by Ray Cooper
Sometimes it feels like yesterday when Bette was first booked at a major hotel to perform in Vegas as the headliner.
I was so excited when I heard the news from “the Bette people” (that is what I have always called them) and said, I’ve got to be there to see this and be part of her experience of playing in Vegas as the star of the show for the first time.
She had opened for Johnny Carson a couple of times in Vegas, but this was her show this time.
It was April 1976, and she would be performing in the main showroom Circus Maximus at Caesars Palace for a two week engagement. This was the last stop of The Depression tour, so I had seen a few other shows of the tour in other cities, but knew this would be a little different.
Don York, was the musical director (he was the first musical director after Barry Manilow went on his own) and my all time three favorite Harlettes, Sharon Redd, Ula Hedwig, Charlotte Crossley and Bette’s longtime comedy writer Bruce Vilanch would all be there.
I had never been to Vegas and could not wait to go visit Sin City and see her shows as many as I could during my stay there.
When I arrived in Vegas, the airport was very small and when you departed the plane you came down the stair from the front cabin door outside. Most of the airport was outside and you picked up your luggage outside and it was hot in Vegas, only the ticket counters where inside the airport.
I was going to be there for the first week of shows and went every night she performed and hopefully would get the best seat I could. In those days the showrooms had long tables, not theater seating like today and with no pre-seat number, you had to cross the palm of the headwaiter with atleast a $20 bill to get a good seat in the front row of tables.
I was in that first row of tables every night and one night I was in the very first chair from the stage, which was only about 6-8 feet from the stage.
I was in heaven that night!
It was one week of non-stop partying, gambling (won $250.00 on nickel slot machine) and the best shows every night, same show but something would be different every night, added song, took a song out of the show, more than one encore some nights depending on the Vegas crowd. It was so much fun and I could not wait until showtime everynight.
You could tell by Bette’s face that this was an exciting time for her and for all of her fans that were there and some of the people that did not even know who she was, and left the show saying things like, Wow!, she was wonderful and so talented, one of best shows I’ve ever seen.
As you know Bette has never had an opening act in any of her shows, so this was 2-21/2 hours of non-stop shows each night, with no intermission.
It was unbelieveable!
I even got to hang out with Sharon and Charlotte a couple times during that week.
That was one week in my life I will never forget and I did not return to Vegas until she performed at the MGM Grand in September of 1994.
When I took the cab back to the airport it had a sign for the show on the roof of the cab (about 3′ x 1′) and I asked the cab drive if I could buy it from him and he gave me a weird look but said, ok!
I gave him $20 and and took it on the plane back home and hung it on the wall in the Betteroom.
That’s what I called the room that I had all the walls covered with just Bette photos, posters, articles from top to bottom.
When people would come to my house, I would say, would you like to see the Betteroom and they would say I did not know that you can not say Bedroom and I would say not it’s the Betteroom, just for Bette Midler things.
So now, 32 years later she’s back at Caesars Palace for bigger bucks, longer engagement and looking and sounding better than ever.
(Ray 32 years ago…what a hottie!)
What else would expect from Bette Midler, the best live performer of all time!
Check out the “Live At Last” CD and you will hear most of the songs from the show.