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Star Newspaper
Author: Marilyn Golden and Walter Baran
Date: 04-14-1987

20 Things You Never Knew About Bette Midler (Thanks for the pic Brandon!)

FROM 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.

1. 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 o'clock curfew.

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 Pieredene Three.

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 in Hawaii.

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.