After Bette’s tour, DE TOUR ended in September 1983 she signed a movie deal with Disney. The films would be released and distributed through Touchstone Films.
Bette was in some of the best films she has ever made during her time with Disney.
These are some stills from, DOWN AND OUR IN BEVERLY HILLS (1986), RUTHLESS PEOPLE (1986), OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1987), BEACHES (1988)
My other two favorite films were, BIG BUSINESS (with Lily Tomlin) (1988) and a film that did not do well at the box office, but one that I thought was one of her best, STELLA (1990).
The story in the movie industry about Bette’s films posters was that when she co-starred with someone Touchstone had to make two sets of posters – one set with Bette’s name first and another set with the name of the co-star (Richard Dreyfuss, Shelley Long, Barbara Hershey, Lily Tomlin, etc.) listed first on the posters for the film.
In 1984, Bette married, Martin von Haselberg and a couple of years later, on November 14, 1986 they had their first and only child, Sophie.
It really looked like Bette was finally very happy now that Aaron Russo was out of her life and with the release of some of her best films and a happy family, Bette was on top of the world.
Bette, did have one album that was released in 1985 that did not do well, it was a comedy album called, MUD WILL BE FLUNG TONIGHT.
To me Bette is a performer that you must see to appreciate and it’s not just words of a joke, it’s those facial expressions she does that sells a joke.
She also had two soundtrack albums that were big sellers, BEACHES (with her biggest selling single, “Wind Beneath My Wings”) and FOR THE BOYS. Plus another album in 1990, SOME PEOPLE’S LIVES.
The only Bette related event that I went to during those days was on June, 14, 1987 for a book release party in New York City for an unauthorized biography called, BETTE MIDLER, OUTRAGEOUSLY DIVINE written by Mark Bego. The release party was at one of New York’s most popular clubs at that time, THE TUNNEL. This is the invitation for the book release party.
Bette’s next tour would start in September 1993 and it turned out to be the longest tour Bette has ever done, which ended in January 1997.
EXPERIENCE THE DIVINE SHOWS AT RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL
Dave and I started a business in 1980 and it was doing very well by 1993. So, finally I could get back to going to different cities to see Bette perform her live shows.
Early 1993, I heard that Bette was working on a new live show and being that was and is my favorite thing Bette does, I knew I had to be there when the show opened.
I kept track of when it would start and when I found out it would start in September and would be at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, I was in heaven that Bette would be performing again in a real theater and even though it has a capacity of 6,000 people, it was still a theater.
I bought tickets for the first week the show opened and would be going four nights in a row. I bought three nights and the Bette people bought one night.
Bette, sold out 31 shows at Radio City, which no other performer has even done, even to this day.
I arrived in New York the day before my first night of my four nights to see Bette’s new show.
After I checked into the hotel, I took a walk over to Radio City Music Hall and when I saw a huge poster of Bette on the side of the building, now I really could not wait until the next night to see Bette’s live show.
I’m one of those people that has to be early to check out things, like what door do I go in and where is my seat, etc. I always say, I’m there so early that they are still setting up the sound equipment.
The doors opened at 7:00pm and I got there everynight at 6:30pm so I could get in as soon as the doors opened.
I had center orchestra seats that I bought for three nights, but I was not sure where the seat they bought would be on the fourth night.
The first night was, September 16, 1993 and I was so excited that Bette was doing a live show finally and I could not wait until curtain time.
I was also nervous being the last time I saw Bette live was in 1983 and I was not sure how she would look ten years later. Would she look older, would she look fat, would she not sound as good as the last tour?
The show starts and Bette looked so good and her voice was even better than in 1983.
The staging and sets were wonderful and the Harlettes were very good and the band sounded the best and Bobby Lyle who was the musical director for DE TOUR, was the musical director again and Bobby was always one the best musical directors to me.
I just could not believe that it was happening and could not take my eyes off of Bette and everything that was happening on stage.
To this day, I think this was the BEST TOUR that Bette has ever done. Everything about it just kept you in your seat all through the show, from start to finish.
A funny story, on the third night I got there at 6:30pm like I did the other two nights. The first night I had noticed that they had security guys dressed in suits, kind of like the FBI or Secret Service and I think they had about 3 or 4 of them. They were wired with radios that they could communicate with each other with earphones and the mike was in the sleeve of the suit.
So, on the third night, I saw them talking into the sleeve of their suits and finally one of them walked up to me and said, “Haven’t I seen you here before” and I said, “yes last night and the night before and I will be back tomorrow night also”. He kind of looked at me for a second and said, “ok!, hope that you are enjoying the shows”. I said, yes, I’m a big Bette fan! The next night they watched me again until I went into the theater.
