In Print

Books and Articles


Books Referencing Bette


Icons: Intimate Portraits
by Denise Worrell (1989)

From The Inside Jacket:

The in-depth psychological portraits presented in Icons are unlike any collection of celebrity profiles ever pub lished. Most of these people have been interviewed so many times their answers had been turned to stone. Interviewers, too, are icon builders, and ask the same questions over and over. Celebrities, despite fame, are struggling to maintain their own living voices. It is Worrell's special gift as an interviewer and writer to hold up a mirror to the most closely held of reflections. Icons reads like a collection of finely honed short stories and raises the craft of celebrity reporting to the finest journalism.

Excerpt from the chapter Very, Very Bette Midler:

"Many things have been said about Bette Midler: that she is Bette the Boss, a Bette noire, a hateful bitch, bitchily comic, a prima bitcherina, a new mama, the last of the red-hot mamas, the last of the tacky ladies, the belle of the baths, a bawd and a homebody; that she is randy and raucous, gleeful and glorious, trashy with flash and sleazy with ease, a vibrant, heart- stopping beauty with a wit that stings like a paper cut; that she is deft and diabolical, fragile and flamboyant, melodious, manic, and madcap; that she is a blooming rose, a wilted rose, a star reborn, a rose abloom again, a cherubic chanteuse, a classic chanteuse, the diva of comic irony, a mainstream diva, a diminutive diva, the kahuness of camp, a camp curiosity; that she's got a sassy walk, salty talk, pluck, luck, wit, grit; that she's a little engine that could, a tugboat, the hardest-working woman in showbiz who's been served to audiences on a silver platter, as a frankfurter, in a high heel, on a clam shell, as a mermaid, in a diaper; that she is six feet of body scrunched into a five-foot frame; that she is serious and shy, buxom and blond, with a funny nose and dancing eyes; that she is the best piece of divinity in the world. The Bette Midler I meet Saturday night is wearing black leggings, an oversized black shirt, and square tortoise shell glasses. She has on no makeup and her brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She is very short, about 5' 1", and has tiny, perfectly shaped hands and feet. The Divine Miss M is not giving this interview..."

Heaven Is Under Our Feet/a Book for Walden Woods
by Don Henley (Editor), Dave Marsh (Editor)
(October 1991)

Mister D: Actually, this book could have been listed under "written by Bette", but she only writes one chapter so I decided to place it here. Her contribution is entitled "Out of Rot, All Good Things Cometh"

This is the book that commanded America's attention--and spearheaded the fight to save the cradle of the American environmental movement. Filled with moving, personal essays by concerned celebrities and thinkers, edited by Don Henley and Dave Marsh, it is a call to arms for anyone who cares about the environment and the future of the earth. (Ingram)

Excerpt: "It's a big world, full of problems so overwhelming that most people (the aware ones, that is) have difficulty coping. I am one of those. I usually sob all through the evening news, and have had to give up newspaper reading altogether. This doesn't mean that I am disinterested in the fate of the earth; far from it. I remember the day I lifted my tear-stained face to the sky and vowed to serve the planet in my own fashion. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, it's hard to have an idea that is utterly and uniquely our own. What follows is not my own idea, I (reluctantly) have to admit, but the scale of the scheme, the sincerity with which I flog it, and the global impact that .I envision could only belong to me. I am talking about compost. " (Bette Midler)

Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno by Robert Christgau (1998)

From Kirkus Reviews:

Village Voice rock critic Christgau finally achieves life between hardcovers (although the paperback original collections of his justly famous Consumer Guide columns have long been in print) with this wildly variegated assortment of profiles. A book that skips directly from Elvis to Janis is clearly not intended to be a history of rock 'n roll, and Christgau makes no effort to pretend otherwise. Rather, the collection is a book of his enthusiasms, a cornucopia that allows him to include such odd-artists-out as the women's rock band L7 and the blackface yodeler Emmett Miller. Christgau's idiosyncratic selection omits a lot of key figures, and some of the volumes inclusionsjazz sax player James Carter, country poseur Garth Brooksare dispensable. Christgau is rightly revered for his wide-ranging taste and astonishing ability to make totally wacked-out connections. Who else would link Chuck Berry to post-punk lesbians Sleater-Kinney and make it work? Of course, the downside to that particular habit, which runs throughout Christgau's oeuvre, not just this volume, is that when the connection is less apparent, the reference becomes alarmingly private, not to say downright abstruse. For a guy who claims to eschew musicological analysis, he is disarmingly adept at tossing in just the right detail to make a point; hes one of the only Voice arts regulars who doesn't seem intoxicated by the brilliance of his own prose style. As a result, this is a highly entertaining book to dip into at random. On the other hand, reading it in extended doses is like gorging on fudge. All of Christgau's considerable strengths and weaknesses are on display.

