Story Behind The Photo! By Ray Cooper
January 26, 2018
This photo means so much to me for many reasons and this is how it happened to be!!!
I had met Bette a couple of times in NYC and when she came to Detroit (Windsor) for a two week engagement at the Top Hat Club in Windsor , Ont. Canada in l97l, I knew I had to go see her there.
She came alone, no Barry and Aaron was not her manager at the time.
She did have a booking agent, but no one came with her to Detroit.
Many people knew her in NYC, from being in Fiddler and at the baths, plus at a club here or there, like The Bitter End, Up The Downstairs, but other than in NYC at the time her only claim to fame nationally was appearing on talk shows, Merv Griffin, David Frost and the biggest, The Tonight Show, but she did not have an album out even then.
We knew she was coming so we all planned on going to see the show a few times in the two weeks she would be in Detroit.
Ten of us went the second night (which was a week night) and the place was empty, just maybe 10-15 other people there.
We got a large table and knew she had to do two shows a night and after the first show she was walking around and came up to our table and said,. “My people, thank God for my people” and then she remembered meeting me in NYC.\
We ended up going to see her show 6vtimes in those two weeks and still not to0 many people went to see her. The biggest crowds were on the weekends and still not that many people went to see the show.
The best night was the last night we went to see the show.
I was DJ – ing at a club, The Iron Hinge in Detroit and I asked the club owner if I could take a pack of bar towels to the show and knowing that he would not get them back, he said, yes.
When Bette performed at the baths, most nights the crowd would throw their bath towels on the stage at the end of her show (which meant they were now naked), so I wanted to make her feel at home, even in Detroit.
So, I think we had maybe 15 people that went that night and at the end of the second show we throw the bar towels on the stage (remember we were dressed) and I remember how Bette cried and said, Thank You, Thank You, for making me feel at home!!!
She told us that the club had paid for her airfare and a room at a motel near the club in Windsor and that she was getting paid $1,000.00 a week, but had to pay the band and the MC and would end up with only S250.00 a week for herself.
We knew that a friend (Peter) of ours was starting to film a movie during the time Bette was in Detroit and he had asked some of us to be in the movie and Patrick (he was a school teacher) and me to be in his movie (I had a very good job) so we did not want to be in the movie, but a lot of our friends were in the movie.
Jack & Wade, Chi Chi and our best friend Richard and others.
Only Jack & Wade were Bette fans (they went to NYC a lot back then) and also Patrick and myself, but Richard and Peter knew her name, but not much else about her then.\
It took all of us to talk Peter into asking Bette to be in the film and he finally did ask.
She said, yes and asked to be paid 50.00 for her part in the movie and wanted him to write up a contact for her (no one else got paid anything or had a contract) to be in his movie.
He did what she wanted and you know the rest of the story about what happened three years later when he released the movie after she had become a star. (The Thorn)
I have been bugging Richard since we re-connected a few years ago to send me a copy of this photo for a very, very long time, since it was lost in the house fire.
Richard is not a Bette fan even though he was in the movie with her and had (he was an artist until a few years ago when he says his hand shakes now) painted a wonderful portrait of her back then, that hung in her place on Barrow ST, I really will!
Well, the last time I asked a few weeks ago, he finally looked for it and said it took 3 days until he had it in his hand.
He sent it to me without telling me that he had found it and had made a couple of copies for me.
I got it a couple of Saturdays ago and when I opened it I cried, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it.
I called Richard (he lives in FL) and we spoke for over an hour about things that happened back in 71 inDetroit and he reminded me of things I forgot happened in those two weeks with Bette.
So, here are some of things we spoke about that happened then.
One thing he said, at the time none of us thought to document her time in Detroit, being none of us knew how big a star she would become years later.
He said, we just thought she was another performer from NYC, that might make it!
I did take a few photos at The Top Hat, but they are all gone.
When Bette was in Detroit for two weeks, we all hung around her and took her places. She did not have a car and very little money.
Whoever was driving had to pick her up in Windsor and spend the day and then drive her back to Windsor in the early afternoon.
We all took turns doing things with her during the day.
Patrick was teaching school so he could not do as much as I could and when I did things with her and Richard I drove, being Richard had a car at the time.We went shopping and one of the places was a vintage clothing store called Buzzy’s and back then all of
Bette stage outfits were from vintage clothing stores in NYC, but in Detroit she wanted to go to Buzzy’s and she bought 5 dresses and a couple of hats and in the photo the dress and hat (the hat had veil , you can kind of see it in the photo) she has on came from Buzzy’s and she also wore the outfit it in the movie.
We all took turns buying her lunch, but Richard said, I paid more then anyone else.
It took over a week to film Bette’s parts and I went out to where they were filming a couple of times.
The day the photo was taken, they were filming in Palmer Park which was one of the big gay areas of Detroit, before that it was a Jewish area.
Bette was in between takes and we told her that a Synagogue was not far from where we were, so she said, I would love to see the Synagogue and I drove her and Richard over there.
Well, when we got there she loved how it looked and wanted to take a picture of it and Richard had a camera and we took a few photos of the Synagogue and finally I said to Bette, why don’t you pose at thefront doors ofthe Synagogue and we’ll take a photo for you to keep.
The photo is how she posed (people say, it’s a very Mae West pose) that day in l971 in front of the Synagogue doors.
We gave her a copy of it a few days later and not sure if she still has it or not.
Richard told me a few stories (and again I forgot some of them) when Peter was filming.
Some of the movie was done in Rjchard’s apartment (it was painted art deco nouveau) and a lot was filmed at Jack & Wade house.
They had a very large home, which gave Peter a lot of rooms to film in.
In the movie the kitchen scene was at their house and the part where Bette and Richard are in bed was also filmed there.
Richard told a funny story about that scene.
Jack & Wade had a very large antique bed and Peter thought this will be perfect for the scene. So, Bette and Richard are in the bed trying to make it squeak for the blacked out screen sex scene.
He said, that Bette and him were moving up and down, but just could not get it to squeak for the scene, so they finally gave up and did the scene the way it is in the movie.
He also, said, that Peter had to film the scene to get the sound off the black screen and that somewhere there is a film of them in bed together and can’t believe no one had found it and released it the way social media is today. (Mister D: I call it the stinginess factor!)
All but Bette and Richard are gone that were in the film, even Peter, he passed away of AIDS when he was 50.
When I got my copy of the photo back in 71, Patrick and I had it enlarged and we hung on the Bette wall and we hung it on many Bette walls, depending on where we were living.
The last wall it hung on in Michigan was 1974, before I moved to Texas lrlr.1975 and we lost that photo in the house fire in 1978.
Patrick passed away of AIDS in 1987.
I know that almost all of the things i lost then, I wiii never have again, but I knew that Richard had a copy of this photo and I have wanted it for so long, since it was lost n 1978, and now I finally have a copy of that wonderful time in Detroit in l971 with Bette!!