Bootleg Betty Presents

 
 



Melissa Manchester
Robin Grean
Merle Miller
Charlotte Crossley
Sharon Redd
Ula Hedwig
Diva Gray
Jocelyn Brown
Katey Sagal
Linda Hart
Jenifer Lewis
Siobban O'Carroll
Helena Springs
Carol Hatchett
Melanie Taylor
Rhae Ann Theriault


My deepest thanks to Diane Stow and Darrell Redmond for helping to oversee this page. I could not have gotten it done without your efforts! Love, Don

MELISSA MANCHESTER:

Melissa Manchester was already well on her way toward establishing a solo career before she met Bette Midler. Melissa's father, who was a bassoonist for the Metropolitan Opera may be credited for instilling her love for music, but her own talents were apparent very early on. At the tender age of 15 she was already a published poet and was singing commercial jingles. In high school she studied acting, and after graduating from the High School of the Performing Arts she attended New York University. At the university, she enrolled in a song writing course taught by Paul Simon!

Soon she was working at Chappell Music as a staff writer and performing at clubs in Greenwich Village and Manhattan's Upper West Side. It was at one of these performances that Bette Midler and Barry Manilow saw her singing and playing piano. They were impressed, and (in 1971) Bette hired Melissa as a backup singer.

As one of Bette's original "Harlettes", Melissa was able to realize one of her lifelong dreams...performing at Carnegie Hall! Only months later, Melissa had a recording contract of her own and was soon headlining and performing to sold-out crowds there herself...as a solo act!

Some of the highlights of Melissa Manchester's solo career include:

1973-released her debut album "Home To Myself"
1975-her first top 10 hit, "Midnight Blue"
1978 & 1979-nominated for Grammy Awards
1980-first singer to have two movie themes nominated for Academy Awards (Ice Castles & The Promise.) Melissa went on to make Oscar history by performing both complete songs during the show.
1982-received a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocalist
(You Should Hear How She Talks About You)
1991-co-starred with Bette Midler in "For The Boys" 1993-recurring role as Maddy on the hit series "Blossom"

In the later 90's, Melissa wrote a musical entitled "I Wrote a Letter to my Love" which was performed off-Broadway, co-starred with Kelsey Grammar in Stephen Sondheim's acclaimed musical "SWEENEY TODD" at The Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, and composed and recorded the score for "LADY AND THE TRAMP II". She recently received the Governor's Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for her contributions to the music and recording arts. (Photo: Melissa is in the middle, the other two are Gail Kantor and Merle Miller, although I do not know which is which...if someone knows, please e-mail me)

On Record with Bette: "The Divine Miss M", "For the Boys", "Experience the Divine"

In Concert with Bette: Carnegie Hall, Philharmonic Hall

To find out more about one of Bette's most talented and successful "Harlettes", visit Melissa Manchester's official website at http://www.melissamanchester.com


ROBIN GREAN:

On Record with Bette: Bette Midler, Thighs and Whispers

In Concert with Bette: The Divine Miss M Tour, Clams On The Half Shell, Ol Red Hair Is Back (TV Special)

 

MERLE MILLER: 

On Record with Bette: Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, Thighs and Whispers, Experience the Divine

In Concert with Bette: Carnegie Hall, Philharmonic Hall, Ol Red Hair Is Back (TV Special)


CHARLOTTE CROSSLEY:   

On Record with Bette: Bette Midler, Songs for the New Depression, Live at Last, Some People's Lives, Experience the Divine

In Concert with Bette: TThe Divine Miss M Tour, Clams On The Half Shell, The Depression Tour, Intimate Evening With Bette


SHARON REDD: 

When Sharon Redd was born on October 19th, 1945, you could say that she already had music swimming in her veins. Her father, Gene Redd, was an executive producer at King Records and her stepfather performed with the Benny Goodman band. Her brother was a writer and producer for Kool & the Gang and BMP, and her sister, Pennye Ford, is also an accomplished singer with two albums to her credit.

Sharon grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. As a child, she took lessons in classical vocals and also had operatic training. In her mid-twenties, Sharon was a budding actress. She got her first big break starring in an Australian production of "Hair".

She also appeared in her own television special and, in 1974, traveled to London performing in an American production of "The Wedding Of Iphigenia".

Shortly thereafter, she moved back to the United States and appeared in a popular marketing campaign, which brought her widespread recognition.

At around this same time, Bette Midler was looking to replace Merle Miller and Gail Kantor, who had left after Bette's 1973 tour, to pursue their own interests. Bette auditioned over 70 performers, but Sharon's talent, experience, and exposure as the 'Shaffer Beer Girl', may have given her the edge she needed. She landed the job and officially became one of Bette's Harlettes. (Photo: From left to right, Redd, Ula Hedwig, and Charlotte Crossley)

Aside from performing as a Harlette, Sharon also provided backing vocals for Carol Douglas ('Burnin' & 'Night Fever'), and Norman Connors ('You Are My Starship'). In 1979, Sharon sang the smash disco hit 'Love Insurance', released under the artist name Front Page (Panorama Records), and, though her vocals were uncredited, producers had started to sit up and take notice of her amazing voice. Soon she had a recording contract with Prelude Records.