Finally, it was my last night to see the show and by now I know all of the show and if I could sing I would have song every song along with Bette that last night.
This was also the night that I had the ticket they gave me. I go to the pickup window and the seat was in what Radio City called the Golden Circle, which was the orchestra pit that was raised to floor level and all the chairs were temporary chairs and hooked together.
I really don’t like to be that close, I like to be at least 7-10 rows from the stage, so I can see all of the stage and get what I call the full spectrum of Bette’s shows.
I guess it was a special night it was full of people in show business in that section. People from television, the movie industry and the music industry were there.
My seat was at the end of the row and person sitting to my left was, Sarah Jessica Parker and let’s just say she was not very friendly and gave me a look like, WHO THE HELL ARE YOU AND HOW DID YOU GET YOU GET THIS SEAT!!
As I said, I knew the show by the fourth night and something happend that night that was different than the other nights, it was during the Gypsy medley in the show. Bette sang all the words to every song and not just the short version of them that she had done the other nights.
At the end of medley, Bette came to edge of the stage and said, the man (Jule Styne) that wrote the music to some of those songs was in the audience and she had him stand up to put the spotlight on him and he was sitting in front of me. I thought, WOW!, this is one of those things that can happen at a Bette Midler show, that you will only see happen once.
It was a night to remember and even Sarah Jessica Parker was very friendly to me before the show was over.
I could not wait to see the show again when it went on the road later that year.
Bette, also had a TV musical special that would air in December 1993, “Gypsy” on CBS and here is the poster for the special and a photo from the show.
I had seen the original movie with Rosalind Russell as Mama Rose in 1959, so I was excited to see Bette play that role.
Bette was perfect as Mama Rose!
The next project Bette was going to do was a TV musical special of “Hello Dolly”, but it never happened.
The tour would be in Dallas on December 4, 1993 and I had told everyone I knew that they just had to be there to see this show.
I also loved when Bette would be performing in the city that I lived in so I could give them some local stories to use as one liners in the opening of the show.
They used 3 of my local stories (for one liners) in the show that night.
I would always tell my friends what stories I gave them and when Bette would use them, my friends would say, wow!, she really did you use your stories in her show.
The show started and it was hard for me not to sing along with Bette and the crowd loved everything about the show. Bette, did three encores that night in Dallas.
Bette’s show in Dallas was on a Saturday night and the next show would be on Monday night in Austin, TX. and I had a ticket for that show in Austin.
I drove down to Austin (3 hour drive) Monday morning and would drive back Monday night after the show.
The last time I saw Bette perform in Austin was in January 1983.
As always I arrive early to the Frank Erwin Center and as soon as the doors opened I was in the building.
I knew my seat was on the floor of the arena, but again did not know where it would be.
On my way to my seat I ran into Bruce Vilanch who I had just seen in Dallas a couple of days before and he said, do you want to come back and see Bette?
I said, yes, and we went back, but it was packed with people back there and I only got to wave to Bette that night in Austin.
One person that was back there was, Ann Richards, who was the Governor of Texas at the time.
I did not know that she was a very big Bette fan until that night.
After leaving the dressing room I went out on the floor and an usher takes me to my seat.
As we walked up to my seat, I look at the section and think what the hell is this. It was a temporary riser that was just right of the stage and only had about 15 seats. It looked very strange and I was not sure why my seat was in this temporary section.
A few minutes later here comes Ann Richards with two body guards and it ended up that one of bodyguards sat between me and Ann Richards, so you know I had to speak to her before the show started and during the intermission and even after the show.
I found out that this section was added just for Ann Richards and her bodyguards and a few other people, like me.
I told Ann Richards that I was a big supporter of hers and that I was surprised to find out she was a Bette fan. Then I told how great she looked in person.
I will talk more about Ann and Bette in my story about Hulaween.
The show was great as always, and Bette dedicated two songs to Ann Richards. It was a long drive back to Dallas that night, but it was well worth the trip being it would be a few months until the next time I would see Bette perform again.
The next show that I went to was June 1994 in, The Woodlands, about 45 miles north of Houston.
It was an outdoor show, in the business they call them shed shows and I don’t think that Bette likes to do shed shows.
Bette was booked to play one night at the Summit (an arena) in Houston, but the Houston Rockets would be playing in the basketball championship that night, so they moved Bette’s show out to the Woodlands Pavilion for two nights.
I drove down to see the show in the Woodlands and would be staying overnight.