Excerpt from the Chapter Bette Midler Sings Everything:

"Bette Midler is a gay icon and a Hollywood fixture, and not even in that order. The star of more halfway decent movies than you could remember with cue cards, she barely records anymore- her major musical achievement of the past decade was moistly emoting the theme song of our attack on Iraq, "From a Distance." Yet that dubious achievement was enough to make manifest if not clear what a complex musical presence she can be. Ordinarily, I scoff at talk of guilty pleasure in rock and roll, which teaches us to take our pleasures where we find them, from "Bridge Over Trou- bled Water" to "Me So Horny." But Bette's Grammy-winning million-seller left me feeling I-just-don't-know-furtive, compromised, bathetic. There were times when it brought tears to my eyes."

Trying It Out in America: Literary and Other Perfomanaces
by Richard Poirier (1999)

From Kirkus Reviews:

Essays on the American canon's rich difficulties, from the founder of the Raritan Quarterly. Sparked off by biographies, critical studies, and new editions, Poirier (The Renewal of Literature, 1987, etc.) discourses sharply and incisively on topics from his speciality period of the late 19th century to the novelists Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote. In defense of American literature's richness, he has no patience with otherwise respectable biographers of Frank O'Hara and Walt Whitman who collect day-to-day minutiae but hesitate to address the literary work, or with the dubious reconstruction of a ``restored'' version of Melville's Pierre by noted scholar Hershel Parker. On the biographic side, Poirier's dogged pursuit of the literary tracks that T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman tried to cover in respect to their personal lives and poetic debts is refreshingly questioning, without any attempt to de-pedestal these authors. Poirier's all-American distrust of cant and intellectual arrogance is at its most scathing in taking apart Baudrillard's theoretically constructed version of this country, redolent with ``European intellectual imperialism,'' and in chastising Martin Amis's sloppy Fleet Street journalistic forays to the US to confirm his worst expectations and clichs. The two pieces outside the literary field, on George Balanchine's choreographic career and on Bette Midler's tongue-in-cheek 1975 revue, show the limits of Poiriers academic training in discussing high and low culture in spite of his down-to-earth sensibilities. While his analysis of Balanchine's ballets underscores the Russian-born choreographer's unambivalent absorption of the American spirit and ordinary American culture into his classical background, Poiriers discussion of Midler's occasionally campy popular-song repertoire risks tendentiousness in its comparisons with Eliots Waste Land pastiches or Burroughss cut-up technique, to which Midler would probably just wink. Skeptical, tough writing from the homeroom of old-school criticism.

Excerpt from the Chapter Allusive Pop: Bette Midler in Concert:

"It was clear from the beginning that Midler's Broadway extrava- ganza in 1975 was a specialized event for a specialized audience. By the time it closed, its very specialness-its remarkable dependence on listeners who would have to be almost scholarly in their appreciation of the conventions of popular song and entertainment-had become for Midler a barely tolerable bur- den. It seemed literally to weigh on the shoulders of a star who must by then have given up expecting any large Broadway audi- ence who could share with her the knowledge that she was up to subtleties worth the trouble. The cognoscenti, always in a minor- ity even in the first weeks, had left her to a mass of eager illiterates. By the fifth week, she was delivering a fair number of her songs and lines facing only her cast-the three funny and outrageous Harlettes, Lionel Hampton and his jazz orchestra, a score of black singers-and with her back to the audience. In the last three weeks she became rather desperately condescending, blatantly signaling her parodistic intentions."