Tag Archives: Lionel Hampton

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Photo: Lionel Hampton (from ‘Clams’) pays a visit to Bette Midler after one of her ‘Divine Madness’ performances on Broadway – 1979

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

BetteBack April 3, 1975: Bette Midler Corrects A Misunderstanding

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

BetteBack June 30, 1975: People Magazine Interview Regarding “Clams”

People Magazine
Bette Midler Returns In Tacky Triumph
June 30, 1975
By Patricia Burstein

In a blue-and-white smock with red sandals coordinating her Bicentennial look, the star shimmied along New York’s 42nd Street on a recent afternoon. Some of the drifters and drunks recognized and swooped down on her, and she fluttered her fingers in self-­defense. She slunk past a peep show window, then nipped into an alley. A second later her bright red head popped out – the hand clutching the throat is her own, in the classic strangulation bit of vaudeville. “I wouldn’t say I invented tack,” Bette Midler observed, nasally, “but I definitely brought it to its present high popularity.” Though meant as a self-effacing remark, it is true. Her virtual one-woman Broadway show this season has been the biggest hit by a solo artist since she herself last brightened the Great White Way in 1973.

It was getting late, and Bette sped three blocks to the Minskoff Theatre. In just a few hours she and The Divine Miss M, her adopted alter ego, were due on stage. After a 15-month separation, which allowed Bette time to sort out her personal life, the two personas had come together again in the blockbuster Clams on the Half Shell Revue. The Lilliputian (5’1″) lady of song describes herself: “Bette Midler is a nice girl, but The Divine Miss M is hell-on-wheels. She runs around the room, breathes heavy and puffs me up. She changed me from a pauper to a princess. Yet I was glad not to see her, to be quiet for awhile.”

When Miss M was first and last on Broadway, at the Palace in 1973, she set that theater’s box-office record for advance ticket sales in a single day – $160,000. Before that her national concert tour grossed over $3 million. Her full-throttle delivery of nostalgia cum schlock and her raunchy campy flair for parody were catapulting her toward massive stardom. Two albums had gone gold to confirm it. When Bette abruptly dropped out for more than a year, show business minds boggled. Was she going to blow it all – the record deals, the TV specials, Las Vegas, the movies?

At 29, Midler has confounded the industry again, coming back to triumph. Clams’ run was extended from four to 10 weeks. The Minskoff’s box office set a new one-day record of over $200,000: the show overall will have grossed some $1.8 million. Most critics hurrahed. Packed audiences rolled over and begged. In the past Midler’s devotees were largely the gaily liberated; this time they were as broad as her repertoire, spanning four decades.

Directed by Joe Layton in vast goofy sets by Tony Walton, she was a showpiece of exhausting versatility, singing, dancing, bringing an SRO house to its feet night after night. She tackled Elton John’s The Bitch Is Back in trampish rapport with The Harlettes, her backup group; tenderized When a Man Loves a Woman; and belted out favorites from her albums like Friends and Delta Dawn. The act, which she styles “trash with flash” and “sleaze with ease,” included adlibbed asides – “I digress” – a rekindling of risqué Sophie Tucker jokes and a collection of shrewd impersonations. In the second act she was joined by big-band vibraphonist Lionel Hampton in a guest spot, inspiring nostalgiacs as much as Bette’s Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

Hurrying into the Minskoff that afternoon, Bette changed into pink cushioned slippers and clambered into the orchestra pit to shine up her act. At the piano, her musical director, Don York, banged out frantic chords as she deliberately gasped her way through “here it comes. . . here it comes. . . here it comes. . . my 19th nervous breakdown.” York started to hum along, and she eyed him curiously. “Don’t sing, honey,” she jabbed. “You play. I’ll sing.” York chain-smoked cigarettes, Bette nibbled on sliced steak from Sardi’s. The rehearsal ended at 6 p.m.

York, who signed on with Midler last December, says, “Bette knows how to put a ballad over. The first time she did If Love Were All in rehearsal, she broke down and couldn’t get through it. She is open to a lot of pain as well as a lot of joy.”

One factor in Midler’s taking her sabbatical, York says, was the decision by her previous musical director, Barry Manilow, to strike out on a solo performing career (PEOPLE, Aug. 26, 1974). “They had a strong communication worked out,” York explains. “It was hard for Bette to accept someone else’s presence.” (Manilow broke in York as his successor.)

Betty and Barry met five years ago at Manhattan’s Continental Baths, where she performed for $50 a night for 16 weeks before an all-male and heavily homosexual audience. Overnight she became a cult figure. Manilow co-produced Bette’s first album, The Divine Miss M, and its successful follow-up, Bette Midler. He says of her simply, “She is the best entertainer I’ve seen in my life.”

