The next day after the show in Phoenix, I was on my way back to Dallas to spend Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends.
Now that Bette’s mini-tour was over it was on to Vegas in January for the two nights of taping for the HBO Special, BETTE MIDLER – DIVA LAS VEGAS!
I arrived in the early afternoon at the MGM Grand on Thursday, January 9, 1997 for the two shows that would be taped on Friday, January 10th. and Saturday, January 11th.
I knew that each year around those dates Las Vegas hosts one of it’s largest conventions, called the Consumer Electronics Show which draws about 90 thousand people to Vegas every year.
Since Bette’s last shows at the MGM Grand in 1994, Dave and I had been playing in slot tournaments exclusively at the MGM and sometimes as many as 6-8 tournaments a year. I was very familiar with the hotel and knew my way around the casino, restaurants and the Grand Garden Arena which hosted the final banquet for the slot tournaments.
When I arrived my room was not ready and the lobby was packed with people, the most that I had ever seen in all my visits to the hotel.
I wanted to let Bruce Vilanch know that I had arrived and that my room would be ready in a couple of hours and that I would call him once I was in my room.
I walked towards the house phones and had to wait in line to use one to call his room.
Once I got a phone, I spoke to Bruce, but the crowd was so big that there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on and I got pushed during my call.
After I spoke to Bruce, I started to walk towards the casino. I would always make sure that my wallet was in my back pocket – well it was gone!
I did not have my cash or credit cards in that wallet, but I did have all my ID’s and $100 emergency money along with a lot of phone numbers written on small pieces of paper in it. I also, carried a small wallet in my front pants pocket with my cash and credit cards. I knew then that a pickpocket had taken my wallet when I was on the house phone speaking to Bruce.
I went to the security office to see what I could do and said, to them, with all the security cameras in all parts of the hotel, maybe you can check and see who took my wallet and they said, they would check, but with the all the people in the lobby that my not be possible. I gave them the approximate time I was on the house phone and which side of the bank of phones I was on.
I was very upset and it put a damper on my trip for a few hours, but by that night I was fine and ready for two days of Bette’s shows.
I kept checking with the security office everyday, but they never found my wallet during my stay at the hotel.
I called that weekend A MAGICAL WEEKEND and could not wait until the first show Friday night.
I still call that weekend A MAGICAL WEEKEND and will never forget it. It was non-stop fun to be part of Bette’s special on HBO.
The same weekend of Bette’s shows a new hotel was having it’s grand opening across the street from the MGM. It was NEW YORK – NEW YORK.
So, during the day on Friday I wanted to check it out and went over to New York – New York.
It was also packed with people, but I made my way around the casino floor checking out the slot machines. I saw Wynonna Judd at one point signing autographs and then I saw Joey Butafuko walking around the hotel and he was also signing autographs and talking to everyone.
Later that afternoon when I got back to the MGM, I called Bruce to see what was going on and told him that I saw Wynonna Judd and Joey Butafuko over at the new hotel, New York – New York.
Bruce said, are you sure it was Joey Butafuko and I said, yes, I’m very sure it was him. Bruce said, great I’m going to get that into the show for one of Bette’s lines. Not knowing what he was going to do with that information, I could not wait to show time.
It was in the show and I was so happy that they used my information I gave them for the show.
The line that Bette says is, AND ACROSS THE STREET THEY BUILT THE ENTIRE ISLAND OF MANHATTAN, OF COURSE MY ROOM IS IN BROOKLYN, RIGHT NEXT TO THE JOEY BUTAFUKO RIDE!
I loved it, and it was on tape!
Also, that afternoon I got a call from a producer from the TV show, Entertainment Tonight. He said, that they would like to interview me about being a Bette fan for so many years and about how many shows I’ve been to during Bette’s last tour. He said, come down early to the entrance of the Grand Garden and I said, I’m always early to a Bette Midler show. Now, I was really excited. I called Dave back in Dallas to tell him about ET and the interview and it may be on ET Monday after the weekend.
So, Friday night I get down to the area the producer said, they would be and in a few minutes they were there. It was a camera man and person holding a microphone. The person holding the microphone asked the questions and it was about a minute to a minute and a half that they taped.