Sharon released her first album in 1980 (self-titled 'Sharon Redd'), closely followed by two more ('Redd Hott' - 1982, and 'Love How You Feel' - 1983), which sealed her reputation as a true "disco diva". These recordings featured such disco classics as 'You Got My Love', 'Can You Handle It', 'Never Give Up', and 'Beat The Street'.

After these releases, Sharon returned to her successful career as a background vocalist. Then, in 1991 she released a single entitled 'All The Way To Love'. This was to be her last solo recording. Tragically, she passed away the following year.

In 1993, Pennye Ford dropped the 'e' from her name and released the album 'Penny Ford', which featured a duet with her sister entitled 'Under Pressure'.

On Record with Bette: Bette Midler, Songs for the New Depression, Live at Last, Experience the Divine

In Concert with Bette: The Divine Miss Tour, Clams On The Half Shell, The Depression Tour, Ol Red Hair Is Back (TV Special), Intimate Evening With Bette

ULA HEDWIG: 

From the closing of HAIR in 1972, Ula subsequently went on to do a few other musicals including Godspell, and originated the role of Ellie Greenwich in the first production of Leader Of The Pack.

In between theatre work, she sang back-up vocals in the studio and/or live for many recording artists such as, Carly Simon, Tim Curry, Olivia Newton-John, Robert Plant, Paul Simon, k.d. lang, Bob Geldof, Little Steven, Donald Fagan, Phoebe Snow and Judy Collins. You might catch her on David Letterman reruns singing back-up.

She is best known for having performed as one of Bette Midler's "Harlettes" for many years. She still performs with Bette often and can be heard singing on most of her albums.

Last October Ula played several roles in Pete Townsend's work-in progress rock musical, Psychoderelict, which is being slated for Broadway sometime in the future.

When her son was born 11 years ago, Ula began writing a children's musical, which finally evolved into, The Looking Glass, which was performed in Chicago a few years ago. Her hopes are to produce the show on the east coast someday, but until then she'll continue to enjoy being "mom" to her best production, her son Casey.

On Record with Bette: Live at Last, Thighs and Whispers, Divine Madness, No Frills, Beaches, Some People's Lives, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York..., Experience the Divine, Bette of Roses, Bathhouse Betty

In Concert with Bette: The Depression Tour, Intimate Evening With Bette, Divine Madness (The Movie), De Tour

DIVA GRAY: 

From DiscoMuseum.com: Like many of disco's greatest artists she comes from the session singers/background vocalist mold. That year she appeared on an Atlantic Record's Jazz Sampler recorded at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival. Seems she also did work for George Benson and David Sanborn that year as well.
In 1977 she did vocal work on Roy Buchanan's "Loading Zone" album and had her first brush with disco. Seems Diva travelled in the same circles and did many of the same sessions with future soulster/disco star Luther Vandross. It was Vandross in fact that brought Gray into the sessions with Bernard and Nile for what would become Chic's first album. Gray can be heard on the mega-hit "Dance, Dance, Dance."

By 1978 her career was picking up steam and it seemed to be the year that exploded for her. She joined future disco divas Ullanda McCullough and Gwen Guthrie on the highly-anticipated soundtrack to "The Wiz." She found herself being a highly sought after sessionist and appeared on Ray Barretto's "Can You Feel It?" album as well as George Benson's "In Your Eyes," Jimmy Ponder's "All Things Beautiful," Gene "Kiss" Simmons self-titled solo outing, and David Spinozza's "Spinozza."
As disco was hitting it's stride she found herself on 1978 releases by Joe Thomas ("In The Wind") and T.Life ("That's Life"). But her real success that year was through her alliance with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. Not only did she come back for work on the sophmore Chic album, "C'est Chic," but they hired her for Norma Jean Wright's solo outing and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" sessions.

Though it seems Gray's musical tastes ran towards jazz and pop it was hard to ignore the success of disco music and her own visibility within it's genre. By 1979 disco was at it's peak and almost all of her session work was on disco themed albums. She can be heard on Richard T. Bear's "Red Hot & Blue," Duke Jupiter's "Taste the Night," Wilbert Longmire's "Champagne," Spyro Gyra's "Morning Dance," and John Tropea's "To Touch You Again." A third appearance for Nile and Bernard on Chic's "Risque" album led to her being offered her own chance to step forward and bask in the spotlight.

Released in 1979 on the Columbia label "Hotel Paradise" was a head-on disco triumph. The album spawned two singles. "Saint Tropez" peaked at number 25 on the Billboard club-play charts and "Magic Carpet Ride" bubbled up to number 72 on the black singles charts. Both charted in early 1980 and it seems Gray was yet another casualty of the disco back lash. As a D.J. at the time I also remember spinning "Up And Down" from the album to packed floors.