Bette Midler was born in Honolulu. She does not speak of her childhood there with affection. “My father was a bellower,” she recalls. “To get a word in you had to bellow back. He loved a good argument; he loved the adrenalin rush.” Being Jewish in a community that had no particular regard for Jews further chafed her. (Bette’s father – a house painter for the Navy in Honolulu – has yet to catch her act, vaguely appalled by what he has read of it. But she recalls her mother, who would not let her wear a bra until age 13 despite an ample cleavage, showing up at a 1973 performance and screaming, “Fabulous… I didn’t know she was so witty.”)

The young Bette developed an interior life, escaping into trashy southern novels. One day she would draw on these inner reserves to bring a certain tenderness to her life and her art. In her junior year of high school Bette met a friend who “was hysterically loud and loved noise and a good time. I fell in love with her,” Bette remembers. “She was the most adorable thing. She made me feel okay to be who I was, enjoyable, good to have around. My family never made me feel this way. She drew me out of myself.”

At the end of Bette’s freshman year at the University of Hawaii, her friend died in an auto accident; five years ago Bette’s sister Judith, to whom she dedicated her first album, was killed in a car crash in New York’s theater district. “She was studying to become a moviemaker,” Bette says, her head drooping. “She was the most brilliant, perceptive, sensitive…” Another sister, Susan, age 30, teaches the mentally retarded in Honolulu; a brother, Daniel, age 24, is himself mentally retarded.

Bette left home for Los Angeles after a bit part in the film Hawaii in 1965, then on to New York, supporting herself by random jobs – file clerk at Columbia University, go-go dancer in Union City, N.J. She became an unsalaried singer in Village coffee houses. After a few bleak years, she landed a chorus spot in Fiddler on the Roof, soon graduating to the role of Tevye’s eldest daughter. Then one day she learned the Continental Baths was starting entertainment. From there she sprang, on gaudy platform heels, to both a Grammy and a Tony in 1973, and a gold mine. This was a girl who “couldn’t imagine parents tighter than mine.”

Bette met Aaron Russo, her manager, while working small clubs in Chicago. His career was at low ebb, hers beginning to catch fire. “We met,” she says, “and it was instant love and devotion. Ours is a long and interesting tale… ah, Aaron and Bette. There’s a great deal of love and terrible rows. He’s a lot like my father. He’s a bellower and in that way he intimidates people, but he’s a real softie underneath. But that’s what my mother says about my father, and I don’t believe it.”

Coming off a Russo-directed four month concert tour in 1973, Bette recalls, “I was so battered emotionally and physically that I thought I would break down. I’d been in four or five cities a week with the same people who would always come to me with their problems. I had no one to talk to. Aaron and I had one of our famous battles, and he didn’t go on tour.” She decided she had to split. After luxuriating on the Caribbean island of Grenada (“I caught the first plane out after the revolution”) and visiting her family in Honolulu, Bette toured France for several months. “I had a mad, torrid love affair with a Frenchman,” she recalls casually. “I really liked him for about two days, and then he held me captive. I want to go back to Paris. I loved the food. The people are awful. Next time I want to tell ’em so.”

Russo – who is legally separated from his wife of seven years – remains in firm control of Midler’s career, if not her entire life any longer. (Bette’s liaisons, averaging one a year, have been mostly with musicians and men on the staff of her shows.) Russo’s present plans for his star include cutting an album this summer, a cross-coun­try tour this fall and a “movie deal for a feature starring Bette Midler that is close.” A television special is scheduled for March.

Gypsy-like in jeans, a blouse tied at the midriff and a faded scarf covering hair curlers, Bette lives contentedly in a modest Village house. Her living room is wall-to-wall books and records, including every album made by her idol Aretha Franklin. A professional hair dryer decorates the small study, and there is a single, tiny bedroom. She is attended by a male live-in secretary. “I think I’m a millionaire,” she haphazardly responds to a question about finances. “I’m learning to have a good time with money. You have to learn to spend it when you come from none. Or else I give it away to Channel 13 or Ramsey Clark.”

With Clams on the Half Shell now a memory, Midler and Russo are especially intrigued by TV. Michael Eisner, ABC vice-president for primetime series, says, “We’re in discussion right now with Bette Midler. In my opinion she has tremendous television potential.” Perhaps thinking of Bette’s uninhibited ways, he adds, “You can­not judge her performance in one situation and automatically assume she would do the same thing in a different medium.” Recently, however, Bette, appearing on a United Jewish Appeal telethon in New York, sang four songs and announced she would drop her black sequin dress for a pledge of $5,000. A caller offered the sum immediately. The Divine Miss M stripped down to a chemise slip and shrieked “Kiss my tuches!”

