Author: Marilyn Golden and Walter Baran
Things You Never Knew About Bette Midler (Thanks for the pic Brandon!)
her early days as torch singer in a gay bathhouse in New York to
stardom in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People and her
latest film, Outrageous Fortune, Bette Midler has fascinated her
fans. Here, MARILYN GOLDEN and WALTER BARAN tell 20 things you probably
never knew about the Divine Miss M.
Her first showbiz work was as a crowd-scene extra in the film, Hawaii.
She used her earnings from it to make the move to New York, where
she took a room in the Broad- way Central - a welfare hotel. It
was 1965 and Bette supported herself as a file clerk at Columbia
University, selling gloves at Sterns department store and as a go-go
dancer in a New Jersey bar.
2. Bette and her sisters were named after her mother's favorite
actresses: Bette (for Bette Davis - only the pronunciations are
different), Judy (for Judy Garland) and Susan (for Susan Hayward).
3. The bawdy Miss M once bared the front of her body to a gawking
London Palladium audience - and then did a similar "flash-back"
at a Harvard performance.
4. Bette's father was a New Jersey house painter who followed his
dream to live in Hawaii. The family moved there before Bette was
born. He did not allow his girls to wear makeup and enforced a 10
5. When Bette and her husband, Martin von Haselberg, showed up late
at night in Las Vegas to get hitched, they found a line of 200 people
waiting to buy marriage licenses. They had to check into a hotel
and wait until the next afternoon.
6. In high school, Bette was a member of a folk-singing trio, The
7. Bette went to public high school, where she was one of the only
students who was neither Samoan, Japanese nor any other South Pacific
nationality. But she was class president and valedictorian.
8. Bette's parents were far from well off. The children wore clothes
made by their mother or gotten from the Salvation Army. The Midlers
did not have a telephone or TV until the late 1950s.
9. Bette can be credited with giving Barry Manilow the exposure
that led him to his success. After a career
highlighted by commercial jingles, Manilow toured with Bette as
her musical director and arranger, singing a few featured numbers
in each concert.
10. When Bette's sister Judy was killed by a car in New York, Bette,
being the only family member in town, had to go to the morgue to
identify the body.
11. Robert Altman wanted Bette for the Barbara Harris part in the
movie Nashville. Midler and her then-manager, Aaron Russo, thought
it was not the right vehicle for her, and they refused it.
12. When Mike Nichols offered her a starring role with Warren Beatty
and Jack Nicholson in The Fortune, an unimpressed Bette Midler asked
Nichols: "What other movies have you done?" She turned
that role down, too.
13. Bette's first job was on an assembly line in a pineapple plant
14. Bette once weighed her bosoms on a postal scale and found it
would cost $87.50 to send them to Brazil, third class.
15. The Rose may have been Bette's first starring role in a film,
but, in addition to Hawaii, she had played an extra in Frank Sinatra's
Detective and in (Goodbye Columbus, about which she later cracked:
"Thirty-two dollars and fifty cents a day to watch Ali MacGraw
snap at the straps of her bathing suit!"
16. One of the first Los Angeles homes Bette lived in was rented
from Richard Chamberlain.
17.Bette was always closer to her mother and says her father never
saw her perform except on one appearance on the Tonight Show.
18. Bette grew up in a government-subsidized house in the middle
of a sugarcane field.
19. In her early period of cracking raunchy jokes at clubs, Bette
loved to describe herself as "everything you were afraid your
little girl would grow up to be - and your little boy!"
20. While appearing in the chorus of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway,
Bette moonlighted with her own nightclub act, appearing at the Continental
Baths, a homosexual hangout. Other attractions at the baths included
a swimming pool, sauna, orgy rooms and a free V.D. clinic.