1979 had two more achievements. She appeared on the soundtrack to "Sunnyside." A box office bomb that featured Joey Travolta. The album was listed as "New York City Band" and featured the sleaze classic "Got To Have Your Body" sung by Luther Vandross. But the other big event was a chance meeting with Bette Midler. Midler was shopping around for a new Harlette. She had recently lost Sharon Redd who had left to pursue her own solo career. Gray was asked to sing on Bette's 1979 disco offering "Thighs And Whispers." The chemistry worked and Diva was asked back to record and appear in Bette's 1980 film/soundtrack "Divine Madness."

1980-81 saw her time taken up mainly with her duties as a Harlette. In 1980 she did find time to do session work on George Benson's wildly successful "Give Me The Night" album, Ray Gomez' "Volume," Wilbert Longmire's "With All My Love," The Marshall Tucker Band's "Tenth," David Sanborn's "Voyeur," and Steely Dan's "Gaucho." It's obvious with the disco back lash that occured at the decade's beginning that her options for session work were more or less rock-oriented.

1981 saw even less session work. She did join ex-Raspberrie Eric Carmen on the Euclid Beach Band album which produced a very rare 12" single, "There's No Surf In Cleveland." And she signed on for the Change album "Miracles."
After a decade of touring, session work and great behind-the-scenes success Diva seems to have lightened her work load in the 80's. She can still be heard on David Bowie's "Never Let Me Down" (1987), Peabo Bryson's "Take No Prisoners" (1985), Roberta Flack's "I'm The One" (1982), Garland Jeffrey's "Guts For Love" (1983), Trevor Jones "Labyrinth" (1986), Scritti Politti's "Provision" (1988), The Weathergirls' "Success" (1983), Andreas Vollenweider's "Dancing With The Lion" (1989), Steps Ahead's "Magnetic" (1985), Talking Heads' "Little Creatures" (1985) and self-titled albums by "Charlie Sexton" (1989) and "Phantom Rocker And Slick" (1985).

In the middle of the decade she had another unusal project that she became involved with. In 1985 she joined other disco divas Vicki Sue Robinson and Ullanda McCullough as the singing voices in the animated T.V. show "Jem And The Holograms." The show was well received but sluggish ratings forced it's cancellation.

In the 1990's session work, which has always been her bread and butter, continued. Her credits in that decade include: Roberta Flack's "Christmas Album" (1992), The Alvin Ailey "Musical Retrospective" (1998), David Berger's "Sultans Of S.W. Harlem Nutcracker" (1999), Marc Cohn's "Rainy Season" (1993), Natalie Cole's "Snowfall On The Sahara" (1999), Judy Collins' "Fires Of Eden" and "Judy Sings Dylan" (1990 and 1993), Celine Dion's "These Are Special Times" (1998), Dr. John's "Television" (1994), Debbie Gibson's "Think With Your Heart" (1995), Dave Grusin's "West Side Story" (1997, Jennifer Love Hewitt's "Let's Go Bang" (1995), Jewel's "Joy: A Holiday Collection" (1999), Tim Rice & Elton John's "Aida" (1999), R. Kelly's "R" (1998), Yvonne Lewis' "No Strangers In Paradise" (1995), Dianne Schuur & B.B. King's "Heart To Heart" (1994), Spin Doctor's "You've Got To Believe In Something" (1996) and finally longtime friend Luther Vandross' "I Know" (1998).

After over 25 years in the music business Gray branched out into acting. Her two appearances on celluloid so far include the roles of a nanny in Woody Allen's 1996 hit "Everybody Says I Love You" and a choir singer in Daryl Hannah's 2002 movie "A Walk To Remember."

As the new millenium kicks in Diva is still lending her fantastic pipes to a variety of sessions. So far she can be heard on Fito Paez' "Abre Paez" and The Spin Doctor's "Just Go Ahead Now."

We're glad to see that she is still alive and well and going strong. We believe she must surely be one of the hardest working singers to be included in the DiscoMuseum. We're proud to share this info, however minor it is, with you and to give the "Diva" her acknowledgement. The info above is surely only a partial list of her many credits. If anyone has pictures or current info on Ms. Gray please write us and share it with us. And to you....Ms. Gray ...."THANK YOU!" You are a DIVA!


On Record with Bette: Thighs and Whispers, Divine Madness

In Concert with Bette: Divine Madness (The Movie)

 

JOCELYN BROWN: 

When Jocelyn was born on November 25, 1950 the planets surely aligned to seal her destiny. If not the planets, then surely her family lineage guaranteed that she would be a singer. Her grandmother, mother, a cousin and two aunts, one who just happened to be Barbara Roy Gaskins (Ecstasy, Passion & Pain), all carried a tune. Jocelyn spent her preschool years with her grandmother in Kinston, NC. singing in the local church. Travelling with her family and singing with various gospel choirs out of Brooklyn, Brown built up a solid following, becoming a favored soloist at her uncle's church in Washington, D.C.

After graduating from high school Jocelyn began singing with local bands and got involved in session work. Her session work led to appearances on recordings by Gene Pitney, John Lennon, and countless others made in New York in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

She attainted her first taste of secular success when she was hired to provide vocals on hairdresser Sir Monti Rock's 1975 album "Get Dancin'."