Bette is happily eyeing her television prospects, “but not a series,” she told one reporter. “I couldn’t cut that Mary Tyler-Rhoda crap.” What about a film autobiography of Bette Midler? “Not me,” she says, recoiling from the suggestion. The Divine Miss M? “No. Well,” says Bette Midler, “maybe something like The Perils of the Divine Miss M.”

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Video: Oh My My/Friends ~ Bette Midler ~ 1976

FriendsOh My My!”

And I am all alone.
There is no one here beside me.
And my problems have all gone.
There is no one to deride me.

Ah, But you got to have friends!
The feeling’s oh so strong.
You got to have friends,
Mmm, To make that day last long.

I had some firends but they’re gone, yeah.
Somethin’ came and took them away.
And from the dusk ’til the dawn
Here is where I’ll stay.
I got to stay, Woo!


She called up the doctor to see what’s the matter.
He said, “Come on over.” Read More

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

BetteBack 1975: The ‘Divine Miss M’ scores personal success on Broadway

Lowell Sun
Sun Drama Critic
June 13, 1975

NEW YORK – Who is the trashiest girl in town wearing the tackiest clothes? The answer may be found nightly on the stage of the new Minskoff Theater where Bette Midler is in command of a spectacular revue entitled! “Clams on the Half Shell”. Whatever else may or may not be said about the show, it is a personal success for the young singer whose followers have christened her “The Divine Miss “M”.

Miss Midler has been packing them in at the Minskoff with even more solidarity than she did a year ago at the Palace. For this time Bette has come prepared to take on Broadway, in her terms to be sure, but then would you have expected less?

THE EVENING GETS off to a flying start as the orchestra plays the overture . . . to “Oklahoma.” The curtain rises and we have a scene from “Showboat” complete with “darkies” lifting those barges and toting that bale. They sing of the troubles that no one knows they have. And then some of the men pull a huge clam shell onto
the center of the stage. It opens And there in a sarong that would have done Dorothy Lamour proud, is Miss Midler crooning “The Moon of Manakoora”. To call it “camp” would be to do it a ‘disservice. It’s downright “tacky.”

The rest of the first act has Miss Midler swapping wise-cracks with the audience and giving out with some of that strong language that has made her a personality. There are not many four-letter words Miss Midler misses but her fans love her for it and they screamed and yelled-for more. Miss Midler is accompanied most of the time by a trio of girls called, “The Harlettes.” You hardly expected the “Chordettes” with Miss Midler. Together they wail up a storm; and if Miss Midler does not sing my kind of music most of the time, I’ll give her her due. She sings music that the young sell-out crowd seems to appreciate.

Her first act final has her clutched in the paw of a giant “King Kong” to whom she croons affectionately, Nicky Arnstein, Nicky Arnstein.” It’s wild and hilarious.

The second act brings the big band onto the stage and with it the veteran vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, the big band sound is back and the crowd loves it. They go wild when Miss Midler sings “In the Mood” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” It was the part I liked best myself.

BETTE MIDLER is a talented comedienne whose use of dirty jokes is not really necessary. She doesn’t need them. Her singing is unfortunately undisciplined and without a style all her own.

She has been greatly influenced by black blues and gospel singers. At times-she seems to be trying to imitate Billy Holiday, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. I wish she would just be Bette Midler.

Even her best work is a copy of the Andrews Sisters.

If Miss Midler decides to stop at being just trashy and tacky she’ll still make a fortune. But I think she has great talent still not correctly displayed. “Clams on the Half Shell” is a big and very entertaining show for Midler fans. But leave your maiden aunt at home unless she’s ready to laugh it up at some of the dirtiest language a pop singer has used on a Broadway stage ever.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

BetteBack 1975: Clams Does Nothing But Entertain

Lawton Constitiution
Broadway Ticket Lines Dispel Recession Blues
By Bill Crawford
May 14, 1975

“Clams on the Half Shell,” Minskoff Theatre — The Divine Miss M (Bette Midler) in her new self-styled “taste-free” revue does nothing but ENTERTAIN.

The show opens with a very well executed overture consisting of a medley from “Oklahoma!” An all-black chorus sings “Old Man River” while pulling in fish nets which dredge up a huge clam shell in which Miss M. is ensconced. Hence the revue’s name.

FROM THAT moment on, she is in complete control — singing, dancing, chatting with the audience and telling jokes. (“McDonald’s is featuring a new Hearstburger — no Patty.” or “I know what a bisexual is, but what’s a bicentennial?”)

Lionel Hampton, featured guest artist, and Bette’s Harlettes added greatly to an already enjoyable evening.