This was the first outdoor show of Bette’s that I had even went to and was not sure if I would like seeing her in outdoor show, also June in Texas can be very hot and humid
I did get to speak to Bruce Vilanch at the show and he said, you may have to drink alot of beer in this heat to keep cool.
A heavy rain came about an hour before the show was to start and the weather cooled down a little by the time the show started.
I was so glad, that my seat was in a covered area and not out on the grass where it was still wet after the rain.
I was worried about how good the sound would be at a outdoor show, it was perfect.
This is a great story, after the intermission and and about 20 minutes in to the second half of the show, you could hear people (mostly men) around the outside of the Pavilion cheering everytime the Rockets would score. The Palvilion had TV’s set up around the concession stands. Sometimes the cheers were very loud!
Bette, finally hears them and says, “WHAT IS GOING ON”? Someone off stage tells her that the Houston Rockets are winning the game and that they could win the championship and it has about 15 minutes before it’s over.
So, Bette does something that I know no one else in show business would ever do (not even Cher), she says, “we are going to stop the show and once the Rockets win we will start the show back up”.
Bette and everyone in the band leave the stage and the curtain stays open.
Well, I guess, Bette did not know that in sports 15 minutes could be 45 minutes with all the timeouts, etc.
Bette, would come out on stage every 15 minutes and ask where is the game now?
Finally, after about 35-45 minutes the Rockets won the championship and the crowd went wild.
Bette, comes back out and leads the crowd in a few cheers for the Rockets and then says, “Let’s get back to the show”. The band comes back out and Bette starts where she left off and does the rest of the show and does not take anything out of the show, it was as if their was not break in the show.
To this day, I know that no one else would of handled that situation the way Bette did that night in the Woodlands.
The next show that I went to was in New Orleans at the Superdome on June 25, 1994.
Dave and I had been to New Orleans many times before, it was one our favorite cities to visit.
We always stayed to the same hotel in the French Quarter, so I flew to New Orleans the day before the show and stayed at the hotel for two nights.
When I got on the plane in Dallas, a guy was sitting next to me and I found out he was also going to New Orleans to see Bette. When we got to New Orleans it was raining and a friend of his lived in New Orleans was picking him up and they offered to give me a ride to my hotel and in the car I found out that they would be sitting a couple of rows from my seat.
My ticket came from the promoter, but I also had a ticket that I bought, so the night of the show I went down very early to the Superdome to see if anyone needed a ticket.
I came across a mother and daughter and they were looking for a ticket. The mother had a ticket, but her daughter did not, so they were looking for someone that had just one ticket.
I said, I’ve got one extra ticket, so I just gave the ticket to them and they could not believe that someone would just give a ticket away and not ask for any money for it.
The Superdome is the biggest place that I have seen Bette perform ever. The Superdome holds over 80 thousand people, but Bette’s show would be only using half of that and the other half was for the tour trucks and buses to park.
My seat was in the 5th. row center on the floor and the guys that drove me to the hotel were two row behind me. It’s always more fun to know someone there to talk to during the breaks.
A husband and wife around my age were sitting next to me and I noticed that the man had Bette’s yearbook from high school on his lap. His wife was sitting next to me and I said, “I see you have Bette’s high school yearbook with you” and she said, “yes, my husband went to school with Bette, and was hoping to maybe get it signed tonight, but with this crowd, I don’t think that will happen”.
I asked if they had ever seen one of Bette’s live shows and they said, no, but had all her albums and have seen most of her movies. Then I said, “maybe I can get your yearbook signed or even better maybe get you backstage after the show, to see Bette”! His wife said, “what, do you mean that you may get us backstage”, I said, “I will try, but I’m not saying it will happen”.
During the intermission, Bruce came out to say hi! and when he did, I told him the story of man going to school with Bette and that he graduated with her and Bruce said, “bring them backstage after the show and I will make sure that the security people know that the three of you are coming”. I was worried that we may not get back there with out having any backstage passes.
I go back to my seat and told them that we will be going backstage after the show and they said, “40,000 people are here in the Superdome and the guy sitting next to us knows how to get us backstage to see Bette, that’s unbelieveable”.
The show starts and what a show it was, Bette even added a couple new songs to the show and one of them was a Zydeco song (a popular sound in Louisiana) to end the show.
After the show I walked with the couple back to dressing room area and we had no problems getting backstage that night. I just could not believe that the Superdome was so big that all the shows 7 semitrailer trucks and 3 tour buses were parked inside the arena.
When we got back there I told them to go ahead and the last thing I saw was them heading for Bette’s dressing room.
The Couple called me a few days later and said, that all of them were crying and they were so happy to see each other after all those years. They said, they did not know how to thank me and I said, I’m just so glad that all it worked out for them to get to speak to Bette after all those years.