During the mid 1970's she became aquainted with guitarist/producer Greg Diamond who employed Jocelyn for a string of his productions, She can be heard on "Starcruiser," "Hardware" and Bionic Boogie's "Tiger Tiger." Around this time she also became friends with producer Patrick Adams. Adams was already a hit disco producer with several releases under his belt when he began using Jocelyn on several of his key sessions, most notably Musique's hits "In The Bush" and "Keep On Jumpin'." By 1979, with disco at its peak, he essentially formed Inner Life as a vehicle to promote her searing vocals. Their first single was a number one club, number twenty two R&B, smash. "I'm Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair)" became an instant classic thanks to Jocelyn's gospel inflected performance. Their friendship combined with this success would prompt Patrick and Jocelyn to mine the Inner Life vein for a few years and collaborate well into the 1990's.

Jocelyn was travelling the world singing and establishing herself as one of the top session singers of the late 1970's alongside Cissy Houston, Ullanda (Yolanda) McCullough and Luther Vandross.

1980 was a banner year for Jocelyn who accompanied friend Luther on the Change album "Glow Of Love." Producer Cerrone utilized Jocelyn as the key singer on his seventh album "You Are The One," which scored the hit "Hooked On You." And another Inner Life album, this time on Salsoul, brought another club chart topper with her scorching version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." This time Jocelyn received cover credit for her work with Inner Life and brought her cousin LaRita Gaskins (Barbara Roy's daughter) into the group. After the release of the "Inner Life 2" (actually their third) album, which featured the hit "Moment Of My Life" the Inner Life saga ended. She then added her voice to Joe Bataan's "Sadie (She Smokes) and the Salsoul Orchestra track "Take Some Time (Out For Love)."

During this period she kept busy touring and doing studio and live background vocals for a laundry list of artists, eventually including Lou Reed, Roberta Flack, Mick Jagger, Dan Hartman, George Benson, Patti Austin, Culture Club and Bette Midler. She toured with Midler as a Harlette, replacing Sharon Redd who had left to launch her solo career. As a Harlette she was featured in Bette's 1982 film and soundtrack "Divine Madness."

By 1983 Jocelyn had become another memory in the revolving cast of Harlettes. In the fall of 1983, Brown teamed with her sister Annette and wrote "Somebody Else's Guy," her most popular recording to date and the first under her own name. It reached the number two position of Billboard's black singles chart and number 13 in the U.K. She followed it with another club favorite "I Wish You Would." The success of these two singles led to an album deal with Vinyl Dreams Records. The album included the 2-12" singles plus her earlier Inner Life hits, 5-versions of "Somebody Else's Guy," "Hot Blood," "You Got Me" and "Hot Natured Woman."

The first of several remixes and remakes of "Somebody Else's Guy" appeared in 1984 on 4th & B'Way Records. By 1985 she had secured an album deal with Warner Bros. Records. "One From The Heart" produced 3-12" singles, "Love's Gonna Get You," "Caught In The Act" and "Ego-Maniac" were all charters. After disappointing sales, Warner Bros. dropped her and she returned to background work and appearing alongside other groups and artists. Throughout the late 1980's and well into the new millenium she could be found on a number of hits. She appeared on Patti Austin's "Getting Away With Murder" (1985) and "Love Is Gonna Getcha" (1990), Anthony & The Camp's "Suspense" (1988), Adele Bertei's "Little Lives" (1988), Arthur Baker & The Backbeat Disciples' "Merge" (1989), Vanessa Armstrong's "Wonderful One" (1990), Incognito's "Always There" (1991), Right Said Fred's "Don't Talk Just Kiss" (1992), Off Shore's "Got To Get Away" (1992), Bemshi's "Womanchild" (1992), K.C. Flightt's "Magic Man" (1993), J.R. Funk & The Party Machine's "Feel Good Party Time" (1994), Kym Mazelle's "No More Tears" and "Gimmie All Your Lovin' " (1994), Club 69's "Adults Only" (1995), DJ Bobo's "World In Motion" (1996), Mad Professor's "Dub You Like Crazy" (1997), AK Soul's "Show You Love" (1998), Incognito's "Nights Over Egypt" (1999), Jestofunk's "Universal Mother" (2000) and Dalida's "Revolution" (2001).

Besides appearing on disco classics by Kleeer, Chic, Charlie Calello Orchestra, Candido, Manu Dibango, Elisa Fiorillo, Debbie Gibson, Debbie Harry, Cissy Houston, Janis Ian, Billy Idol, Joyce Kennedy, Mantus, Diana Ross, Phoebe Snow, Stacey Q., Joe Thomas and Alyson Williams she released another album in 1996 entitled "Diva" a title she truely has earned. Without a doubt she is the hardest, and probably the most prolific, singer in the Disco Museum. Of course this is only a small sample of her work...so please don't be hard on me if I didn't mention one of YOUR favorite Jocelyn hits! Just enjoy!

On Record with Bette: Divine Madness

In Concert with Bette: Divine Madness (The Movie)

 

KATEY SAGAL: 

Like some of her Harlette predecessors, Katey Sagal (Catherine Louise Sagal) was born into a "show biz" family. Her father was the renowned director and producer, Boris Sagal (who died tragically in ahelicopter accident during the shooting of his movie "World War III"). Her mother Sarah Zwilling was a singer and was also the first female assistant director in Hollywood. All of Katey's siblings, except for her brother David (a lawyer) followed in the family footsteps and became actors. Her twin sisters Jean and Liz are best known for their television series "Double Trouble" and her brother Joey has appeared in many films.

