The last time I saw Bette perform was in New York in June 1975 in “Clams On The Half Shell Revue” so when I heard that she would be going on a new tour to promote a new album, “Songs For The New Depression” and parts of the Clams Revue would be in the show, I was in heaven and could not wait for the tour to start.
Bette’s third album would be coming out in January 1976 and the stories were that this one would be a little different than the first two albums. This one may have the Motown sound to it or have more commerical tracks to get more radio for Bette.
Bette and the gang were rehearsing the show in November 1975 and the tour was to start on December 10th., but about a week before the first date of the tour, Bette had an appendicitis attack and was hospitalized so the tour did not start until December 22nd.
Bette appeared on The Tonight Show to let everyone know that she was ok. All kinds of rumors were out there about her health and she wanted to tell the true story and let everyone know that she would be starting the tour.
She was still feeling a little sore, but took the show on the road anyway. This show was written by Jerry Blatt and Bruce Vilanch. Arron Russo was producing the show and this is the tour that ended up at Caesars Place in April 1976.
I had moved from Detroit to Houston in July of 1975, so the first shows that I would be going to were in January 1976, in Houston.
The album, “Songs For The New Depression,” came out about a week before Bette would be performing in Houston.
A person that I knew from the music industry was the recording engineer and production assistant for this album, and this album was also recorded at his studio in New York City. Jack had many stories from those recording sessions that he told years later.
He said that Aaron wanted this album to be much more commercial than the first two albums. He also claimed that Bette and Aaron would get into big arguments about songs to record on this album. At one time, supposedly, they had a fight, Bette threw a folding chair at Aaron, he ducked, and the chair went through a window in the studio. I was not there so this may or may not be true, but thank god they did not get married.
I had lost contact with almost everyone that worked with Bette, so I did not know much about the tour other than the fact it had been delayed because of her illness.
Bette, would be in Houston for two nights and yes, again, we went to both nights. She was playing again at the Music Hall and both shows were sold out. I still think about the opening of the show often and still believe that it was one my favorite entrances.
The opening, a dim spotlight is aimed at a hospital bed in the middle of the stage and without any musical intro, you see the hospital bed and you hear Bette, sing, “and I am all alone”, but you can’t see her, she is under the sheet, then her head lifts up, the sheet falls down and there she is! Bette sings a few more bars of “Friends” and then dressed in nurses outfits the three Harlettes, Sharon, Ula and Charlotte surround the bed and start moving it around the stage singing “Oh My My.” Suddenly, Bette jumps out of the bed and they continue to singing “Oh My My” and then they go right into ” Bang, You’re Dead.”
Wow! what an opening! I don’t think I will ever forget that one. It is truly my all time favorite.
The next shows we went to were back in Detroit for five nights, on January 28th. – February 1st.
My favorite story about those shows was one night a couple came into the show late after Bette had finished the opening and she was standing in the middle of the stage, talking to the crowd, and telling jokes. The couple had seats near the front row in the middle. So they start down the row and people start getting up to let them through. Bette looks down at them and says, “Why are you late?” and they answer her (but I could not hear what they said). Then Bette says, “No one comes to see Bette Midler late” and she turns to Don York (the musical director) and says, “Start the motherfucker over”. Well, Bette goes off stage, they bring out the bed again, Bette gets under the sheet, and the show starts from the top. The crowd went wild, it was just unbelievable to see.
To this day, I still think that is the funniest thing I have even seen Bette do during a live show. I loved it!
Bette does something very different than any other performer has ever done, as far as I know, and you will read about it when you read the stories I tell about the “Exprience The Divine” tour, coming soon.
One of the best treats of the “Depression Tour” was if the crowd wanted more and just would not let her go. Bette would sing “I Shall Be Released” and she did such a wonderful job on that Bob Dylan song.
Bette has said, that “I Shall Be Released” was a very difficult song for her to sing vocally (I’m not a singer so I don’t know why she felt that way about this song) and that is why she did not do it in every show. I think I saw her sing “I Shall Be Released” maybe four times.
The next time I saw the show was in Vegas, April 1976. I know that these shows were my first story about Bette, but I have a couple of stories to add. This was the tour that Bette introduced “Vickie Eydie” who was a lounge singer that was a very bad lounge singer and this section of the show was so funny as Bette became “Vickie Eydie” and the Harlettes became the “Edyettes”.
The “Vickie Eydie” show was called “Around The World, with Vickie Eydie”. They had this set that looked like a round gazebo with a small stage on one part of it and the Harlettes would turn it around depending on what part of the “Vickie Eydie” show you were watching.
This was the tour that Bette introduced us to “The Balls” in her live shows.
Well, as I’ve said before, Bette and Aaron would be at each other sometimes and one night in Vegas Bette climbed to the top of this set for some reason, maybe to piss Aaron off, who knows. So, once Bette was at the top of the set, Aaron came to edge of the stage and started pounding his cane on the stage and started motioning for Bette to get down from the top. Bette saw him and just gave him the finger and got down when she was ready to come down, not before. I loved it! This is why it was so much fun to go to different shows, something just might happen that you never had seen before.
The last thing I will say about the Vegas show in 1976 is that the word was that the Caesars people had said that Bette would not be invited back to perform. Not because her or her show was bad, but that she did not bring in the high rollers and rich crowds that people like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. or Tom Jones brought in.
Well, I guess they can eat thier words now that Bette is back in a big way and for two years to boot.
Trisha Trash, was back at again, doing this show as Bette. These two photos were from shows that Trisha did in Cleveland, Ohio.
If you want to hear the “Depression Tour” , it’s on the “Live At Last” CD (Jack was the recording engineer on this album also) and if you want to see the show, it’s on video (or even maybe dvd now). It was an HBO special called, “The Bette Midler Show,” and it was taped in Cleveland, Ohio, as was the album “Live At Last”.
STILLS FROM THE MOVIE, “THE ROSE”
I have to be totally honest with you, I did not want Bette to make movies, I wanted her to be the best live performer the world has ever seen.
Well, I don’t feel that way now and have loved some of her movies and being that she started out on Broadway that should have told me that she could act. And Bette is a great actress in films.
I don’t have any stories about the movie “The Rose” other than, thank god this was her movie debut not “The Divine Mr. J” (1974)
Bette, did sing one song in “The Divine Mr. J”, “Got A Date With An Angel”.
Well, she really tore it up in “The Rose” with some of the best singing performances on film.
I enclosed and invitation to a concert sequence for the film that took place at the Wiltern Theatre on June 23rd. They needed extras for the movie.
Please, read all about what they wanted you do to be part of filming. It is funny to read.
Please, enjoy the photos and the invitation fo the movie, “The Rose”.