I Blue,” and each receives a dazzling interpretation.
Okay, trash, but make that classy trash. And when the last song was over, and the divine Miss M had wriggle-hipped her way off-stage, a full house at the Academy of Music gave her a standing ovation. Dressed only in red panties and a loose skirt, Bette Midler returned to acknowledge the adulation with a warm, impromptu speech from the footlights.