Katey (also credited as "Katie" early in her career) displayed her aptitude for performing at a very young age. When she was five, she was already singing up a storm and when she was a girl scout she would sing and play her guitar. At the age of fifteen she started playing piano.

She had dreams of becoming a rock star, but her father wasn't very fond of that idea. Recognizing his daughter's love of performing, he encouraged her to pursue acting as an alternative. He even cast Katey in bit parts in two of his movies, so that she could obtain her Screen Actor's Guild card and have health insurance coverage.

When she was sixteen (1971-1972), she studied theatre and acting for a year at the California Institute of Arts (with other such notables as Pee Wee Herman/Paul Reubens and David Hasselhoff), before leaving to concentrate on her musical career.

At the age of 18, she went on the road for a year in a musical production of Shakespeare's "Two Gentleman of Verona". When she returned home, she discovered that her mother was gravely ill, and at the age of 19, her mother passed away of heart disease; living Katey to help raise her younger siblings.

During this time, Katey worked as a singing waitress at The Great American Food and Beverage Company and started a band with some of her co-workers called "The Group With No Name". One night, while waiting the table of Gene Simmons, she struck up on conversation about her band. As coincidence would have it, Gene Simmons had gone to school with one of the band members.

This conversation led to an introduction with record executive Neill Bogard, and a recording contract with Casablanca Records. The group released an album in 1976 entitled, "Moon Over Brooklyn" which was not successful. However, Katey was asked by Gene Simmons to provide back-up vocals on his solo album, which was released in 1978.

Also in 1978, Bette Midler had just finished filming "The Rose" and was preparing to start her first international tour. Bette asked the current Harlettes (Charlotte Crossley, Ula Hedwig, and Sharon Reed) to accompany her, but they declined.

Bette then advertised in the "The Hollywood Reporter," and an open audition began, to find three new Harlettes for the tour. Approximately 250 woman (and even a couple of female impersonators) tried out for the parts. After Aaron Russo and others narrowed the group down to their top six choices, Bette Midler made the final selections. Katey Sagal was one of the women chosen as a new Harlette, along with Linda Hart and Frannie Eisenberg.

Katey worked as one of the Harlettes off and on from 1978 to 1983. She did not accompany Bette on the 1979 "Divine Madness" tour, but did rejoin the group again in 1982/83 for the "De Tour". She has only recorded in studio with Bette Midler one time; on the No Frills album track "Soda And A Souvenir".

Since leaving the Harlettes, Katey has enjoyed a very successful career as a singer/songwriter and actress. Besides providing background vocals for Gene Simmons and Bette Midler, she has also worked as a back-up singer for Bob Dylan, Etta James, Tanya Tucker, Molly Hatchet, Olivia Newton-John, and others.

In 1985, Katey starred in the musical "The Beautiful Lady", at the Music Centre in Los Angeles and she won the Drama Logue award for Best Actress for this performance. She also caught the eye of a CBS casting agent who asked her to audition for a part in the new Mary Tyler-Moore sitcom, "Mary". (Photo from left to right: Katey, Linda, and Ula)

She landed the part of Jo Tucker, Mary's chain-smoking, sardonic co-worker. Though the series was short-lived, it proved to be a turning point for Katey on two levels. Her friendship with Mary Tyler-Moore helped her to conquer a drug and alcohol addition that she'd been battling since her father's tragic death in 1981. The role also brought her attention from Ron Levitt, who was seeking to cast thepart of a housewife for a new Fox television series.

Katey auditioned for the housewife role, Peg Bundy, and soon became a household name as the lead actress in the popular television series "Married With Children". During the shows successful 10 year run, Katey was nominated for four Golden Globes (1990, 1991, 1992, & 1993) and was awarded the American Comedy Award in 1990 and 1992.

Katey has appeared in many films and television movies, and her voice can be heard on the soundtrack albums "Plain Clothes" and "Loose Cannons". She released her own solo album in 1994 entitled "Well..."(which is now out of print and considered a rare collector's item).

Her most recent projects include recording the voice of Leela in the animated TV series "Futurama", and a co-starring role in the show "8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter". For a more complete listing of Katey's credits, visit the Internet Movie Database at "http://www.imdb.com".

On Record with Bette: No Frills

In Concert with Bette: 1978 World Tour, De Tour

 

LINDA HART: 

Hart has been singing since she was four. The oldest of three ("I have two younger brothers"), she's from a family of ministers who have recorded gospel music as The Harts for many years. "It's where all of my acting ability comes from," she insists. "I give thanks to God and to my mom and dad for that upbringing. In my opinion, 50 percent of acting is not being fearful."