Bette, would be back in Dallas on June 28th. to perform again at Reunion arena and the show was sold out.
The next stop for me to see the show was Las Vegas!
I had not been to Vegas since Bette perform there in 1976 and really wanted to see Bette in Vegas again.
She would be at the MGM Grand for two nights over the Labor Day weekend in September 1994.
The new MGM Grand had only been open for a couple of months when Bette was booked to perform there.
The only other major performer that had performed in the Grand Garden was Barbara Streisand and she performed two night for the grand opening of the hotel.
Well, the plane lands and I took a cab to the hotel and just could not believe how big Vegas was and then when I get to hotel I couldn’t believe how big it was. Everything in Vegas was so much bigger than it was in 1976.
I arrived the day before the shows and got to speak to Bruce Vilanch about the show. He said, “I think this tour is the most that you have come to see around the country” and I said, “I just love this tour so much, I can’t get enough of it”. “I wish I could be at every show”!
I went both nights and the first night (to me) the sound was not the best, but the second night it was great. Just the fact that Bette was back in Vegas was good enough for me.
The second night I was sitting behind a well dressed older women that looked and sounded alot like Bette Davis, but Bette Davis had passed away, so I knew it wasn’t her.
The women had on a full length fur coat on and very big rimmed glasses and she had a young man assistant with her. I would say he was in his late 20’s early 30’s.
Well, she was drinking one glass of wine after another and was getting drunk and was talking very loud during the show and again sounded like Bette Davis’s voice.
I just kept thinking, who is she, and I just knew she was in show business, but just don’t know who she was.
At the end of the show her and her assistant went to get up and she fell under the seat in front of her and I and a few other people helped her up. Again, I just knew that she was somebody in show business, but did not know who and did no want to ask at that point.
All I could think about was this would be just one more story to tell about a live Bette Midler show.
So, when I got home, I told Dave all about her (he is much better at knowing people in show business than I am), but he could not figure out who she was either.
Two years later in 1996 the movie THE FIRST WIVES CLUB came out and we went to see it, there she was in the movie with Bette. I said, to Dave at the movie that’s the women I saw at the show in Vegas and he said, I know who she is and will tell you when we leave the theater.
Her name was Eileen Heckart and she has been in many movies over the years and alot of TV shows.
She was in a movie in 1956 called THE BAD SEED and what is strange, she played a alcoholic mother after her son dies in that movie.
This is the button you needed to wear to get into the after show party that the MGM Grand had for Bette.
The next time I would see the show again was in December 1996 in Phoenix, AZ.
The tour had ended, but Bette had signed a deal with HBO to do a special that would be taped in Vegas in Janaury and the special would be called DIVA LAS VEGAS.
Bette wanted to take EXPERIENCE THE DIVINE on road one more time to get ready for the HBO special.
It would be an on the road rehearsal for the special. They would tour just the west coast, CA., WA, OR. and AZ and do about 16-18 shows.
Knowing that they would make some changes in the show, I wanted to see the show before it got to Vegas.
At the time I did not know where Bette would be performing and asked the Bette people where and when they said, one of the stops would be in Phoenix. I said, I’ll be there, being that was the closes city on the tour to Dallas.
Again, I was going alone and had been to Phoenix a couple of times before and didn’t know where to stay, so I asked what hotel they would be at for the show. So, that is where I would stay the day before the show and leave the day after the show.
I arrived mid-day at the hotel and knew that Bette and Bruce would be arriving around 4pm. and was asked to meet them in the lobby.
I went down to the lobby about 3pm and was waiting for them to arrive at 4pm. During the time in the lobby I would see, Toni Basil, Bonnie Bruckheimer walk around the lobby many times and even Martin once all looking for Bette and Bruce to arrive.
They pulled up around 5pm and entered the lobby and they both had bags of Christmas gifts.
When I spoke to them I found out that they had stopped in Denver to do some Christmas shopping.
I remember Bette said, “you came all they way to Phoenix to see the show”? I said, yes, “and I will also be in Vegas in January”. She said,” thanks, so much for being the fan you have been for all these years”, and then she gave me a hug.
The next night was the show on Saturday, December 21st and it was at the America West Arena.
It was freezing in the arena and even Bette said, how cold it was. You know how they just cover the floor with wood or something over the ice for hockey. One of her lines that night was” I hate performing in hockey arenas, it’s to damn cold in here”.
This show had some things added to it and so I knew that they would use this version of the show in Vegas for the HBO special in January at the MGM Grand.
My next story it about that weekend in Vegas for the taping of DIVA LAS VEGAS, what a weekend it was!