  • BetteBack 1975: Bette Takes “Clams” To Philly For Preview Before Broadway
  • BetteBack 1975: “Clams” Only Half Cooked…(Boo! I Say!)
  • BetteBack 1975: “…Wild, Disrespectful And Wonderful Bette Midler…”
  • BetteBack 1975: Will Bette Star In A TV Series? Ha!
  • BetteBack 1975: Bette Talks About Her 15 Month Sabbatical
  • Read More

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    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    BetteBack 1975: “Clams” Tasty And Divine

    Stroudsburg Pocono Record
    Bette Midler‘s new show is her most divine yet
    May 10, 1975


    NEW YORK (UPI) – So great has been the demand for tickets for the divine Bette Midler’s show at the Minskoff Theater that her run has been extended from four weeks to 10 weeks, ending June 21. Small wonder.

    The mop-haired, raunchytongued, trashily dressed singer took a year out of her notably successful career as an entertainer and recording star to put together a revue called “Clams on the Half Shell.” It was well worth the effort, for this is the most bubbly, amusing entertainment in New York this side of “The Wiz.”

    “Clams” allows the Queen of the Continental Baths to display her versatility with song, ranging from hot rock to sentimental ballads, and her way with an audience in chit chat that is both endearing and outrageous.

    Although she is the most frenetic of entertainers, on the move- constantly, her timing is extraordinary. Anything goes in this show, which is dazzlingly set by Tony Walton and directed and choreographed by Joe Layton.

    Its overture is a medley from “Oklahoma” and it opens with “darkie” fishermen on a levee who fish up a clam containing the star revealingly swagged in shimmering seaweed.

    She goes into “The Moon of Manakoora” and the rest of the three-hour show is equally non-sequitur.

    The first section is a series of unrelated skits in which Miss Midler is assisted by three disdainful dollies called the Harlettes, for no apparent reason. It winds up with an unscrolling Empire State Building atop which a blue shag King Kong holds a supine Miss Midler in his paw. Suddenly she is up and singing “Lullaby of Broadway.”

    The second part opens with Lionel Hampton and a 17-piece band for a trip down memory lane with Miss Midler in concert, whirling phonograph records and a jukebox as a backdrop. Her “Sentimental Journey” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” has the audience—a cross section of ages weighted on the youthful sidescreaming for more. The
    Andrew Sisters never had it so good!

    A critical report would not be complete without kudos to musical director Don York and orchestrator Jimmie Haskell.

    The sound is big but only when it should be, and there can be no objection to that.

    Producer Aaron Russo has not decided to take the show on the road, though he has had many offers. He’d be crazy not to.

  • BetteBack 1975: A Prelude To “Clams”
  • The Radford High Superstar ~ Bette Midler
  • BetteBack 1975: Bette Announces Jazz Great,Lionel Hampton, Will Be In Her New Broadway Show
  • BetteBack 1975: Bette Midler, Superstar guests on “Cher”
  • BetteBack 1975: “…Wild, Disrespectful And Wonderful Bette Midler…”
  • Read More

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    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    BetteBack 1975: Bette Midler Celebrates Lionel Hampton’s Birthday

    Delaware County Daily Times
    Midnight Earl
    Earl Wilson
    April 29, 1975


    Lionel Hampton celebrated his 67th birthday onstage at the Minskoff Theater, with Bette Midler bringing a cake and applause by Sammy Davis, George Segal and Roger Smith.

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    Saturday, October 13, 2012

    BetteBack 1975: Still Broadway’s Best Bette

    New York Times
    Revue: Bette Midler
    By Clive Barnes
    April 18, 2012


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    Friday, October 12, 2012

    BetteBack 1975: “…Wild, Disrespectful And Wonderful Bette Midler…”

    Idaho Falls Post Register
    Earl Wilson
    April 21, 1975

    THE MIDNIGHT EARL . . .Broadway was like a carnival Monday night. Six to 7,000 people pushing and shoving in just one block — wild, disrespectful and wonderful Bette Midler opening at the Minskoff, everlastingly beautiful Ingrid Bergman opening in “The Constant Wife” at the Shubert.

    Bette’s cultists wore from Dracula outfits to white-tie and canes and gave her numerous ovations and a huge one to Lionel Hampton. I’m partial to Bette’s talking. Too bad about the Centennial: “All New York’s revolutionary landmarks are now gay bars” . . .”Jerry Minskoff built this theater so he can remember how to spell his name. It has all the warmth of a Ramada Inn.” (Mister D: LOL!)

    Bette did an unforgettable impersonation of Mayor Beeme playing the piano. Just raised her arms as high as she could and groped with her fingers trying to each the keyboard….

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