Inspired by Carol Burnett, whom she admired on television, Hart says that her first ambition was to be a comedic actress. "I did research and found out that Carol Burnett went to Hollywood High School," she relates. "I thought that's all you needed to do." After hearing Hart sing, John Engel, who ran the Hollywood High drama department, asked her to audition for a production of Brigadoon. Since she was saddled with a thick Texas accent, Hart felt sure that she'd be unable to appear in a musical set in Scotland; however, she worked with Engel and the end result proved bonny. Later, Engel persuaded her to attend Los Angeles City College, where he was a professor. "He's totally the reason I went from singing to acting," Hart says now. "He's a very handsome, silver-haired man who has played a doctor on General Hospital for 10 years."

Following graduation, Hart was offered work with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, but a Columbia record contract required that she and her family move to Nashville. During the next four years there, she made several appearances on Johnny Cash's popular TV show. Kenny Rogers, a former member of The New Christy Minstrels, suggested that Hart join that singing group. "He said that I'd learn about show business and world-traveling," she recalls. "I really enjoyed it."

After the Minstrels, Hart ventured to the Las Vegas Strip, where she was "an opening act for a lot of stars: Buddy Hackett, Frank Gorshin, Phyllis Diller...." However, she didn't envision herself as a country singer and felt that she'd "gotten off my original path." Then her boyfriend at the time saw an ad in the Hollywood Reporter: Auditions were being held for Bette Midler's new Harlettes. The notice specified that candidates "Must sing well, dance great, and have attitude." One of 200 at the first audition, Hart kept getting callbacks as the number dwindled to 60, then half that and, finally, a dozen.

"That's when Bette Midler came in," Hart remembers. "She asked her friend Tina Turner to sit in and help her cast the new Harlettes. It was one of the most exciting auditions of my life. They said, 'You're all great. We want to know you and what you do best. That's what Bette wants to see.' I sang 'Amazing Grace.' At the end, Bette had a huge smile on her face and was a little glassy-eyed. I felt I had really touched her." For the next two years, Hart was a Harlette--"with Katey Sagal, who later did Married With Children, and Franny McCartney. I was with Bette on the only world tour she's ever done." Hart's Broadway debut occurred in December 1979, when Bette! Divine Madness premiered at the Majestic.

Since then, she's appeared in the Midler movies Stella and Get Shorty ("We have no scenes together in that") and in the TV version of Gypsy. "It was great to play Mazeppa," she says. "When I was a little girl, I watched the film version [with Rosalind Russell] over and over on TV. I said that one day I'd play Gypsy, Mama Rose, and Mazeppa. At this point, I don't think I'm going to play Gypsy...but, some day, I'm going to play Mama Rose!"

Her friendship with Midler continues: "Last month, she took me and my husband and a couple of friends to see all the [New York City] restoration her organization is doing." Hart met her husband, investment banker Will Forster, through a friend, actress Stephanie Zimbalist. "Her brother, Efrem Zimbalist III, went to Harvard with my husband," she explains. "She brought Will to my birthday party 10 years ago, and we've been married for six years." (Photo: Katey Sagal, Linda, and Fran)

Anyone who saw Hart in the 1987 revival of Anything Goes remembers her effervescent performance. "I was doing a gospel act at the Ballroom and someone said I should talk to Jerry Zaks about playing Reno Sweeney," she relates. "I met him, but the part had just been cast [with Patti LuPone]. He said that he'd like me to try out for the gangster's moll. I got the part and was later asked to be the understudy for Reno. I ended up doing Reno for a while, between Patti and Leslie Uggams. I loved Bill McCutcheon, who won a Tony as Moonface Martin; he just passed away. I won a Theatre World Award for that show."

In 1989, Hart appeared in the short-lived Sid Caesar on Broadway. "Doing all the Imogene Coca sketches opposite Sid was an absolute thrill," she says. "Sid wanted to keep things as they were originally done. Perhaps it should have been updated; I don't know. But playing opposite Sid was a real highlight of my career." Yet the role that has brought Hart the most satisfaction thus far, she says, was Bunny Weinberger in the 1999 Off-Broadway revival of Gemini.

"I read the script and it had the "f"-word on every page," she says of that project. "In my family, if you used the "f"-word, your life was basically over. When I phoned my mom and told her I got the part, she said, 'You can't possibly take it.' I went to my minister, who said, 'Honey, it's a play.' I said, 'I know, but I never want to do something that I couldn't invite my parents to.' My mom Fed-Exed a letter: 'Whatever you do, Linda, please do not take this part. Your career will be over.' I had it framed and hung it in my dressing room. I'd never overcome such an obstacle...and never in my life have I gotten such positive reviews."

Hart is in two films that are about to be released: "In Showtime with Robert DeNiro and Eddie Murphy, my part has been cut way down," she says. "In The First $20 Million, which comes out in May, I play a wonderfully eccentric, sexy, San Francisco landlady who rents a house to male students. Mick Jackson directed." On April 1, Hart will be reunited with Patti LuPone and Howard McGillin at the Vivian Beaumont for "a one-night-only performance of Anything Goes with full orchestra, a full cast and chorus. I don't know how much like the [1987] production it will be, because we have to do it on the set of Contact. That doesn't have a proper stage for tapping; details haven't been worked out. [The performance will be] a toast to Joseph F. Cullman, the philanthropist, who's turning 90."

