by Ray Cooper
The last time I saw Bette perform was November 30, 1999 in Houston and I would head back to Dallas the next day, December 1st., Bette’s birthday.
In Houston my seat was down on the floor and I was too afraid to use my camera in the arena, they were taking cameras from anyone that took pictures during the show. This is a photo a friend took that night in Houston when they brought out Bette’s birthday cake on stage.
It would be only four weeks before Dave and I would see Bette perform New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas.
We arrived in Vegas on December 30th, the day before the show.
We had a free room at our slot tournament hotel, the MGM Grand for our stay in Vegas.
This is photo looking out the window of our room at the MGM.
That’s the New York New York hotel accross the street. The hotel Bette joked about in DIVA LAS VEGAS!
We knew that Barbra Streisand would be performing at the MGM for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. We are not big Barbra fans, but thought if we got free tickets to see her New Year’s Day show, we would go to her show at the MGM, being we only had tickets for Bette’s New Year’s Eve show.
The MGM, employees would tell us terrible stories of how she would treat the employees and about all her demands she would make during her stay at the MGM Grand. For example: She made the hotel paint her suite the color she wanted, hang her own pictures on the walls, install her own toliet, build a wall in the hallway from her suite to the elevator, so other quests on the 29th floor could not see her, do not look directly into her eyes, do not speak to her unless she speaks first, etc.
I would say these were only stories and maybe not true, but when you hear it over and over again, you believe what everyone was saying about her.
She also did all of those things when she was the performer that opened the MGM Grand in 1994.
We had to pick up our tickets at the will call counter in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, so we headed over there mid-afternoon on the 30th. We would be walking back and forth from the MGM and Mandalay Bay, it’s not that far.
It felt strange to me that Bette would be performing at the Mandalay Bay, after seeing her perform four times at the MGM Grand.
This is a photo of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
When we got to the Mandalay Bay, Dave said, he would walk around and check the hotel out, while I went to pick up the tickets.
Finally, I found the will call counter and gave them my name and when the person came back she had two sets of tickets, two tickets for New Year’s Eve and two tickets for New Year’s Day. I said, I only ordered and paid for two tickets for New Year’s Eve and she said, the two tickets for the New Year’s Day show were comp tickets.
So, the Bette people gave us two tickets for the New Year’s Day show. When I told Dave that we have tickets for the New Year’s Day show also, he says, Wow, they just gave us those tickets, that’s $1,000 worth of tickets.
After we both walked around the hotel and did a little gambling (slots only) we headed back to the MGM.
When got up to our room we found out that we could have free tickets to see Barbra on New Year’s Day. Barbra’s lowest priced tickets were $2,500 each, but you know who we wanted to see New Year’s Day, BETTE!
We were still a little worried about what would happen at midnight with the Y2K thing, that eveyone thought might happen and everything would just shut down at midnight.
Even the newspapers in Vegas said, that this year’s (1999) New Year’s Eve crowd was going to be much smaller than in past years, because of Y2K.
In past years the crowd on the strip in Vegas, New Year’s Eve would be around 700-800 thousand people, but this year they said, it may only be about 300-350 thousand people.
All day Friday, December 31st. we were excited about the show and couldn’t wait until it was time to walk over to the Mandalay Bay.
About and hour before we planned on leaving our room, we got a call. We were invited to an after the show New Year’s Eve party in the Mandalay Bay and we could pick-up our invitations when we got to the arena before the show started.
NOW, WE REALLY WERE EXCITED ABOUT THE SHOW AND PARTY!!
As always, we arrived at the hotel early and we were some of the first people to get in the arena.
We found our seats and taped on the bottom of our seats was a flashlight that read “I FLASHED BETTE MIDLER, LAS VEGAS, NEW YEAR’S EVE 2000.” Every seat in the arena had a flashlight taped to the bottom of it. I said, what a great idea, if the lights do go out at midnight we will all have a flashlight.
This is a photo of that flashlight (I had about 6 or 7 of them at one time, but gave all but 2 away) and they still work after all these years.
Then I went to find out where to get our invitations to the party.
The show starts and you could just feel the excitement in the arena and you could tell that Bette was very excited about this night, this show.
I knew that they rehearsed the parts they added for the New Year’s Eve show for 3 days at the Mandalay Bay.
