Marc Shaiman’s Bette Midler Dreams Became Reality
BY SETH RUDETSKY
DEC 04, 2019
Marc just had his 60th birthday party and has been in the business almost as long! The first Broadway show Marc saw was Fiddler on the Roof, and he remembers studying the souvenir program and being obsessed with the picture of the woman who played Tzeitel. He loved how her smile made her eyes get super-small. Then, when he was in junior high school, his chorus teacher gave him two albums to thank him for accompanying. They were Bette Midler’s first two albums, and he became obsessed. He then realized that the woman in the Tzeitel picture was the same!
He eventually found out where Bette lived and would go to the Village and wander down the street, hoping he’d see her. I asked him what he thought he’d see and he didn’t really have an answer. Finally, he said maybe Bette watering her flowers in the front yard? Hm…I guess…but does anyone even have a front yard in New York? Regardless, he wound up seeing Bette’s concert on Broadway and fantasized that he’d run down the aisle saying, “Oh, Miss Midler! I know how to play every song from every album you’ve ever recorded!” Then, he’d sit on stage and play, and she’d say to the audience, “This kid is good!”
Well, one day, when he was 16 years old (!), he wandered into Marie’s Crisis in the middle of the afternoon with some friends and began playing the piano. The person sweeping up behind the bar was impressed and told Marc that a comedy group, The High-Heeled Women, were looking for a pianist, and Marc got the gig. He stayed with one of the women in the group, and she happened to live across the hall from one of Bette’s back-up singers! Marc found out that the three singers (The Harlettes) were putting together their own act. He auditioned to be their pianist and got it! They got great reviews, and Bette said they could open for her in Los Angeles! Suddenly, Marc was in an L.A. rehearsal studio, and there, across the room, on stage, was Bette Midler!
He was freaking out! Bette suddenly asked the band if they could play “No Jestering” from her third album. They were just a bunch of pick-up musicians and not her actual band so they didn’t know it at all. Suddenly Marc saw The Harlettes talking to Bette and pointing at him. Bette asked him if he knew it, and Marc got to live his dream! He actually ran up to the stage saying, “Oh, Miss Midler! I know how to play every song from every album you’ve ever recorded!” LITERALLY! He played it, and she told him to stick around for the tour in case she needed him. Then, instead of paying for a hotel room for him, she had him stay in her guest room! He said he went from walking down her block hoping to get a mere glimpse of her (as well as covering his room in posters of her), to literally eating breakfast across the table from her not wearing a bra!
The amount of high points he’s had with her is mind-boggling, but here’s one that is part of American media history: Here he is accompanying her on “One More For My Baby,” the song Bette sang to Johnny Carson on his final episode of The Tonight Show.
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Colored Kisses (Written by Danny Kaye) Did you know that kisses have all kinds of colors Some pink, some brown, some summertime green And some just as orange as you've ever seen Sometimes they're gold and bright as the sun And sometimes they're bluish, when evening's begun Oh my Nanny's are silver like old wedding rings And Grandpa's are spreckled like butterfly wings Daddy's kisses are mostly tan But maybe that's because he's a man Auntie Melinda's are watery pale And old Uncle Todd's are white But Mommy's are like a rainbow When she kisses me goodnight