I just could not believe it and thought, wow!, I will have something to look at for many years to come and it’s about Bette Midler! Well, ET never aired the interview and when a TV show or news show does not use it on the air, the person (me) can never get a copy of the tape. I called ET and begged them to give me a copy, but they said, sorry, but we can not give you a copy unless it airs someday and as of today, it has never aired.
Over the years I have followed the rules (not in the early days) about bringing a camera or recording device to one of Bette’s shows. Only if the rule were dropped about cameras, which was the case at some of Bette’s later tours.
I knew that being these two shows were being taped, that no one could have a camera at the show.
Well, let me tell you that when you walked into the arena, they were taking cameras right and left and had tables full of cameras, to be returned after the show.
The first night I had a dead center seat in the second row on the floor. HBO had cameras everywhere and they had a camera that I’m not sure what it is called, that is on a cable and is round, about the size of a bowling ball (they use them for football games and other events), and the cable ran from one end of the arena to the other end. It would be used to get overhead shots of the crowd, but it did not work, so they never used it for the two nights of taping.
I could not believe that I had the seat I did and was ready for the show to start. When the show started, it really was like being somewhere special and I just could not believe that I was going to be part of it.
When Bette comes down to the stage from the ceiling and she hits the floor with all that energy, my heart was beating so fast. I could tell that Bette was ready to put on one hell of a show and as always give the crowd a show they would not forget. Just knowing that this was being taped and anyone that was not at the show would get to see Bette’s magic when the HBO Special aired later in January was so exciting.
This show had the best lighting, music, sound, staging of any tour show to me.
I knew that HBO was going to have an after the show party each night and that I was going to both of them. I really don’t like the big parties, it’s always hard to get around and you know for sure that you are not going to get to talk to Bette for very long or if you will even get to say anything at all to her.
The party was in one of ballrooms and Bette, Martin and Sophie were there both nights. I did get to say hello, the first night for just a minute. Bette said, thanks, so much, for coming to Vegas!
I would see some of Bette’s crew out on the casino floor playing slot machines and you know that I would talk to them. One day I saw Bobby Lyle on his way to rehearsals and I told him that I thought he was one of the best musical directors Bette has ever had. He was very nice during our conversation and a very down to earth person.
The second night I was in the 6th. row center on the floor and saw many stars of film, music and tv around me.
This was the night that during intermission Bruce took me over to speak to Charlotte Crossley and it is always great to see and speak to someone you have known from the past.
One interesting thing is the reason they taped (HBO) two nights is to take the best parts of both nights and splice them together so you do not know which night it was from. They would even splice during a song or when Bette was talking or telling a joke from each night to make it look better when the special aired.
They forgot one thing!
When you watch the video, look for the stage speaker monitors. The first night they were not on the stage, they were off the stage say about 3-4 feet and the second night they were on the stage where monitors usually are.
So, when HBO spliced from one night to another the monitors are in a different place. During some songs you can see them change positions when HBO spliced the two shows together during a song or joke.
One thing that I loved about this show were the hair’do and the dresses that Bette wears during some songs, like, “From A Distance”, “Stay With Me” and ” Wind Beneath My Wings”.
This was such a wonderful weekend and I was sad to leave that Monday afternoon to return to Dallas.
The next day, Tuesday, when we receive our mail, it had a medium size envelope with the U.S. Post Office stamp on it and hand written my name and address. I open it up and there was all my stuff with a rubberband around it. My ID’s and all those phone numbers on small pieces of papers were in the envelope with a note, saying this was found in a mailbox. As of this day I have never had any Identity theft from then.
Please, enjoy these photos of three of my, one of a kind rare items of Bette!:
The first item is handmade and hand painted. It’s made with fabric, cut and stuffed with cotton and glued to a hard backing. It is one of a kind and I bought this piece in Chicago in 1978.
The second item is a portrait of Bette’s first album cover that an artist friend from Detroit did in 1973 and he re-did it in 1979 after the first one was destroyed in the 1978 house fire.
The third item is a air brushed portrait of Bette a friend did in Dallas in 1988.