Well, midnight comes and I just can’t tell you how it looked on stage. All of it was so exciting to see!
On stage they had father time, fire works, explosions and you can see what it looked like at midnight in these two photos.
Bette said, “grab someone you love and give them a kiss for the last time in the century”
Also, Bette said, “take your flashlights from under your seats and flash us”. Well, almost everyone in the arena used the flashlight, it was a room of thousands of flashlights lit up for a few minutes. It was like being at a rock concert in the 60’s.
It was one of the best New Year’s Eve’s I’ve ever celebrated, and another one was when Bette performed in New York on New Year’s Eve 1972.
Everything was fine, the lights did not go out at midnight and Y2K was over.
This is a photo of Dave and me just about a minute after midnight.
Also a few minutes after midnight, Bette had some star look-a-likes come out on stage. The one that got all the press was the Barbra Streisand impersonator, Loren Michaels.
These are some of things that happend when Loren Michaels came out as Barbra. Bette, looked shocked and said, “Barbra what are you doing here , aren’t you doing your show over at the MGM Grand?”
Loren, said, “they are falling asleep at my show and I wanted to be where my husband is”.
Bette says, “He’s at my show?”
Loren says, “Yes, he couldn’t afford my show” and Bette says, “where is he?” and Loren pionts and says “there he is”
It was very funny and the crowd loved it, but the next day Bette got the word that Barbra did not think it was that funny. Bette, also got some bad press over the whole thing.
These are photos of Bette and Loren as Barbra and one of articles about the Barbra impersonator on stage with Bette and what they said that night.
After the show we headed to the party.
I remember it was a long walk to the party, thank god, they had signs showing the way.
When we get there a very long line was waiting to get in and we saw some stars that were also going to the party. One of them was Sharon Lawrence and we also saw Loren Michaels.
We don’t think too many people knew who Sharon Lawrence was, but they were asking for autographs from Loren Michaels.
The invitation said, no cameras, so I knew not to even think about taking any pictures at the party.
I would say maybe about 200-250 people were at the party. I also knew that talking to Bette would be almost impossible with that many people at the party.
We both had a wonderful time that night and again we will never forget, New Year’s Eve, 2000 with Bette in Las Vegas.
The next day at the MGM they asked us again, if we wanted to go see Barbra’s show that night and we told them thanks for asking, but we had tickets to see Bette over at the Mandalay Bay.
We arrived early for the New Year’s Day show and we knew it would be back to the Millennium show.
By showtime the arena was packed, another sold out show. Bette looked a little tired, but as usual Bette did a great show. Bette also knew this was the last show of the tour and gave it a little extra that night. Bette had a lot more banter between her and the audience in this show, so that made it a little different than other shows on the tour.
We had great seats and it was not as hectic in the arena as it was at the New Year’s Eve show.
These are some photos from the New Year’s Day show in Vegas.
During intermission, a person brought out two vip backstage passes (they knew where we were seating) for us and I said to Dave, well maybe you will get to meet Bette this time!
So, after the show we head backstage and I would say maybe about 15-20 people were back there.
Also, this time a handful of stars were backstage to see Bette. The only two I can remember were, Kathy Najimy and Rod Steiger.
We were waiting in the hallway outside of Bette’s dressing room as one star at a time filed into Bette’s dressing room. So, we thought once she speaks to them it will be our turn, but after she spoke to all of them, she was ready to head out. I don’t blame her, I’m sure she was very tired from rehearsing for 3 days, do two shows and the party.
So, again, Dave did not get to meet Bette.
As Dave said, oh! well!, I had fun just being backstage again.
The five people we did get to speak to that night backstage were, Bruce Vilanch, Toni Basil, Bonnie Bruckheimer, Yvette Taylor (both from All Girl Productions) and Robert Ramos (Bette’s longtime hairdresser) who is always a lot of laughs to be around.
Disappointed that we didn’t get to see or speak to Bette we walked back to the MGM.
The next day Sunday, January 2nd. we headed back to Dallas.
We both had a wonderful time and didn’t want it to end and we talked about it for weeks with our friends back home.
Another wild and crazy, fun time with Bette Midler!
What is next for Bette?
Read my next story it’s all about “BETTE” the TV show!!