Currently, Ms. Hart can be seen in Hairspray.

"Playbill" Biography: LINDA HART (Velma Von Tussle, Hairspray). Anything Goes (Lincoln Center, Theatre World Award); Sid Caesar on Broadway; Divine Madness and Detour (both with Bette Midler); Surviving Grace (Union Sq.); Gemini (Second Stage); Livin' Dolls (MTC & L.A. Coast Theatre, Best Actress Award); Light Up the Sky (Drama-Logue Award); Paper Moon (Paper Mill). Film: The Insider; Tin Cup and A Perfect World (both opposite Kevin Costner); Beautiful; Get Shorty; Stella; Showtime; The First $20 Million. TV: Mazeppa in "Gypsy," "Queen," "Texas Justice," "Pretty Girls in Little Boxes," "The Practice," "Touched by an Angel" and "Garry Shandling Show." Eleven gospel albums with Grammy Award-winning family, The Harts.

On Record with Bette: No Frills, Gypsy [Television Soundtrack]

In Concert with Bette: 1978 World Tour, Bette! Divine Madness, De Tour

 

JENIFER LEWIS : 

Before Jenifer Lewis, "from Saint Louis" (ba-dum-bum), started working with Bette as a Harlette, she was performing small roles on Broadway. Shortly after arriving in New York City, she landed a role in the 1979 musical "Eubie", based on the work of Eubie Blake. Soon after that, she snatched up the role of Effie White in "Dreamgirls", but when the production moved to Broadway, the role was taken over by Jennifer Holliday.

That didn't stop Jenifer. In the summer of 1983, Bette Midler decided to take her hit "De Tour" on a second cross-country run, and that's when Jenifer joined the group as one of Bette's Harlettes. Some notable highlights of Jenifer's career as a Harlette include her accordion solo of "Hold That Tiger" as one of the DeLago Sisters, and a performance in Denver when Jenifer "stepped over Bette's body" to perform the lead vocals on "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (Bette had collapsed backstage from the heat and was unable to return to the stage).

Jenifer's "stint" as a Harlette lead to her first credited film role in the 1988 movie "Beaches", appearing in the "Otto Titsling" production number. At the same time, Jenifer was developing her cabaret act; an autobiographical musical comedy show which was well received. She performed the show Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre. That same year, Jenifer moved to Los Angeles. It was a slow period for her, as far as acquiring new roles, but she devoted her time to perfecting her nightclub routine.

In 1992, Jenifer was cast in the role of one of the back-up singers to Delores van Cartier (Whoopie Goldberg's character) in the film "Sister Act". Originally, she was hired to provide the vocals for Whoopie Goldberg, but Jenifer convinced Whoopie that she could sing the part herself, and ended up becoming Whoopie's vocal coach during the filming of the movie.

Whoopie Goldberg and Jenifer Lewis became close friends, and Whoopie sponsored several performances of Jenifer's one-woman show, "The Diva is Dismissed" (which Jenifer co-wrote with Charles Randolph-Wright). The show had a successful three-year run in Los Angeles. Whoopie had planned to produce the show for HBO, but that never transpired. However, the production did earn her two NAACP Theatre Awards (Best Actress and Best Playwright). She also began receiving attention from Hollywood. After one of the performances, the producers of the show "In Living Color" approached Jenifer to recreate two of her childhood characters for the comedy series.

In 1992 she landed a role on the NBC sitcom, "A Different World" and spent that season playing the part of Dean Davenport. She also had a recurring role in "The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air" as Will's "Aunt Helen".

She got her first big break in the movies with the 1993 role of Tina Turner's mother in "What's Love Got To Do With It". She had originally hoped to play the part of Tina, but her critically acclaimed performance as Zelma Bollack earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Since then, Jenifer has worked steadily in strong supporting roles in film and television, as well as continuing her career on stage. In 1996, her performance in "The Preacher's Wife" garnered her another Image Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Critics praised her performance in the role of a lesbian judge in the short-lived CBS series "Courthouse", and she received rave reviews of her theatre performance in the sold-out, autobiographical show, "Now What" (which she co-wrote).

In 1999, Jenifer starred in the Lifetime Television movie, "Jackie's Back", which Bette Midler also appeared in. She currently stars in the Lifetime Network drama, "Strong Medicine" as the receptionist, Lana Hawkins.

This talented performer's credits are too numerous to mention on this one little biography page, so please visit http://www.imdb.com to view a more detailed list of her movie roles and televison appearances. One more detail worthy of mention, however, is that Jenifer also appeared with Bette Midler on the last taping of "The Tonight Show".

Off-screen and stage, Jenifer devotes a great deal of her time and energy as an advocate for AIDS awareness and prevention. She appears at AIDS benefits and fundraisers whenever possible, lending her amazing talents toward the fight against AIDS. It is a subject she is passionate about, having lost over 200 of her friends to the disease since 1979.

On Record with Bette:

In Concert with Bette: De Tour ((Second Half), Art or Bust (HBO)

 

SIOBBAN O'CARROLL: 

She has performed with her own act throughout the US and Canada, starred on Broadway in Annie, was a principle singer/dancer on the 64th Annual Academy Awards Show, as well as on a Major Tour with Bette Midler. She's been seen and/or heard on radio/stage/screen with the likes of Ray Charles, Carl Anderson, Melissa Manchester, Mary Wells (My Guy), Dolly Parton, Nell Carter, Mary Wilson (Supremes), Sammy Davis Jr, Sergio Franchi, and George Chakiris (West Side Story). Siobhan has also been featured on numerous TV Specials and Variety Shows, The Tonight Show, The Late Show, Gimme a Break, Amen, The Gary Shandling Show, Boys Will Be Boys, Not Necessarily the News, the feature film Footloose, and such Musicals as; Jesus Christ Superstar, Three Penny Opera, Peter Pan, Damn Yankees, Top Banana, West Side Story, and Carnival.
She has been involved as a singer/ songwriter/ vocal arranger in a wide range of recordings and has choreographed her way from New York's Carnegie Hall, overseas on the The Royal Carribean Cruise Lines through Sydney's 2000 Olympics, to LA's TV Specials, Variety Shows, Talk Shows and Films.

On Record with Bette:

In Concert with Bette: De Tour ((Second Half), Art or Bust (HBO)

 

HELENA SPRINGS: 

On Record with Bette:

In Concert with Bette: De Tour ((Second Half), Art or Bust (HBO)

 

CAROL HATCHETT:

Carol Hatchett has lived in Los Angeles since moving west from her native Chicago, Illinois. Carol organized the band Velvet Sundae in 1998 and has performed continuously with them around Los Angeles in such venues as the Key Club, the Gig, and the Mint.

Starting out as a singer/dancer, Carol was one of the three Harlettes, Bette Midler's backup singers from 1993 to 2000, touring across the country and appearing in Bette's Emmy award-winning "Diva Las Vegas" HBO Special. She also worked with Kenny Babyface Edmonds and Brian McKnight.

As a choreographer, Carol has worked with such directors as Tom Hanks ("That Thing You Do"), P.J. Hogan ("My Best Friend's Wedding), Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde"), music videos (Snoop Dogg, Will Smith), and tours (Tina Turner, Beach Boys, Bette Midler, David Lee Roth).

Most recently, Ms. Hatchett has appeared in front of the camera as an actress in "Legally Blonde" and the upcoming "Ali" as well as several commercials. She was also the lead actress of the musical comedy short film, "You Ruined My Career" which screened at the Telluride Film Festival and featured on atomfilms.com.

As a songwriter, Carol writes all the songs for Velvet Sundae and is currently planning to record their first C.D.

On Record with Bette:

In Concert with Bette: Experience The Divine, ETD Again, Diva Las Vegas (HBO), Divine Miss Millennium

 

MELANIE TAYLOR: 

Melanie Taylor was born in New Orleans on New Year's Day to a family of artists, and her rich musical heritage has helped guide and define her own artistry ever since.

As one of Bette Midler's infamous and legendary Harlettes for nearly a decade, Melanie has been seen twirling and singing on the Emmy Award-Winning HBO Special Experience the Divine, as well as a 6-week sold-out engagement at Radio City Music Hall, and in a millennium photo essay in Rolling Stone magazine.

Her notable television credits as a vocalist and/or actor include: MTV, VH1, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Oprah, American Bandstand, Bette, Ally McBeal, and Jag.

She has been a featured vocalist on tours and TV with such artists as Donna Summer, Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, Ronnie Spector, Jeffrey Osborne, Brian Wilson, Jim Belushi, Sheena Easton, Paula Abdul, Jon Secada, and Willie Nelson.

As a recording artist for Capitol Records, her duo group Bardeux landed a Top Five single I Love To Bass on the Billboard Dance charts.

In 2000, Melanie released her first solo album entitled, "This Christmas". The holiday CD is comprised of five of Melanie's favorite Christmas songs: This Christmas (Hang All The Mistletoe), Merry Christmas Darling, River, Breath Of Heaven (Mary's Song) and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Melanie also sings jingles (Toyota and Sir Speedy nationals) and does voice-overs and cartoon voices for a number of music houses.

Her film credits include One From the Heart, Antitrust, Get Bruce, and featured vocals in Labor Pains (starring Kyra Sedgwick) and ABC's When Billie Beat Bobby (starring Holly Hunter.)

Melanie has appeared on stage in Nickie in Sweet Charity, and has had featured roles in Godspell, West Side Story, and Finian's Rainbow (for Reprise!).

Melanie continues to be active in her career as a singer/songwriter and, last told, was in the studio completing her second CD of original pop/jazz/trip hop compositions. (Photo: Melanie with Carol Hatchett, and Rhae Ann Theriault)

On Record with Bette: Bette

In Concert with Bette: Experience The Divine, ETD Again, Diva Las Vegas (HBO), Divine Miss Millennium

 

RHAE ANN THERIAULT:

On Record with Bette:

In Concert with Bette: Experience The Divine, ETD Again, Diva Las Vegas (HBO), Divine Miss Millennium

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 
 

Bootleg Betty

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

   

Bootleg Betty